Mindful Monday: ask for help (and get really specific)

While I was away, I worked steadily on some projects that had gotten a little backed up. Sprawled out on a hotel bed in the quiet, just my laptop and me – no kids’ schedules to consider or  worries about a napping toddler waking up at just the wrong moment – I got a lot done. But a half-hour after shutting my computer and heading back down to the conference, feeling confident and relaxed because I’d crossed a few things off my to-do list, I got a call asking if I could take on yet another project…starting immediately.

It’s a great project with a great company and right in my area of interest, so after taking a few deep breaths, of course I said “yes.” And immediately after hanging up, I called my husband and said, “I need help.”

“Okay,” he said. “What kind?”

This is where I got stuck. Because while I’m great at acknowledging that I need to ask for help, I don’t find it nearly as easy to zero on the specific things I’d like to delegate. Oh, sure, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I rarely do the dishes (that’s what teenagers are for), and I have semi-regular cleaning help, and child care, even if it doesn’t always feel like enough.

But when it comes to everyday things like laundry and making dinner and the like, I’m more likely to do it myself than ask for a hand…even when I’m overwhelmed with work. So I mumbled that I needed some help with the kids and the house, unable to articulate exactly what I wanted him to do, or exactly what I’d like to have semi-permanently taken off my plate.

The truth is that I like the idea of doing it all: the cooking and the tucking-in and the writing and the scrubbing and the seeing-off-to-the-bus in the morning. Taken apart, I find each of those things – yes, even cleaning! – pretty satisfying. And there’s a bit of pride mixed up in there: I like to think I do a great job at each of those things, at least separately. And maybe that’s true. But when you put it all together, I start to run into a problem.

When I got home after my eight-hour drive from Nashville last night, the house was immaculate. Jon had mobilized the kids to pick up their rooms, clean the kitchen and vacuum the living room. He’d washed, folded, and put away every stitch of clothing in the house. Get this: the man hand-washed my bras.

I’m not sure if it was the excitement mixed with impending panic in my voice or my thinly-veiled plea on Babble or just a simple desire to help me out that inspired the cleaning spree, but one thing is clear: the guy did a better job cleaning than I probably ever have. I woke up feeling relaxed and ready to face a busy day rather than weighed down by things left undone.

This week I’m making a plan to get used to this feeling. I’m going to make a detailed list of the things I don’t feel I can do well right now – even if those are things I usually like to do, or would prefer to do myself – and figure out who in my life might be able to help me with that specific thing.

Delegating doesn’t mean I’m not good at something. And it doesn’t mean I’ll never do that job myself again. It just means that right now, it makes the most sense to invest my time in something else. Logically I know that, but this week I’m going to mindfully put that principle into practice.

What are you focusing on this week? Anyone else making a mindful intention to ask for more help and delegate specific tasks?

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