How Avoiding Housework Earned Me a Promotion
Written by Sarah Preston
I hired my first housekeeper when I was 26. I was flat-broke, newly married and had recently transitioned from working two jobs to a junior-level salaried position at my company. Early in my marriage, I pressured myself to take over the standard “female” role in terms of cooking and cleaning in addition to my full-time job. I was already stressed at work, working to build my career and the added pressure I was putting on myself to take care of my work, myself and take the lead on everything at home was unsustainable. Looking back, I recognize my desire to fit into cultural norms caused me to stress myself to the point of breaking.
Historically, society has tasked women with “keeping house,” which tends to be comprised of an amalgamation of cleaning, cooking and child-rearing. Patriarchal societal and legal boundaries kept women in the United States from owning land until 1862, from voting until 1920 and from opening credit cards without a husband’s signature until 1974. These ties are not so easily broken. In heterosexual couples, women do more housework than their husbands regardless of whether or not they work outside of the home. As a result of these societal pressures, women aren’t able to devote as much time to their work as men. According to the The U.S. Census Bureau, women make up more than half (50.8 percent) of the United States population. In spite of that, women only own 20 percent of businesses in the United States. This simple fact makes women less likely to be the breadwinner of their family and less likely to be able to take financial risks like striking out on their own in business.
In her book, “Pick Three: You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day),” Randi Zuckerberg breaks down life into five facets: family, friends, work, sleep and fitness. According to her theory, you can effectively do three of those five things in a day. A perfect week hits all five items as equally as possible. I put this theory into use in my own life and as a result, I’m able to compartmentalize tasks, accomplish the things I feel are most important and outsource the things I don’t feel actively contribute to the five facets. Housework is one thing I choose to outsource, because it consumes valuable time I could use to do something else that better utilizes my energy.
For this to work in a relationship, both partners have to be on the same page. It helps to have similar beliefs about gender roles and household responsibilities. My husband is fully on-board with outsourcing household chores. This mindset also extends to things that are stereotypically “male” tasks. While he could spend Saturday mornings mowing and edging our lawn, he’d rather spend it with our family—so we hired a weekly lawn service. As a couple, we have decided our personal time is worth the money we spend on delegating tasks to other people. Early in our marriage and careers, we made sacrifices to be able to do these things. We cut back on going out to dinner and drinks and we started cooking at home more. I scrutinized my bills to see where we could save money. As time wears on, these sacrifices have paid off in spades. When I was establishing myself in my career and I needed to spend time working late hours or traveling, I freed myself from stressing about the state of my house. That has resulted in promotions and opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Now, as a mom, I’m able to spend my extra time with my daughter instead of vacuuming the floor.
As life becomes increasingly complex with potential additions to my family, new responsibilities at work and continuing involvement in extracurricular activities I love, this strategy can be applied to other tasks I don’t want to prioritize. In today’s gig economy, you can find someone who will help you with anything you need. On websites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit, you can hire virtual assistants to assist in things like appointment scheduling, personal organization and even gift wrapping. Most grocery stores offer online shopping and pick-up or delivery options. Budget allowing, you can subscribe to a food-prep service like Blue Apron or Green Chef. If laundry isn’t your jam, there are laundromats that offer wash, dry and fold services.
Ultimately, the reason I have the time to write this article is because I have prioritized the things that actively contribute to living my best life. I’ve identified the tasks that aren’t a good use of my time, budgeted for and outsourced them. These choices lead me to getting the absolute most out of my life at work and at home. It makes me a better employee, wife and mother. They day I decided to stop cleaning my house, I decided to started taking charge of my life.
Sarah has spent a decade navigating in the corporate world and is currently a Senior Data Analyst in the workers compensation industry. She also helps busy boss ladies #WorkitatWork with her blog Dressed to Impreston. Mom of one human child and three the of the canine persuasion, Sarah spends her off time as President of the Houston Area Seminole Club and reading everything she can get her hands on. Keep up with her on instagram @dressed2impreston