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The Secret to Making Your Life a Hundred Times Better

Photograph by Twenty20

A few weeks ago, I ordered my groceries online and had them delivered. It felt like an extravagance—a 1 percent kind of luxury that I shouldn't be able to indulge. But a friend of mine, who is a working mom, told me to do it. I balked that it would be more expensive.

"It isn't," she insisted. "You can shop the sales, and because you stick to your list, you don't spend as much on impulse buys."

The nominal delivery fee was waived if you got up to $100. I always get up to $100, even when I shop at discount stores. So, I tried it.

Here's what happened.

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I set up the delivery and then, instead of taking my weekly three-hour shopping trip with my 4-year-old, I took a nap. When I woke up, the groceries were delivered, my husband had put them away and my kids were happily snacking on the gogurt. I was hooked. And I immediately felt guilty for it.

When I set out to build a career and a family, I never considered I was asking for "it all." After all, men have a career and family all the time and they just call it "a life." I reasoned that women had been working and having children for centuries, I didn't want to be the CEO of Facebook or a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, I just wanted to build a life writing things that meant something to people and maybe write a book. And having a family would be nice too. How could it be so hard? After all, my husband and I live in the Midwest, things are cheap and family friendly here, and surely we could make this work.

Two days ago, I broke down sobbing. I have my kids in daycare part-time, but even then, the work piles up along with the dishes. My husband feels like I'm ignoring him. My kids feel like I'm ignoring them. I feel like I'm ignoring myself. I don't think I want it all, but holding on to what little I have feels so Herculean sometimes, it makes me resentful.

Online grocery shopping, diaper delivery and food delivery have begun to revolutionize what society still considers to be "women's work." But all of the ease comes with the burden of guilt.

Recently, Siobahn Adcock wrote for Salon arguing that smartphones are reinventing motherhood and making our lives easier. She notes that online grocery shopping, diaper delivery and food delivery have begun to revolutionize what society still considers to be "women's work." But all of the ease comes with the burden of guilt. Adcock likens the smartphone to the invention of the washing machine and argues, "During eras when motherhood has been made easier by technology, our culture has demanded that motherhood itself get suddenly, drastically harder."

Our increased ability to outsource comes with increased pressure to parent. Never once do we expect women to rest. Why else do we ask a mother, "What are you going to do when your kids are in school?" As if the idea of her spending time reading a book threatens some vital core of what we expect of women.

"I read feminist leisure research (who knew such a thing existed?) and international studies that found women around the globe felt that they didn't deserve leisure time. It felt too selfish. Instead, they felt they had to earn time to themselves by getting to the end of a very long To Do list. Which, let's face it, never ends," writes Brigid Schulte author of "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time." Shulte argues that the idea of a woman at rest conflicts with our global expectations of women. A woman at rest is a threat. A woman who has time, must fill that time. But it's a double-edged sword because a woman having it all is dangerous as well.

Why else do we say that women working and having children are "having it all"? Why don't we level that same bar to men? The reason is, men can have work and a family, because they build it on the backs of women. This life men take for granted is entirely because women do everything. The idea of women having it all is threatening because it means that men can no longer have it all at the expense of women.

Now we have to do it without family, without extra help and while working. To this, I say, bullshit.

When I got married to my husband, I sat him down and we mapped out the chores. I didn't want to be the only one doing them. So we split them evenly. But after the children were born and I began to work from home, I took everything on. It was just second nature. After all, it's what I had seen my mother do. I had no other roadmap.

When I took my concerns to my husband, he was sympathetic, but he also felt the pressures of time and expectations. That's when I decided to outsource—first the groceries, next we are finding space in the budget for cleaning. It's a luxury and a very first-world response. But we live hours away from our closest relative, and we are completely unmoored in our little town.

Previously in history, mothers had the help of nearby family, but as families have dispersed, the expectation of women to do all the work has remained. Except now we have to do it without family, without extra help and while working. To this, I say, bullshit.

No more! I'm asking for help and I'm getting it where I can find it, even if that means grocery delivery and house cleaning.

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And I encourage other women to do the same. Stop it. Stop doing everything. Get help. (And grocery delivery companies, make it so you can accept food stamps and coupons online. Please. I want this for everyone!) Let's all rise up against the scourge of expectations (other people's and our own). Let's outsource and take a damn nap.

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