Are you a bit of a control-freak (like me)? Do you like things done a certain way? Find it hard to let go? Ever wonder why you end up doing what feels like everything? Then read on my friend.
I first recognised I might have a problem with letting go of control when, heavily pregnant with my second baby and struggling to get everything finished up to go on maternity leave, I found myself hiding a big basket of ironing from my mum-in-law. Looking back I want to give myself a good talking to – here was someone offering to help me when I was tired and in need of a helping hand, and I was more worried about the fact that she wasn’t going to do it my way (in my defence her way was ironing a crease down the front of jeans and making black tops shiny by not turning them inside out).
Aside from the laundry basket incident, there have been other warning signs – like when my husband answers a question about whether we should do x or y with ‘why don’t you just tell me what you want to do as we’ll end up doing it that way anyway’. It’s a small comfort to know that I’m not alone. Many of the mums that we meet in our Mumager workshops share that they too end up taking the lead in most things to do with children and home-life. I’m reminded of one mum who shared how when she left her baby for the day with her husband she carefully labelled the three identical bottles of expressed milk in the fridge as ‘breakfast – lunch – dinner’. Just in case her husband couldn’t figure it out! Again, in our defence I like to think that wanting to be in control comes from a good place – we want to get things right and to look after everyone. And at times we do have a better grasp of what needs to be done.
If I’m honest, I like things done a certain way (my way) and I’m guilty as charged of thinking my way is the right way – especially when it comes to life at home. But as a working mum it’s hard to keep all of the balls in the air – family, homework, shopping, dinners, never-ending laundry, work, exercise, me-time, down-time, partner-time and just time! So let’s find a way to lighten the load and stop feeling as if you have to do everything. Here are our top tips:
- Step back and look at where you may be setting your standards too high – for you and everyone else. Acknowledging that you may have an issue is the first step in changing. What would happen if your skirting boards weren’t sparkling or you had beans on toast for dinner on the odd occasion? Or if your toddler went to crèche in a pair of joggers that hadn’t been ironed?
- Decide what’s important to you: Maybe making sure you don’t have a crease down the front of your jeans IS important to you, but ironing your toddler’s jeggings isn’t. If your partner has got the kids dressed and the outfit isn’t quite ‘on trend’, unless it’s for a wedding or family photo-shoot, does it really matter (plus it may add to the cute factor?) As the saying goes ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ (Note to my husband – if you’re reading this – I’m trying on this one, I really am!)
- Share your expectations – for the things that really do matter and need to be done a certain way. Whether it’s what should be in a school lunchbox or how you’d like a tantrum dealt with – explain clearly how you’d like the situation handled, and why. This is especially true if you’re paying someone for a service. On our Mumager workshops we’ve met mums who admit they have to clean after the cleaner has been in as something hasn’t been done to a certain standard – if you’re paying for someone’s services then you have a right to ask for things to be done a certain way.
- Step back and let others use their initiative – One of the things we hear a lot on our Mumager workshop is that the Dads often consult the Mums – on everything – from what to dress the kids in to whether they need a nappy change or could do with a dose of Calpol. Us problem-solving-in-control Mums are usually quick to dispense the advice and answers. The thing is Dads are equally capable of making these decisions themselves. The more we give the answers, the more they’ll ask. Or the more we correct things when they do make a decision, the more they’ll look to us for guidance, or will just stop doing it altogether. And we wonder why we end up ‘doing everything’.
- Be thankful and accept help when it’s offered: If you don’t accept help or are always quick to criticize then eventually they’ll stop offering and you’ll end up resenting the fact that you have to do everything. So now my laundry is in full-view of my wonderful mum-in-law (with everything already turned inside out – just in case!)
I’m getting better at letting go of control – but I’m still a work in progress. Don’t give up though, along the way you may just find that your way isn’t always the best way – it’s just one way. And given half a chance, people may just pleasantly surprise you. We have lots more advice and tools to share with you – Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
At Mumager we support working mums. We’re here for you – if you have an issue or a question then we’d love to hear from you. You can ask a question via email or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.