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Mommy Burnout is an Epidemic. Here’s What You Can Do About It.
“You don’t have to do everything yourself!” I need this stitched on a pillow strapped to my head so I see it every time I pass a reflective surface. Even though I know the key to overcoming mommy burnout is to share tasks with my teammate husband, I still resist. It’s too hard to explain what needs doing, he won’t do it right, it’s my job anyway, etc.
The problem is that every time I fail to share the load, I further entrench myself in the role of resident expert. After starting to work from home, I found myself more stressed out than ever and resentful that I was working and keeping up all the household management. Sharing the load was necessary to overcome my mommy burnout. Here’s how I learned to do it in a way that keeps my husband and I both happy.
Why Sharing Tasks is Caring
It Saves You Time in the Long Run
I get it. It’s hard to explain the task to your spouse, mother-in-law, mother’s helper, or whomever has volunteered through DNA or contract to help you. It takes time.
You know where the sippy cups and silicone plates go, so it’s faster if you just unload the dishwasher instead of answering every little question. You know where everything is at Costco so it will take you less time to shop so you just do it.
But the thing is, it may take you more time during that first task. But once you empower people with the knowledge of how to do a repetitive task, you will save yourself from doing it for all those times in the future.
Sometimes mommy burnout can make you lose site of the fact that others can learn how to do some of what you do too. But these are competent people. That’s why you married or hired them. Have faith that they will figure out that the paper towels are strangely back by the eggs and share the load.You married a competent person. Have faith that they can help with the chores and the shopping.Click To Tweet
If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy
I say this often because it’s true. If you try to take on everything just because you know how to do it, mommy burnout is inevitable. Not only that, but you will have hamstrung your family because no one will know how to take over for you!
Yes, Mama is indispensable, but that is true whether you make the birthday cake or buy it. Mama does not become more dispensable because she relieves herself of tasks that drain her instead of build her up.
My husband and I used to joke that if anything ever happened to me he wouldn’t be able to so much as turn on the TV. Funny but kind of messed up too. So I now try to teach him what’s wrong when the tech goes sour. And I signed up for LastPass Password Manager so he didn’t have to try to remember my esoteric online password system.
A big part of my mommy burnout was being the repository for all the household information. Not only is sharing this information kinder to him, but I don’t have to explain or remember everything for him either.
Resentment is Not a Virtue
I know you don’t want to resent your beautiful life and your beautiful family. But it’s hard not to if feel like you are holding your house up all alone with your bare hands.
Here’s a clue. If you find yourself saying “Jeez, why do I always have to…” then you need to find a way to share whatever task comes at the end of that sentence. Sometimes I find that even if I share a different task, I feel better about the one that’s been bugging me.
Make it a habit to review your respective loads regularly with your spouse so that you can make changes before you start snapping at each other. Or worse, start snapping at the kids. Mommy burnout isn’t fun for anyone.
Being the Resident Expert is Not Always Ideal
Mastery is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days as something toward which we should strive. I don’t know about you, but I’m okay with failing to master laundry day.
The problem is that I am super Type A and if given the opportunity, I will master laundry day. I will figure out the most efficient way to get the clothes from hamper to washer to dryer to folded in the drawers. Then my system becomes the only system that I can accept. Anyone trying to fold the shirts in halves instead of thirds will be met with derision.
But every time I exclude my husband from this task, I exclude him from the chance to master it himself. Of course he doesn’t fold the clothes right. He’s only done it a handful of times. He never even got to read Marie Kondo’s folding guide! (actually he did because I have an amazing husband).
The point is, your spouse or other teammate is going to do it “wrong” until you let them learn how to do it. Continuing to do a task that drains you just makes you the resident expert in something you hate and makes it that much harder for anyone else to take it on. Prevent mommy burnout by empowering your family to master some tasks too.Prevent mommy burnout by empowering your family to master some tasks too.Click To Tweet
How to Share Tasks
Get a System
Shocking right? That the habits and planning geek would tell you that you need a system in order to offload tasks.
I love systems because they allow you to share almost any task with anyone competent. Moreover, you don’t have to answer tons of follow up questions about how to do it. You just teach them the system and off they go.
For example, meal planning used to take me a ton of time. My system was really a haphazard and completely inefficient process that my husband could not easily step into. After he was forced to eat eggplant 3 weeks in a row and listen to me complain about how much time the planning was taking up, he asked if we could take turns planning week to week. Great idea honey! But I had no idea how to let him help.
So I developed a meal planning system. I got a great app, Paprika Recipe Manager for iPhone and iPad, to store our favorite recipes. I designated meal themes to different nights of the week. And we share the grocery list on Todoist. This way, if either of us finds ourselves at the store or home early to start dinner, we can just jump in.
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Make it a Conversation, Not an Order
Notice that I haven’t used the word “delegate” once in this post? Delegation implies that you are the boss and your spouse is the lowly worker striving for his one chance to prove himself.
While it’s fun to think of ourselves as Mom in Chief and Mom Boss, it really does us, and our spouses, a disservice. Feeling like we’re in charge of everything is how mommy burnout happens in the first place!
No. Our spouses signed up for this parenting gig same as we did (well, with significantly less physical pain but you get the idea). Part of parenting is making sure the household runs smoothly and that entails chore and task sharing.
Plus, our spouses may have some ideas on how they’d like to run the household as well. Ideas that may just have some merit if we’d listen. Like my husband and the eggplant. He’s a big systems guy too and encourages me often to just explain to him what I need done so he can help.
If I try to order him to do things my way or because I need them done, he’s much less interested. And ordering him around entrenches me further in the role of Mom in Chief where everyone looks to me for direction and to do everything. While it’s cute on a bumper sticker, it’s not a role I really want.
Let Go of the Process and Focus on the Result
So here’s the thing. Even if you create a perfect system that you think is just the best, most efficient way to do something, your spouse may not want to do it that way. Different people work better by doing things in different ways. We’re all individuals with our own best practices. So remember that the process doesn’t matter so much as the result.
For me, the result includes a temporal and contextual boundary. Basically, I need to establish when I need something done before I lose my mind. This may or may not coincide with the actual due date.
So, for example, if we need to clean the guest room before guests arrive, my husband may think that needs to be done by noon when she’s arriving at 1pm. I, however, would be super stressed out if that were the timing so we talk about a reasonable compromise given his schedule.
Or if something doesn’t have a due date but rather circumstances dictate when it needs to be done, like vacuuming, we talk about how dirty the floor needs to be or maybe establish a routine regardless of dirt, like every Monday.
If you can’t agree on when something needs to get done then maybe that’s something you care too much about to have someone else do. Share a different task instead, and keep the one that you enjoy or really need to control.
Play to Everyone’s Strengths
Do you love spending time in the sun doing yard work? Does your husband enjoy getting the bathrooms sparkling clean? Are you really good at math and details so you want to handle the bills? Well, don’t assign him the lawn while you scrub the tile if that’s not what you both enjoy.
Playing to your teammate’s strengths makes for a happier and more efficient team. Some people are not very good at details and some people thrive on them. If something is very detail-oriented, I tend to do it because I am too precise for my own good. If a task has a clear system and a specific goal, then my husband will both excel at it and enjoy doing it.
Knowing your team and accepting your gifts and limitations will serve you both better in the long run.
Compliment and Encourage
I know, we want everyone just to do their chores because they are a member of the team and that’s their responsibility. But don’t you like getting a gold star once in awhile? I know I do. Even if it’s just for doing the dishes every night without fail, or remembering to pick up the dry cleaning.
Acknowledgement is a huge motivator. When tasks go unacknowledged, on the other hand, we start to think they’re not important. Then we either stop doing them, or start feeling resentful that we’re still expected to do them.
So say thank you, or good job, or you are so good at that! Compliments and encouragement will inevitably start flowing your way too, and that is a key to preventing mommy burnout.
Know your worth, Mama! Whether you work for money or not, inside or outside the home or not, your assignment was never to manage the household 24/7 alone with no help whatsoever. You get to knock off from your main job at 6pm too and share the responsibilities with your partner after that.
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