When I was a child, things were very different. By the time I was eight years old, I had a list of daily and weekly chores which consisted of doing dishes, vacuuming, cleaning my room, doing laundry, piling wood, and preparing my lunches, to name a few. I was not a child-slave by any means, but from a young age, there were expectations and responsibilities, as well as consequences for not doing my part to contribute to the smooth functioning of the household. Fast forward a few decades and it seems we are trying to manage everything on our own, in addition to doing for others what they could and should be doing for themselves. This not only happens with our children but in other caregiving situations as well. Now I’m not saying kids in today’s day and age are unmotivated, unproductive, or that ALL care recipients should be doing more. But if you are doing more for others than they actually need you to, just know that you’re not only creating more stress for yourself, but quashing their independence, self-sufficiency, and sense of purpose.
As we face uncertain times with new health concerns, financial unknowns, and constant demands on our time and energy, there are things we can do to break this habit of over caring:
1. Honestly think about WHY you’re doing too much, saying yes when you should be saying no, not asking for the support you need, and not putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.
2. If you're exhausted, stressed, or on the verge of burnout, seriously consider whether there are things your loved ones could be doing for themselves, or even things they could be doing for you. Also, consider what you might be taking away from your loved ones by doing for them what they are quite capable of doing for themselves.
3. Make a list of chores that need to be done on a daily and weekly basis and get your loved ones involved.
4. Have a family meeting. Include anyone you are caring for, directly or indirectly. Let them know what you need help with and get everyone to step up. For example, if your kids are home from school, instead of watching TV and playing video games all day, set up a schedule of who will be responsible for what. If you are assisting in the care of a family member, figure out how you can empower them to do as much as possible for themselves.
5. Hold people accountable to doing the things they are responsible for. For children, this may mean turning off electronics until chores are done.
Instead of racing home to cook, clean, and take care of others, relieve yourself of the extra burden by teaching your loved ones to contribute more. Your family may not like this at first because they’ve gotten used to you doing almost everything, but setting up a new pattern of interdependence (versus dependence) will not only help you, but will benefit everyone in the long-run.