STOP Doing it ALL, Mama. Try This Instead.

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Mamas, I want to start off by telling you that you’re doing a great job.  You’re probably taking care of kids, working a bunch of hours a week, making a boatload of meals, and holding it tf down for your family.  PLEASE understand that you are a bad ass and that you deserve to give yourself grace.  I have to remind myself of this constantly.  What I also have come to realize through my journey of women empowerment, is that as women, we have this tendency to put up a veneer that isn’t a reflection of our truest self.  We live in this society of social media and instant gratification and we so desperately want everyone to believe that we have it together and we are just fine.  And you know what?  That is suchhhh bullshit, you guys.  Do you know what I’ve started to do?  It is SO empowering.  When someone asks me how I’m doing, you know what I say?  I say, “You know, things have been better, but I’m pushing through.”  And I started responding this way to people to try to be more real with myself.

I want to be a more genuine human being.  But GUESS WHAT happens, you guys?  When you tell others that you’re going through some shit, and your life isn’t as perfect as you would want… other mamas around you start to open up, as well.  I guarantee that if you spend a little more being real with the people around you, asking some questions and actually, truly listening, you will find that all of us are struggling with something.

You know what I struggle with?  I am a horrible delegator.  HOW MANYYY TIMES have you said out loud to either yourself or a friend, “It’s just easier if I do it myself.”  Seriously.  HOW MANY TIMES, mamas!??  Because let’s face it, sometimes, okay, most of the time, it does sure seem easier.  Lemme give you a scenario that I’m not really proud to admit happens like all the time at my house.  So here’s Mama Emily, she was up at 5am, out the door by 6, worked her ass off all day teaching emotionally draining students, commuted about an hour home only to pick up the house, empty the dishwasher and then start dinner.  (Lemme stop and say this- I am blessed.  I am not complaining about my life.  I completely and utterly understand that I am privileged af to have a job, a house, and healthy kids.  I know soooo many people out there pray for the things I have.  With that said, this is a post about how I am working to make my situation better than it currently is.)  Mama Emily has asked her sweet and fully capable children to clean up their toys and set the table like 7 times by now, but they are literally rolling on the floor, either crying over the fact that I told them to turn off the damn iPad, or they are finding the lint in the carpet much more interesting than following directions and getting chores done. 

So Mama Emily does it.  Mama Emily sets the table and pours the milk and picks up the toys for the 4,354th time this year.  Because…she says it is easier.  You know what, guys?  It isn’t easier.  This is the kind of shit that wears us downnnn.  This is the kind of behavior that doesn’t shape independent and respectful human beings.  And when my kids head off to start their lives somewhere else, whether it’s college or another venture, I want to know that I have done everything in my power to create humans that are self directed and can get basic tasks done like setting a table, or putting away laundry.  The worst part in all this is that when I do not effectively delegate tasks in my house is that little by little, the wind is taken out of my sails until I am depleted, overwhelmed, and feeling utterly unsupported in my own home.

I am currently reading an amazing book by Bruce Feiler called, The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More  Instead of consulting gobs of family psychologists and therapists, Feiler sought out industries and individuals that are known to create and develop strong team units.  He interviewed top executives in Silicon Valley, professional coaches, and even ventured to the set of the uber popular television show, Modern Family with the goal of figuring out how to create the happiest families possible.  

A strategy in the book that has stuck with me, that I am planning on implementing in my own home is the self directed checklist.  Please know that I, like so many of you, already HAVE a chores list firmly posted in my kitchen for my children.  But guess what, it doesn’t really work all that well.  You know why?  I’m the only one reading it, and I’m the one that has to prod the kids to do the remaining chores on the list as they finish each one.  Please see above as I described the plight of Mama Emily getting dinner on the table.  Exhausting.

Instead, what Feiler suggests is a check off list that kids use each day, multiple times throughout the day, to get their tasks completed.  The kids literally check off the task they completed on the list after each chore is done.  I don’t know about you, but I freaking love checking things off my to-do list.  Kids love it even more, mamas.  And instead of us mamas reading off the list and reminding the kids to complete the tasks which only adds to our plates, the kids are the only ones referring to the list.  Can you even imagine that!?

In just a few weeks my munchkins will be heading back to school.  As with many kids during our daily morning routine, mine want to lay around, watch TV, and I have to ask REPEATEDLY for basic tasks to be completed.  I whipped up this self directed checklist for my son that is going into kinder this coming school year:

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I plan on creating an additional after school checklist as well because I would like for my kids to get into the habit of helping around the house as well as completing their homework without me constantly nagging reminding them.

Okay, you may be thinking, how am I supposed to get my kids to want to use a self directed checklist when they won’t even complete their chores when I hound them?  Another idea that came from this awesome book: your kids get to choose their own rewards and punishments.  I am not suggesting that each day your child should receive a trip to the trampoline park (Claire tried that one) or handed a new toy for completing household chores and homework.  Hell no.  Kids do not need too much to be happy.  And most of the time, the thing they really crave is quality time spent with mom or dad.  Here are some rewards that my kids came up with for finishing their chores for the day (or the week if it is a rather large reward):

  • 10 extra minutes of playtime before bed
  • 10 minutes of playing ninjas with dad
  • Extra reading time with mom
  • 10 additional minutes of screen time
  • Making a special treat
  • Having dessert
  • Making a craft
  • Playing a board game before bed

As you can tell, none of these rewards break the bank.  You may need to purchase some supplies or groceries from the store if there is a specific craft or treat your kid wants to make, but if you have those things already stashed away, you’re all set.

Everything takes time to implement.  I have not full on implemented our self directed check off list in my house just yet.  But you know what happened today?  By simply telling my kiddos that they could choose their own reward for finishing their chores, they were all over it.  They cheerfully (!!!!) went about getting their work done.  Of course, the reward they went with was 10 extra minutes on the iPad, but plants were watered, beds were made, and waste baskets were emptied.  No one was whining or throwing a fit, either.  Totally worth it if you ask me.

I will finish creating and begin implementing our self directed checklists this week.  I’m looking forward to getting back to you on how it goes over in my house.  All I know is I have to stop doing it all and learn to delegate.  I know it is better to put in the work now with setting expectations for my children and forming healthy habits.  I don’t want to be that parent that in 15 years from now is scratching her head over why her kids have “failure to launch” in their adult lives.

Can you see yourself using a self directed checklist in your house?  How do you think your kids and family would respond to it?  Do you think you would have the ability to let go and really let your kids complete their chores without you jumping in to “fix” all of their “mistakes”?  Let me know your thoughts!  Thank you for reading, mama.

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