Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lessons in Delegation

Learning how to cede control is difficult for every type-A. When I left on maternity leave, I had to carefully create status reports and files for each of my open projects so that they could continue to move forward in my absence. Because I was temporarily leaving to become a mother, I didn't really care much about what happened to these projects while I was out. In fact, for a few of them, I was happy to let them go and make them someone else's responsibility.

When I returned to the office, it was a little awkward to figure out what was in what state and determine where I was needed. As it turned out, several things had permanently shifted to someone else's plate. Not that this was necessarily a bad thing, since I returned to work with 25% less time to accomplish things (and a lot less energy). I was also disappointed to find out that some things I was hoping would just go away forever hadn't moved beyond my last status report, as they were eagerly awaiting my return.

Now that I work from home two days a week, I am again finding it imperative - and yet still difficult - to delegate. There are some things that I just know I can get done more efficiently and effectively if I just do them myself. These aren't high profile things, they are simple things, but getting someone else to pick them up requires a process and several emails or phone calls. However, I try to remind myself of Lesson 1: the more I pass stuff off, the more opportunity it provides for others to grow and develop and the better it is for my firm. If I was the only person that knew how to do certain things, they wouldn't let me ever go on maternity leave again (just kidding!).

Outside of work there is also a need to delegate, but I have a much much harder time letting go when it comes to LP. I want what is best for her, and I take my job as her mommy very seriously. Of course, I depend on the help and support of others to learn how best to care for my daughter, but I still believe that the Hoos and I, by virtue of being her parents, are given sole (shared) responsibility for her protection and well being.

For instance, day care. I am very appreciative of the care they give to my little angel. However, I also know that they are not just caring for her, they have several infants in their charge. That means they have to try to standardize things, like nap time and feeding time. When LP transitioned to her new room last week, we were surprised to learn that standard nap times were 10 and 2. Well, LP (fortunately) doesn't even wake up until 8:15, I can't see her agreeing to sleep again in less than 2 hours. Lesson 2: Learning to delegate means letting go. It isn't my problem if LP doesn't want to nap at 10. So the other babies will sleep and LP will continue to crawl around (since you know she won't just lay quietly in her crib) until she wears herself out closer to 11.

Lesson 3: Letting go doesn't mean giving in. I admit it, since LP started eating finger foods for dinner it has made my life easier. I can prepare the grown-up dinner while LP sits next to me in her high chair merrily feeding herself. This gives me 10 extra minutes of two free hands. For this reason, I understand why day care would want to encourage a 100% transition to hands-free feeding. However, for breakfast and lunch even if I give LP some finger foods to feed herself, I still spoon feed her at least one thing to ensure she is eating enough. Again, it isn't my problem that they have several babies to feed at once. My only munchkin in that classroom is what I most care about on the planet, if it is more time-consuming to spoon feed her, that's okay. I am paying them to take good care of my baby and I am the one that defines the level of care.

Lest you think I don't like LP's day care, let me reassure you, I do like her day care center and her teachers. I know that they personally care about my little girl. Think of it like a bowl of Chicken Soup - Campbell's from a can isn't homemade by mommy. It will still make you feel better, but there is nothing like the real thing.

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