As Shonda Rhymes says, “I’m struck by the fact that no one ever seems to walk to talk about having help at home… I am proud to say I don’t do this alone.”
In 2019, I spoke with about 20 highly successful women aged 35-60 and asked what their personal support system was. The vast majority shared that they had a nanny, and then once their kids started in school, the nanny began picking up ~20 hours a week of housework. It sounded glorious. My takeaway was the same as Shonda’s: most super-successful women have help. For a variety of reasons, the nanny model wasn’t the right fit for us, so I started experimenting with other options.
Before I go into more details, I want to acknowledge the vast amount of privilege that goes into being able to outsource. I was raised by a single mom, and I know first-hand that this isn’t for everyone. I also know that almost half of working women feel burned out and there are thousands and thousands of high-achieving women who make a significant income and are still weighed down by the ~28 hours of unpaid labor they are doing every week. This post is for those women, or any woman who aspires to a big career one day and just wants a vision of how it could all work. I hope this helps.
I started by identifying where my hours of housework were going. My list looked like this:
|Activity||Hours per week|
|Meal planning & cooking||5|
I immediately noticed that if I could figure out cleaning, I would get back 4 hours of my life every week. Laundry, I would get back 6 hours of my life. Both would get me 10 glorious hours every week.
So I started experimenting. After many attempts over the past 3 years, here’s what I’ve learned….
The Levels of Outsourcing
Level 1: Cleaner.
Typically the easiest to outsource, saved me about 4 hours a week, and having someone else make my house look and smell nice is such a treat!
Level 2: Ad hoc support.
- Sudshare: put your laundry in a bag, and sudshare will pick it up, wash, fold and return it. I love this service!
- Tavola: prepared meals we just heat up. Not my “forever” solution but worth its weight in gold during my busy season.
- Instacart: Grocery pick-up and delivery
Using a combination of these three, found I could save more than 10 hours week. I started to become a fun person again 😊
Level 3: Systematic Support (apparently a “House Manager”).
I had a moment in 2021, when I looked outside to see a babysitter having a blast with my kids while I was unloading dishes, tidying up, and putting away laundry, and I thought, “well this doesn’t make any sense…”. I decided to figure out how I could flip my model and get more support doing things in the house so that I could have that time to hang with my kids.
I approached one of our babysitters and asked if she’d be open to making the same amount helping out around the house. She jumped at the chance, so we put together a list. Initially it included:
- Collecting, washing and folding the laundry
- Doing dishes and tidying up the kitchen
- Grocery-shopping and putting the groceries away
- Errands, such as returns, taking the car for an oil change, and picking up birthday gifts
I gained another 5 hours per week, and the weight off was incredible. Having someone help out with the random things that pop up (Time to change the AC filters! Check engine light is on! Gotta buy gifts for teacher appreciation week!) did wonders for my mental health.
I happen to be talking with one my friends about this recently, and she was like, “oh yeah! A house manager!”. I thought house managers were for people who had LAND, or multiple homes, or hosted fancy functions, but apparently they are also for working women who can use as little as 5 hours of help a week. Yes and thank you!
Looking back, I probably wasn’t ok three years ago. I had a new baby, another one on the way, was working full-time, trying to fill my impression of what a “good mom” and an “successful professional” looked like, and spending way too much time crying in the bathroom. Outsourcing has changed everything for me. I gained almost 20 hours/week. I am sleeping better, working out again, am a better wife, a better mother, a better friend, having way more fun, and feel like myself again.
If you think outsourcing might help you, here’s what I recommend:
- Sit down, set a timer for 5 minutes, and make the list of the top tasks and how much time you spend on them. Depending on how many people are in your household, how much you travel, how much you cook, etc. it will look different from mine.
- Choose one task and spend 20 minutes outsourcing it.
- See how that one goes, and then keep outsourcing to maximize your well-being.