Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Helping Your Helpers Help You

It can take a village to pull off big, life events, and yet, ironically, modern society is becoming more and more nuclear. We're separating off into our smaller and smaller families, living farther away from extended family, and seeking out more virtual community, rather than getting to know our neighbors. (As a side note, if you want to read a great book from my American studies days in college, I highly recommend The Pursuit of Loneliness).

I'm no exception in certain regards. Matt and I live many, many miles from family. We're smack-dab in the middle of Houston, and his family lives in Bloomington, IN, while mine lives in Tampa, FL.

As we prepare for the impending arrival of our first baby in February, however, we're thinking through ways to tap into the generous love and support of our families and friends to help us face the experience with maximized joy, connection, and an ability to keep ourselves grounded in the present moment.

Of course that's exactly what we did for our wedding! We knew that we needed help to pull off a two-day wedding extravaganza in the woods of Colorado. Since we couldn't afford to purchase a lot of extra help and--more importantly--because we wanted our wedding to help build community among our nearest and dearest, we asked for as much help as possible. We delegated more than 30 jobs, which helped us enjoy our DIY wedding more (because we didn't feel responsible for taking care of everything during the Welcome Picnic, ceremony, and reception). It also helped us feel even more connected to our friends and family because we we're making something happen together. Finally, it helped free up our mental space and allowed us to truly immerse ourselves in the experience and enjoy it!

My mom is planning to come take care of Matt, me, Hoss, and the house right after the birth, so that Matt and I can rest, heal, and learn how to take care of the baby. When asking people to help (with the express purpose of trying to take pressure off of yourself and to make your life easier), I've found that it's not enough to just say, "Please help me with _________." While that is enough for those friends and family members who have a lot of vision and initiative, it's often not enough for everybody else. Most people are afraid of doing something wrong because they desperately want to help you in the best way possible. Most people need more specific directions about what it means to "help with ____________."

That's why I'm using the months leading up to the birth to figure out ways to help my mom best support us after the birth. She and I brainstormed a list of everything she might need:
  • a list of vegetarian meals (with recipes) to cook
  • directions to our nearest grocery stores and pharmacies
  • take-out menus from local restaurants
  • descriptions of what goes in our cabinets, so she can help unload the dishwasher
  • directions for running the washing machine (specifically how to use our side-loading machine)
  • routes for walking Hoss
  • Hoss's feeding schedule
  • directions about how to care for the chickens

I keep the list in a centralized place and add to it throughout the week as I come up with more things. I never trust myself to make a comprehensive list the first time through.

Matt and I followed the same process as we figured out what kind of help we needed with our wedding. It took a lot of work during the planning phase to think through all the details and to communicate those details to our helpers (via e-mail and phone), but the upfront investment was totally worth it. During the execution phase of our wedding, our helpers weren't bombarding us with questions about what to do, how to do it, or where to find the supplies they needed. We tried to answer all of those questions for them in advance.

It's not really delegating if you have to hold everyone's hands while they are carrying out their tasks!

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Chris Wolfgang said...

Your list of 30 + things was very helpful. I need to get in that more-specific mindset.

Maureen said...

I remember when my brother was born, my mom labled all of my dresser drawers so grandma would know where to put my clothes when she came to stay and help out!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you decided to let your mom come and help! I hope she is a huge help to you Matt and little coconut!

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