I got some eye opening advice last year when I asked a friend about work-life balance. She said that the only way that she had seen a woman with children succeed at the top levels of an organization, without a stay-at-home husband, was when women hired a wife. I had never heard of hiring a wife (outside of the occasional mail-order bride news story) so I was confused. What she meant was hiring someone who handles the worry and responsibility of managing your home.
Initially I got pretty ticked off. How unfair is it that men just go off to work and don't worry about keeping their home life running smoothly? Is this just another case of the rich getting richer because they can afford to hire the help that allows them to achieve more at work?
Then I realized that I was relieved to find out that there weren't these magical women out there effortlessly hosting a dinner party for 15, after successfully managing a difficult merger at work. Penelope Trunk is a blogger that I admire that seems to be a woman balancing it all, she recently wrote about having to hire a house manager for $50,000 a year in addition to her nanny, cleaning service, and assistant at work. I don't have an extra $50,000 laying around so I have been using the following strategies for the last year or so to spread the wifely duties around:
- Negotiate up front with my husband about who does what. I spent many years of my marriage assuming that my husband understood that a laundry basket next to the stairs meant that he should bring the basket downstairs and start the laundry. I have tried to stop assuming he is a mind reader and actually ask when I want something done.
- Teach my children to be responsible for themselves. There is a great book called Parenting with Love and Logic that says only one person can really worry about a problem. If I spend my time worrying if my daughter has started working on her school assignment, she doesn't worry about it at all because she knows I have it covered and will nag her at the appropriate time. Letting her be responsible for her own stuff is great practice for the rest of her life and relieves me of a ton of stress.
- Buy Time. My husband and I own a dry cleaning and laundry delivery business, despite this fact, we were still arguing about who would do the weekly laundry. We finally decided that it made sense to drop off our own laundry and have it cleaned and folded so that we got that extra time in the day to have fun as a family. There are grocery delivery services, meal assembly stores, and a ton of people that offer housecleaning and yard care on Craigslist. Figure out what things make financial and mental health sense to outsource. I just signed up with a new service Ask Sunday. They handle making appointments, calling around for the best prices, and any other task that can be completed on the phone or online. In the first month of using the service I got through a ton of things on my to do list that had been there for months.
- Be efficient with your professional work. I have a great but time consuming job at a foundation, write this blog twice a week, and just started a professional development guide business for Gen X and Y. If I spent my days gossiping about American Idol and sending email forwards I would never get anything done. I try to strategize at the beginning of each day to figure out what the most important thing is that I have to complete and then I do that thing right away. I am also working hard on my delegation skills.
So I don't have a hired wife yet but I think I have some pretty good work arounds until Mary Poppins comes into our lives.
If you have tried to outsource part of your life I would love to hear how it is going for you.