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How to Delegate and Lighten Your Parenting Load

Let go of the guilt and find encouragement and practical ideas for delegating everyday tasks.

When Lisa Canning—a mother with a growing young family—had the opportunity to be a designer for an HGTV show, her life took a turn. She launched a successful interior design business, and her career flourished. But inside, she was crumbling.

“I was so exhausted working around the clock, so exhausted of the guilt that came from never seeing my young children, but I was so entrenched in a way of thinking and acting it was really difficult to think of other ways to operate,” she writes.

Now a mom of eight children, and author of the book, The Possibility Mom, Canning has learned to focus on projects in which she can use her natural gifts, get done what she can in the time she has, and delegate, automate, or delete everything else. She encourages other parents to do the same.

“There’s a modern and western world thought that if we do everything ourselves, we are more virtuous or capable—that is baloney,” Canning says. “If we ask for help it is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strategy.”

In Canning’s case, one of her steps to change meant hiring a nanny. For your family, there might be another strategy—big or small—that can help lighten your load and lower your stress level, so you can have more time for what’s important to you. Here’s how Denver metro moms are making it happen.

Ask for Help

In her research, Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, Denver-based psychotherapist and author of Mommy Burnout, found that women have a difficult time asking for help. “When you are overwhelmed, pick one thing. Managing a house is a full-time job, and there is a big trickle-down effect of feeling out of control if you can’t keep up.” The trickle-down effect can affect your sleep, mood, sex drive, and relationships, she says.

As a parent herself, Ziegler reaches out to mom friends in her community when her kids need an occasional ride home. “I accept the help and say, ‘let me know when I can return the favor.’” With her spouse, Ziegler asks for breaks or time away when she needs it. “I am clearer when I come back,” she says.

Get Organized

Stephanie Sikora, owner of the Denver-based custom organization company, Life Made Simple and author of the book, Simplified, believes having a home organization system that works for you is key to helping lighten a parent’s workload.

“When your kitchen is organized, you can get breakfast on the table more quickly, and get kids their vitamins easier. There is a flow to the space. [Certain tasks] become almost automatic instead of using more mental energy,” she says.

But achieving that organized kitchen may feel easier said than done. Sikora’s company offers in-person and virtual appointments and online courses to help families organize areas of the home efficiently. “There is a time investment up front to get organized, but there is a huge return on investment,” says Sikora. A couple days to get organized can yield time savings for a year, she says.

Hire Out the Cleaning

“No matter what our budget looks like, we keep a cleaning lady,” Sikora says. Now with kids ages six and four, Sikora says it took her a couple years to get to the point where she decided to hire a cleaning service, but she says having a clean home is important to improve her mood. And not having to do all the cleaning herself allows her to be present for her kids and spouse. Services like TaskRabbit and Takl allow you to book someone via website or app for a specific area of the home. The site shows you what you can expect from a cleaning, and you can view user ratings from different cleaning persons, and compare prices. (You can do the same for a variety of services such as TV mounting, yard work, and hanging shelves.)

Delegate to Family

Arvada mom of three Kari Cochran says she tends to delegate the same tasks to her kids: yard work, folding socks, laundry, dishes, and cleaning their own bathrooms. “My philosophy is that we are a household and we all contribute to the mess therefore we all have to clean it,” she says. Depending on your child’s age, delegate tasks they can do well, and have them do the same chores over and over again, so they master them over time.

Boulder mom of two Susie Weber is off to the school where she teaches right after her 12-year-old twins wake up. “They make their own breakfasts and lunches, and they are home before both of us, which means they unload the dishwasher and make a snack and do homework. My husband and I share dinner duties,” she says. Though she’s had to let a lot of things go after returning to work full time, Weber says it works, because her family shares the load more than when she was at home.

Canning noticed that her father was always tinkering with things when he visited, so she used this fact to her advantage. She asked him to come over twice a month to change light bulbs and batteries in the house. In addition, when her current babysitter comes over, Canning uses the time efficiently to get more accomplished. “The first task for the babysitter is to have my kids tidy their own rooms and put their clothes away.”

Invest in Tools To Help

Several local moms reported that the simple purchase of the sweeping robot tool, Roomba, was a huge time-saver in their daily cleaning routine. And it doesn’t just stop with the floors. Seek out online family calendars to cut down on communicating and managing schedules, consider autoship tools to remove the likelihood of forgetting pet food or baby wipes at the store, and invest in apps and other digital tools that reduce the need to use your time or brainpower on any task.

Streamline Meal Prep

Getting dinner on the table is a consistent stressor for many parents, but there are myriad ways to de-stress dinnertime.

Stores offer grocery delivery, too. Instacart allows you to shop for groceries online from a variety of stores—including Costco, Sam’s Club, Natural Grocers, Sprouts, Safeway, and others—and get them delivered to your door, for a fee that starts at $4.

Shop Smarter

Both Ziegler and Sikora use Stitch Fix to save shopping time. Fill out a style profile with size and preferences, and a Stitch Fix stylist sends clothes in the mail for a $20 styling fee. You keep what you like and send back the rest, and the styling fee is credited to any items you keep. “They even sent me clothes for a cruise,” says Ziegler, adding that on her first order, she liked about 50 percent of the items. But the more she ordered, the more she liked the selections. Check out similar services like Rent the Runway—where you rent and return designer clothes and accessories—and Thredup for quality secondhand clothes.

Call for Rides

Parents constantly juggle school pick-up and drop-off, especially if kids attend schools outside their neighborhoods. Schoolpool, a program of Way to Go, allows parents to find carpools for specific local schools. Don’t see your school on the list? Contact Way To Go to start the process.

With HopSkipDrive, you can schedule either recurring or occasional rides for kids. Download the app or use the website to select a day and time, connect with a driver (the company runs a full background check and requires that drivers have five years of caregiving experience), and get real-time updates. Schools can partner with the company, too.

Develop Resilience

Regardless of all the outsourcing you can do, Canning believes the number one thing moms should do to make sure they have time for work, play, and family, is to develop resilience. “When the sitter is late, and you come downstairs and see the toddler has opened a box in the pantry…[Don’t] let every experience derail you and inform your self worth…It is so important that we have a mindset of what is possible.”

What Not To Outsource

Lisa Canning advises parents to consider the areas of their lives where it is essential that they “show up.”

“I learned the hard way that no one else can take care of my health,” she says. “Only we control what we put in our mouths and do to our bodies.” She prioritizes time for her physical, mental, and spiritual health and “fights for that [time] with tenacity,” she says. “For me, that means light daily exercise, regular counseling when I need it, regular prayer, and appointments that ‘fill my cup,’ like getting my eyebrows done or having coffee with a friend.”

Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, Denver-based psychotherapist and author, suggests that women consider filling in the blanks for this statement, when deciding what duties they should keep: “I care so much about _________ because it says _______ about me.” What is yours to own? What is not yours to own?

“There’s not really a right answer,” Ziegler says. “If it’s important to you to sit next to your kids every night and help them do homework, what are you going to give up so you can do that? Make space for what is important to you.”

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