Our nurturing instinct can sometimes go on overdrive. We become a walking caretaker, unable to let anyone need anything. This works fine until you run out of patience, energy or become downright resentful.
“I’ve had it!” Angela said. “I am so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that I neglect my own.”
Angela is married to Brent and has two kids, one in middle school and one in high school. Although trained as a paralegal, she has not worked outside of the home since her youngest was in Kindergarten. Angela’s full time job is managing her family. Her husband’s career requires long hours and some travel, which gives Angela even more responsibility with the family.
She continued, “The other day Brent came home and wondered why dinner wasn’t on the table; Sue wanted help with her homework and Sam needed help finding his book report form. My temper was up that day. Sue had called from school; she had forgotten her science project. It took me 45 minutes to take it to her.”
“Then I raced home because Sam’s uniform was in the wash and he needed it for a game that night. And, to top it all off, I needed to stop by the place my mom is living to sign some paperwork. Just when I think I can’t do one more thing, each member of my family needs something more from me!”
Usually even-tempered, I could see Angela was at her boiling point.
“As I do more for them, they expect more. Just because I don’t work outside of the home, people assume that I have an open schedule. I’d like to challenge them to live in my shoes for a day. I guarantee they would change their tunes.”
“You sound frustrated and unappreciated,” I said.
“If it doesn’t change, I’m moving to Mexico and they can all fend for themselves!” she joked.
“What would their lives be like if they did fend for themselves? What are some tasks that you are performing that they could do themselves?” I asked.
She immediately listed duties that she had been doing that they could easily assume. “Brent could make lunches. Each of them could collect their own laundry.” The list easily came together. It even included people outside of her family, situations where Angela’s tendency to say “yes” had gotten her over-committed.
“How will you communicate this shift of responsibility to the people who need to know?” I asked.
“I will talk to my husband and ask for his support. At our next family dinner, I will talk to the kids about how the household responsibilities are changing.” Angela added, “For people outside of the family, I will call to let them know. I’ll give enough notice so they can find someone else.”
“That sounds great!” I said. “Is there anything else that will make this situation better?”
“Since I have given up a lot of my time, I will add in two hours a week to do something for me.”
“Let’s check in at our next coaching session to see how the conversations go and how well you are doing taking time for yourself,” I suggested.
“Maybe now I’ll have time to get in my workouts and finally lose the extra ten pounds I’ve been carrying.”
“Perhaps once you release all of this extra responsibility, you will feel as though you’ve lost ten pounds,” I said smiling.
Coaching Challenge: If you are overwhelmed by tasks you do for other people, make a list of your major responsibilities. Review the list to see what you are doing that someone else could do. If he/she is unable to complete the entire task, possibly he/she can do part of it. For example, a young son may not be able to do laundry, but he can get the clothes to the laundry room. Once you have created your list, communicate to each person which tasks you are giving back. Explain why you have made this decision and be open to teaching them about how to complete the task. Enjoy your new freedom!