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Are You a Mom Who is Doing Too Much?

“I’m exhausted. And I’m overwhelmed” came the cry from a tired, overworked mother of three and business owner sitting across from me on my screen. She described that after working a full day, her husband comes home from his job and then waits for dinner to be served. The kids are all off doing their thing, and so her second job of cooking and serving dinner, doing laundry and cleaning house begins only after her 12 hour work day tending to her business has concluded.

“It sounds exhausting,” I offered. “Would you like a better way?”. “Yes please” came the reply.

If this resonates with you, clearly you are not alone. How many times have you hinted, begged, pleaded or bargained for more help around the house?

Studies show that women do more than the lion’s share of domestic tasks around the house even after they work a job or a business that takes them away as many hours or more as their partners. Somehow, too many women fall into the trap of “it’s too hard to get my family to help so I just do it all myself” which ultimately breeds exhaustion and resentment.

This does not sound like a fun way to navigate family life. And it’s not good for your health either or the health of your relationships at home. Furthermore, not requiring able bodied children to help out with the necessary tasks to keep the family going serves to keep them immature and irresponsible and often ill prepared for “real life”. This family dynamic of mom does all sets them up for their own relational difficulty down the road as well.

How did we get here, and more importantly how do we find the exit ramp off the super mom highway that leads to so much discontent and distress?

Some moms have found themselves in this predicament because of a combo platter of one or more of the following:

1. You saw this “I have to do it all” behavior modeled by your mother. This can be rooted in learned behavior from her mother, and /or just a practiced habit that stuck.

2. You tell yourself a story that no one else can do these tasks as well as you. While it’s true another family member, partner, spouse or child may not do the task the SAME as you, it doesn’t mean they can’t do an acceptable job.

3. You tell yourself a story that they only get to be kids once, so you don’t ask anything of them. Then you are still doing their laundry when they are sixteen and more than capable.

4. The way you ask for help results in arguments and push back. So now your family has trained you that it’s not worth the fight.

Any of these sound like you? The stories we tell ourselves can certainly keep us stuck. If you are ready for a better way, you may want to heed the following:

1. Decide that you are worth caring for and running yourself ragged to constantly serve everyone else is not ok. This means you will need to gain clarity regarding what roles and responsibilities you are fine with keeping, and which ones you will be resigning from. Get very specific about this. Write down your decisions.

2. Once you have clarity, you’ll need to communicate it with everyone else. This may entail calling a family meeting and expressing that you will no longer be doing ___ and therefore others will need to step up if ____ will happen. An example might be for kids over 9 or 10 years of age- “ I will no longer be doing your laundry, however I will show you how to do your laundry and supervise you for a few weeks until you get the hang of it.”

3. Have a “4 Point Conversation.” Essentially this is a way of communicating a whole message. It sounds like, “I observe I am doing too much around the house after I work my day job. I am no longer ok with that arrangement. We’ll need to talk about who will do what moving forward if this family is going to function well and people get what they need.” From there you can point out one or two specifics to start with that will require people to step up. Your job is to accept they may not do the job exactly as you would.

4. Present options and make space for others to have a voice. It may sound like, “I am no longer willing to cook dinner nightly. I’ll need you kids to take over making dinner one night a week. Would you like that to be a weekday or a weekend night?” Ask your partner or spouse, if you have one, to also take over responsibility for dinner say one or two nights a week. Even if that means he or she is bringing home take out on the way home from work. You might rotate who is responsible for dish clean up nightly.

5. Enquire about ideas to make the household run more efficiently. Again, asking those old enough for their input can go a long way. You all might decide to take Saturdays as a family to meal plan, and Sundays to meal prep so that dinner for the next 3 nights is already prepared by Sunday afternoon. Ask others what ideas they have to help the household run more efficiently. You are now helping your family consider HOW they are going to pitch in rather than IF they are going to help.

Approaching this issue of family participation in everyday tasks and chores with the whole family helps everyone to have a voice, and motivates people to be more likely to engage and contribute. When you make it clear that the days of mom doing it all are in the rearview mirror, and you consistently live that out and not cave into what is “easiest’ in the moment, the family will catch on that you mean (family) business.

Lastly, be sure to thank and appreciate family members when you notice they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. We all thrive in an environment when our efforts are being noticed and appreciated. Ensure that you also provide swift and natural consequences for if / when someone is “falling down on the job”. Do this in a neutral tone without sarcasm, shame or coercion. It sounds like “ I notice you made the choice to not take out the garbage tonight” Since It is your turn, tomorrow you will lose the privilege of ____. Do not engage in arguing, whining, or cave into manipulation. Stand firm in your boundaries. Helping our kids learn boundaries is essential to their relational success in life so you are modeling good life skills as well.

Consistency is key if you are going to successfully break out of these patterns and enjoy family life again.

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