A few weeks ago on the podcast, my guest Lucrecer and I talked about how hard it is for married moms to really know our lives as single mothers.
That's true. At least for me. Much of the time.
Which is why it is funny (funny-awesome, not really funny-haha) that some of my favorite single parenting words of wisdom came from a married mom I met through church in the early days of my divorce.
This mom friend made time for things I just could not fathom as I transitioned from a home with a husband to my parents' house to an apartment with my small child. She made lavish meals most nights of the week. She worked full-time for a fancy agency in a big building downtown. She had a successful side hustle online. And she had endless spreadsheets tracking kindergarten applications for her twin sons. Oh, yeah. Twin sons. And these kids who could already read and peel their own damn clementines were only two of her four children. Of course, she also taught yoga (the painfully sweaty kind). OF COURSE.
One evening while I waited for her at a neighborhood pub, she texted that she'd be a bit late because she had to get her grocery delivery order in before she had a few beers and ended up ordering only massive bags of Doritos and frozen tamales. I responded with a simple OK and just as I hit send, what she was doing hit me.
Grocery delivery? Are you effing kidding me?
Since this was before an iPhone made its way into my pocket, I still thought grocery delivery was for my 97-year old granny or someone with two legs in casts. It hadn't even occurred to me that I had every right and opportunity to have my groceries delivered, too.
When my friend arrived, I asked her to tell me everything. Online grocery services were popping up, but my married mom friend had been ordering all kinds of things right to her doorstep for years.
Dry cleaning. Manicures. People to walk her dogs.
So this is how she does it, I thought, like I'd stumbled on to the mysteries of the parenting universe. I felt as dumb and enlightened as I had the moment I realized all my stay at home mom friends had immaculate houses because each of them hired weekly housekeepers.
I wasn't inadequate in getting shit done. I was inadequately keeping up with hiring help.
My friend told me I absolutely had to get on board, but I didn't listen. Maybe I was being too frugal (hello, attorney's fees) or not valuing my own time and energy (and good day to you, therapist) or was just apprehensive to give it all a go.
And so I carried bags and bags of baby carrots and string cheese and wine (OK, also Doritos) up a flights and flights of stairs by my damn self. I cussed all the way to the dry cleaners. I squeezed all of the errands into lunch hours and free moments and nights when my son was with his dad.
Until another married mom pushed me over the edge.
Married mom #2 – who traveled, exercised and dined out in ways enviable to me as a person who was barely able to get into pajamas before bed – spoke up at a literary salon we attended together. The author, who'd written a novel on modern motherhood, led the discussion, asking what our own secrets for doing it all were.
My friend raised her hand and said bluntly:
Outsource everything you can afford.
And there it was again, beating me over the head with giant bag of Doritos (probably Cool Ranch because they are the only ones left untouched in my home).
She went on to list the sites, apps and services she calls on simply so she can give her attention to what matters most.
That time, it sunk in. And now, a half-dozen iPhones later, I know that outsourcing saves me from the tasks that steal my time and energy away from the work I'm called to do, the mothering I expect of myself and the relationships I value most.
The advice to outsource is so valuable, especially coming from another mother.
It says: I'm not judging you because your shower grout is grimy and the only thing for dinner you have left in the pantry is a can of tuna and a jar of jam. Just stop pressuring yourself to do all the cleaning, run all the errands and take care of all the to-dos.
Be good to yourself. Be gentle and kind. Give yourself a goddamn break.
The second part of the advice is just as important: What you can afford.
It is not asking you to blow your budget to hell or never put another wine glass in the dishwasher. It is telling you that while take care of your time and energy, it is healthy to mind your money, too.
I take that all into consideration every time I debate whether to schedule the housecleaner or hire a handy-person or have someone run over with the ingredients I need to have brownies waiting when my boy gets home.
Would I pay someone $9.95 right this minute to carry cases of LaCroix up to my door? YES?! Bingo! I'm ordering.
Will I be Nutters McGee running from store to store to for teacher gifts the night before winter break? YES?! Voila! I'm having coffee cards sent right to their classrooms.
We have all the apps and access to delivery and services we need now.Amazon Prime has saved my single mom-ass so many times. I found people to move furniture for me through Task Rabbit when I was 100 weeks pregnant. And I love the option of ordering my Costco, Whole Foods and tiny grocery store favorites all from one grocery service. I hear great things about a super-affordable subscription service that delivers imperfect produce, and many of my friends now swear by meal kits. And I pray I never move again without professionals loading the boxes into the truck.
Having a wonky cabinet door fixed, a new housecleaner booked or a snow-shoveler scheduled has never been easier. You will find what's right for you (and your wallet).
I swear one day, I am having a professional blow-out and eyebrow wax right in my own bathroom – I am waiting for the budget to smile kindly on that next step.
Some months (and years), I can prioritize a lot more outsourced help than others. That's OK. What I hold throughout is the understanding that I absolutely do not have to do it all. I can't. I won't.
It's neither wise nor kind to myself and to the people I want to take to the movies or speak to with kindness.
It has been eight or nine years since I heard that advice and I am still following it to some degree all this time and all these dust bunnies later.
In fact, the advice outlasted the friendships (and I am ever thankful that each of those moms offered their wisdom before the vanished into the land of Pilates reformers and multi-tabbed spreadsheets).
So, single mamas, what part of this married friend advice speaks loudest to you?
What are your outsourcing must-haves? And what kind of service would make a big difference in your life with kids?