Around the time our second daughter was born, I discovered grocery delivery services. While I genuinely love grocery shopping, it gets progressively less fun the more kids you have. Part of the joy for me is perusing the shelves, reading labels, smelling a pineapple to check if it’s ripe… with two kids I’m running down the aisles, throwing as much food as I can into the cart before the baby gets fussy all the while explaining to my oldest why I am simply NOT going to purchase a Barbie doll at the grocery store. The idea that instead I could add $15-$20 to my bill and have the groceries delivered to my doorstep was life changing. It’s been six months and I haven’t looked back.
Yet for some reason every time I place an Instacart order I feel a little guilty. This seeped out recently when Eric and I pulled into our driveway just as our groceries were being delivered. Eric commented lightheartedly, “Well V, you sure have outsourced!”
I snapped back, “Well, aren’t you glad to be coming home to something to eat for lunch?”
He stammered, “uh yeah, I didn’t mean…”
“And fresh cut WATERMELON? (his favorite food)” my voice shrill and rising.
He nodded slowly.
“And what do you mean I’VE outsourced? Isn’t it that WE’VE outsourced? It’s not just my responsibility to feed the family!!!” I’m fully agitated at this point.
Eric looks bewildered, like a man who just realized he’s surrounded by landmines and isn’t sure it’s safe to move in any direction.
But Eric wasn’t being unkind or placing expectations on my shoulders. Of all people Eric is the guy who is happy to eat raw, uncut fruits and vegetables for every meal. But something had touched a nerve because deep down, I am ashamed of outsourcing. My mom, who stayed home with me and my brother, did her own grocery shopping, cleaned her own house, cooked nutritious (and delicious) hot meals every night, made our school lunches, etc. etc. Something in me believes I am supposed to do all this and work too. Having someone else do things I am capable of – like rake my leaves, wash and fold my laundry, cook family dinners, or purchase groceries – is somehow lazy.
But I’m in a season of life where outsourcing makes sense. If I try to do it all then I end up spending my precious limited time at home doing chores instead of building massive Lego castles with my daughter. Instead of catching a desperately needed weekend nap, I’d be grocery shopping. Beyond the benefit it brings to me as a working mom, the tasks I have outsourced are supporting other working-mom-owned small businesses that are allowing these moms to have flexible schedules. The people I outsource to have become friends, part of my village. I count on them, and they count on me as a customer.
The me who shows up at work has no problem outsourcing. I know there is no way to “do it all” at work. In fact, it would be foolish to do so and frustrating to the people I supervise. It would severely limit progress, create bottlenecks, and go against leadership guru Andy Stanley’s advice to “do what only YOU can do”. The real value I bring to my team is strategic thinking, vision casting, execution plans, and fundraising. I could be outside clearing kudzu off our clinic’s perimeter fence, but as my colleague likes to say, “then who’s left steering the ship?”
This all makes good sense to me until I get home and suddenly it’s personal. Outsourcing, rather than a wise move, feels like a personal failing. In the same day I can proudly confirm with a board member that I’ve selected a contractor for the landscape clean-up project, and later shrink into the corner when I admit to a friend that Fresh by Tonya is cooking dinners for my family for a while.
I don’t have a silver bullet solution to cleanse my brain of the shame game – but I do think being aware of it is half the battle. Like today, I feel a little ashamed that I’m having a cookie cake delivered with “Happy 5th Birthday Aubrey” written on it. Yet Aubrey won’t know because she’s napping… and I was able to write this blog. So if even one other working mom relates to this and is encouraged, it’s worth it. And later today when we’re singing happy birthday and eating huge slices of cookie cake with our friends, we’ll realize that outsourced cake tastes just as good.