55: The Art of Delegation

55: The Art of Delegation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

The Art of Delegation

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.

~Booker T. Washington

It was time to put down my foot. For years, I had worked fulltime while doing almost all the housework, cooking, laundry and errands, not to mention chauffeur duties. My children grew up, but they were still at home dividing their time between college, part-time jobs and friends. I decided that if I could work all day, come home and do, well, everything, then they could do some things, too. It was time for some changes!

I developed a plan. First, I sat down and listed all the “home work” that needed to be done. Then, I made a delegation list. My husband tried but did not escape. I decided that for my plan to work with the least amount of pain and resistance, I would have to start them out a little at a time.

This was not the first time they had to help at home. My son did yard work with his dad every Saturday. My daughter helped me inside on weekends. Everyone maintained their own rooms, some more efficiently than others. This was a good start, but there were now four adults living in the house, and it was time to balance the load a little more.

I called a family meeting. First on the list, they would begin doing their own laundry. This meant washing, drying, folding and putting away. I was tired of trying to find the dirty laundry, and I was tired of carrying it up and down the stairs to the laundry room. If they didn’t do their own laundry, they would be wearing dirty clothes. This was received pretty well. No one seemed to think this was a big deal because they did not know how much work was involved.

I left it there for a while. This went fairly smooth. We had to develop a schedule so that each person had a laundry day. There were a few disasters with bleeding colors and shrinkage in the dryer, but everyone learned the importance of reading the tags in their clothing. There was also an occasional conflict with the schedule if someone failed to do their wash in a timely manner or didn’t remove their clothes from the dryer. But soon everything became routine… more or less.

Time to roll out part two, and this was my favorite — dividing kitchen duties. Another family meeting was called. Each person was required to pick a night to cook and clean the kitchen. This time I got a little pushback. “I don’t know how to cook.” This came from my son who had taken a semester of home economics in junior high.

“All I know how to do is bake,” said my daughter. She had made, on occasion, a cake or a batch of cookies.

“Well, now you will learn,” was my heartless reply. “We have cookbooks and family recipes. Use them.”

In spite of the grumbling, it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. After everyone got the hang of it, we began to have some good meals. My husband normally stuck with one thing, baked fish. He was pretty predictable, but this was a good meal every week. He also did some grilling, which was always nice. My children got very creative eventually, even developing their own dishes. In fact, my two children and I have published recipes in two cookbooks together. This was pretty special to all of us.

Little by little, other duties were handed out. The result was a more relaxed household with the burden seeming smaller when divided among the four of us. I still retained the bulk of the work and had more cooking days, but my load was much lighter than before. If someone wanted to do something with friends or was just especially tired on their day, we swapped. Everything became routine.

When my son moved away from home, we had to redistribute the workload. One of our solutions for meals was “on your own” nights when everyone is responsible for their own supper. Laundry day conflicts have diminished with one less person to contend with.

Several good things have occurred as a result of our new lifestyle. The house stays cleaner with less effort on everyone’s part. My son’s apartment is much cleaner than his old room used to be. He has developed new habits and a stronger sense of responsibility.

My son has also learned that he loves to cook. In fact, he would go to culinary school if he had the chance. His friends always want him to bring appetizers to their get-togethers. His girlfriends have enjoyed dating a guy who can cook a meal for them that matches the restaurants around town. He cooks way over my head now. I am really proud of him.

His former housework responsibilities have fallen primarily to my daughter who now does them automatically. She has also become a very good cook. She likes to experiment with her dishes and has created some tasty treats. She is also chief bakery chef for the holidays. I cannot imagine how I ever did it all myself!

A very special treat for me is on Thanksgiving when we are all in the kitchen together preparing the meal, setting the table, and cleaning up. We chat and joke as each person handles his or her assignment. Cooking, in particular, has created a special bond among us. Family recipes are being handed down to a new generation and often improved upon. New family recipes have been created.

I discovered the best multitasking skills I ever developed were the skills of planning and delegation. Now, I can have some “me time” and read a book or work out.

~Debbie Acklin

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