by Michelle Perry Higgins
Creating a supportive team is one of the most important aspects to finding and keeping balance in your life. After all, no woman is an island. And if you insist on doing everything yourself, you might wind up so stressed that your family and friends will be considering voting you off the island!
When I talk about creating a team, I’m talking about getting the help you need around the house with your partner, with your kids, and depending on your particular circumstances, with your immediate family and friends . . . perhaps even your community. The results of this teamwork will be a closer, happier, better-balanced family unit.
When I got married and had a child, I assumed every duty myself, from co-breadwinner to Suzy Homemaker to Supermom. I’m not sure whether it just didn’t occur to me to ask my hubby for more help, or perhaps my Supermom complex was so strong, I couldn’t admit I needed any.
When my husband Jared and I finally sat down with a family therapist, she offered a radical suggestion, revolutionary to my mind, shocking in its utter simplicity. So simple, so common sense that my first thought was, “This is nuts. I’m spending big bucks for a therapist to tell us splitting the household duties is the solution to my all-encompassing angst?”
And so the great experiment in domestic bliss began, with, I’m sorry to say, a huge dose of skepticism on my part. I would be the coordinator for our girls’ school/homework/social life/sports. Jared would take over grocery shopping, cooking dinner and kiddie bedtimes on my three longer workdays.
Our therapist wanted me to experience what it felt like to be “cared for” for a change. And yes, there were times Jared had to take me by the hand and lead me out of the room when he prepared dinner, because I wasn’t used to sitting still. I had to fight the urge to jump in and help out (oh yeah, and show him how to do it better).
After several months of our new routine, I couldn’t wait to come home to the yummy dinner Jared had waiting for me. I had more energy after he put the kids to bed—energy to enjoy his company, and, yes—even for more romance. I’d definitely call our new system a win-win.
But to this day, I still can’t believe I had to pay a counselor to tell me to ask for the help I needed. Allow me to give you that permission, right here, right now, for free!
If you want more help around the house and with the kids but feel like it’s an impossible goal, listen to what marital therapist Laura Taggert had to say on the subject in my book, Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms:
“If wives can let go of trying to change their husbands and focus instead on asking for what they need, they are often surprised at how their husband does come through for them. At the core, a husband does want to make his wife happy. Wives need to offer their husbands a road map and not expect him to know it.
“Men experience their wives’ efforts to change them as criticism. Criticism strikes a blow to the core longing of every man: to be enough for his woman. When he feels he is not enough, he either strikes out or withdraws, leaving his wife wounded. Both lose. It is much more helpful and effective to translate those complaints into positive requests.”
I had to give up control of some wifely and motherly duties without thinking of myself as diminished in either role. But I know now that when couples look for ways to care for one another spiritually, financially, emotionally, and physically—there is only an upside.
Try this balance-building tip: Sit down with your partner every Sunday night and review your schedule for the week. Ask, “What can I do to help you this week?” or “What days are extra chaotic for you?” And most notably, “What didn’t work last week and how can we fix it this week?” Don’t forget; thank your partner and show your appreciation.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, please don’t be a martyr as well. Trust me; it’s not a good look on you! Many stay-at-home moms might need to ask for help around the house as well, since a 2011 Forbes article, Why Stay-At-Home Moms Should Earn an $115,000 Salary showed the typical stay-at-home mom works about 97 hours a week!
Here’s how to get your man to pitch in:
- Gently, oh-so-gently, without the slightest hint of judgment or complaint, explain that you need some help and would love it if he could take over certain tasks.
- Be specific. Decide what tasks you need help with and on what days. Simply saying “I need help around the house” doesn’t work.
- Choose quick tasks your partner can do before work like unloading the dishwasher and evening chores that don’t require too much heavy labor after work, such as folding laundry in front of the TV.
- On weekends, let him take one or all of the kids grocery shopping or supervise toy cleanup.
I have one caveat. No micromanaging your partner. Step back and let him do things his way—even if they are not up to your standards. Just let it go. Don’t bail him out or do it yourself.
If you do, you’ll have just shot yourself in the very foot that’s still in dire need of a pedicure.
What if you’re single? That can make finding the help you need an even bigger challenge. Reach out to extended family or your friends and neighbors.
Remember, reformed Supermoms: Asking for support is not admitting defeat. On the contrary, it means you’re willing to let others help. It means you pay attention to your well-being and balance. Family and friends may want to play a larger role in your life but fear they are imposing. Don’t be afraid to enlist their help out of love for your children.
Some single mom balance-building tips:
- How about trading childcare with another parent you trust?
- Are there any baby-sitting co-ops in your area, where a group of connected parents exchange free baby-sitting services?
- You might even consider starting one of your own with dependable people you already know.
And last, but very far from least, when you are putting together your support team, don’t forget your kids!
Giving kids responsibilities around the house teaches them cooperation, consideration, and a work ethic they’ll carry into adulthood. Down with women’s work and men’s work and up with equality. Wouldn’t it be great if boys knew how to do the laundry and girls knew how to mow the lawn?
If you want your child to do the dinner dishes, be specific. Does it mean scrubbing pots and pans too? Wiping countertops? Scouring the sink? Set clear expectations and be generous with your praise and appreciation. Teaching your kids to help around the home prepares them for life. And isn’t that what we all want as parents? To prepare our children to lead joyful, balanced lives?
But to teach it, we must model it.