Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as doing it all.
There is also no such thing as balancing work and parenthood 50/50. It’s easy to get fooled by women who look like they have it all together, with their well-pressed clothes, blown-out hair, stain-free children, and immaculate houses. There is a reason why these women look like they have it all together; it’s because they have help. Lots of help.
My grandmother is 90 years old, and I’ve always looked to her as the gold star of motherhood. One day as I was complaining to her about how overwhelming motherhood is, she reminded me that while she was raising her five children, she lived next door to her mother and sister. They swapped meals, helped each other with laundry, and took turns watching the kids. She had a village! She also reminded me not to compare myself with others and to live my own version of motherhood and no one else’s.
My grandmother’s point really struck home when I was reading an article about a high powered CEO and mother of three. She validated my grandmother’s advice by sharing that the only reason her household stays afloat is that she outsources many things, such as laundry, cleaning, and personal errands.
For the sake of research and because I desperately need some help, I decided to outsource some of my parenting duties for a week to see if I would magically transform into the woman who looks like she has it all together. Here’s how it all went down:
Laundry is my nemesis. If I don’t do one load of laundry each and every day, it becomes overwhelming. Then, there is the Sisyphean task of folding and putting all of the clothes and miscellaneous linens away. Last week, I piled everything that was dirty, including clothes, towels, bath mats, bedsheets, and dog blankets into huge garbage bags and hauled them off to a laundry service.
I felt so guilty paying someone else to clean my clothes (I was charged by the pound), but when I picked up my laundry a few days later, perfectly folded and sorted, the guilt quickly vanished. I made my children put away all of the clean laundry (a chore they will be doing moving forward), and my laundry duties were complete for the week.
Is this what paradise feels like?
I have accepted the fact that my home will always be a bit cluttered. I feel like I am constantly picking up random items and putting them away, only to see another random item magically appear out of nowhere. Between my kids and the dog, nothing really stays in its place. I hired the help of a cleaning service to come into my home and make it sparkle from top to bottom. It’s funny how a clean home can make life feel so grand.
When they were done, my home was picture-perfect, and I felt a serene sense of calm. Then, I picked my kids up from school, and the house was back to its normal state of disarray. However, knowing that the home had a good deep clean was enough to keep my spirits high for the remainder of the day.
I made an arrangement with some of the school moms to schedule carpooling for the week. We made sure that there were enough booster seats and room to go around and took turns helping with school pick-up and drop-off. For two days, I didn’t have to worry about school drop-off and pick-up, which freed up a good amount of time in my day. It’s the simple pleasures of life, like drinking a full cup of coffee without having to reheat it seven times, that I didn’t know I needed until I had a free morning.
This one was a big one for my husband and me. My in-laws had been begging to spend time with the kids, so we had them sleepover at grandma and grandpa’s house from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. Saturday morning, I woke up in a panic at 6am, thinking that I had overslept and needed to get breakfast started. It was sweet bliss to realize that my children were lovingly being cared for by their grandparents and my head hit the pillow again until 10am. Having a weekend of free time to mentally unwind and relax was amazing. By Monday morning, I felt so rejuvenated, and I was 10 times more productive than I had been in a long time.
Outsourcing duties like laundry and cleaning can be very expensive. They say money can’t buy happiness, but I respectfully disagree. The money I spent on outsourcing those duties helped me free up time, which in turn made me calmer, happier, and more present. However, our household budget can’t sustain that regularly.
What I did realize is that asking for help is free. It didn’t cost any money to ask my in-laws to watch the kids for the weekend or to ask for help with carpooling the kids for school. Having a strong support system and actually using them will help in this long and winding road of motherhood.
You don’t have to do it all, nor should you.