My official title at home is Mom, but my unofficial title is CEO of Family Operations. Parenting is a team effort, sure, but I tend to take on the largest share of responsibility for keeping everything in the household afloat. It's theoretically possible to tackle the daily demands of motherhood, marriage and work as an army of one. It's also highly unpleasant. The key to preserving a shred of sanity? Learning to delegate.
Accepting or asking for help is something many moms, myself included, struggle with, but the most effective corporate CEOs do it every day without guilt or apology.
Delegating seems easy enough in the instances when handling something yourself isn't an option. If you work full-time, for example, then, of course, you need outside help with childcare. If a pipe bursts in your house, you hire a plumber. If you forget you volunteered to make cookies for the school bake sale, you turn to the good folks over at your local bakery and call it a day.
Delegating gets trickier, however, when you know you're able to take on a certain task, but only at a significant cost to your already limited time and energy.
One of the biggest traps I fall into is the idea that "If I can do it, I should do it." That attitude often leaves me feeling overloaded, frazzled and generally frustrated. For instance, I have three kids who need to bathe on a semi-regular basis. I am usually home in the run-up to bedtime, and I spent years feeling as though I should be an active participant in bath time while also getting dinner on the table and trying not to snap at everybody.
But why? I have a perfectly capable husband who is home most evenings, and two of my kids are old enough to handle turning on a shower and opening a shampoo bottle. I'm sure bath time in some houses is full of laughter and bubbles, but at my house, it usually turns into whining and splashing as I think longingly ahead to the hour when all the non-grownups will be in bed.
This was clearly a situation that called for delegating, and I finally got over my irrational guilt and did just that. Everyone gets clean just fine on their own (or with the help of another competent adult), and I am happier every evening because of it.
When Facebook experiences a technical glitch, Mark Zuckerberg could likely write the code to fix it, but instead he delegates. Shonda Rhimes could conceivably come up with every new romantic plot twist in Grey's Anatomy, but she has a Shondaland empire to run, so she delegates. There is no reason the rest of us should behave any differently.
Once I stopped equating "can" with "should," and once I started accepting a helping hand and figuring out alternative solutions, I was able to devote more time and energy to the parts of parenting that are the most meaningful to me and my kids. To be clear: that doesn't mean I now simply delegate all the hard, exhausting and painful stuff—or even most of it. But I'm less often sidetracked by the things that really aren't that important. Slowly but steadily, I'm getting better at sharing the load.
Moms are CEOs of a nonstop, extremely demanding and unpredictable operation. By opening up a little bandwidth, we're able to remember that it's also the best job in the world.