Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast “Gee Thanks, Just Bought It,” which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, “Asking for a Friend,” she’s helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, click here.
How do I tell my family I no longer want to be the “planner?" I am the sibling that plans our family vacations, works out the logistics of taking care of our elderly mother, holidays, everything.
Even with the pandemic, my family looks to me for guidance as if I have more information than the CDC. Seriously, my brother asked me to decide whether a big family gathering would be “safe” this year. Why would I know anything more than what everyone knows? It is infuriating. Once my nephew texted me asking me if there were any movie theaters by “grandma’s house.” Have you heard of Google? With the holidays coming up, I know I am going to lose my mind. What do I do?
Tired of Planning
OK, so this is all about boundary setting. You’re the one everyone goes to for information they could probably find on their own, and you don’t want to be that person anymore. All well and good. Totally fine. Draw those lines before your anger bubbles up to the surface and things get out of hand.
One way you could do this: Hold a family meeting between you and your siblings; no grandma, no kids. These are your siblings. Siblings are people you’re allowed to get a little snippy with. A benefit! Do this soon, unless you want to spend another holiday season being the planner.
Tell them what’s going on. “I’m the planner, and I don’t want to be the planner. Sometimes, this dynamic has stretched me too thin.” It sounds like they probably won’t have tailor-made solutions to offer you when this comes out, so I would go in with your own.
“Michelle, it would help me out if you could be in charge of the holiday menus and letting everyone know what they need to bring. I’m happy to host at my house, but would love to delegate this task to you. Tim, it would be great if you could take on the role of talking to Mom’s doctors after her monthly appointments and keep track of those notes. Here are the things I am happy to still take on."
Focus on the tangible action items and less on the feelings of anger you have that they were leaving you floating in the ocean to drown. Let’s pretend for now that this has nothing to do with personalities or behaviors. The goal is to pass the buck to someone else. The goal is to get through the holidays with fewer tasks on your to-do list. They might totally get it right away! They might be like, “Yes, absolutely, sure.” Honestly, sometimes I think about the planners in my life and I think about how good they are at being planners. So there’s probably a part of me that believes that planning makes them happy. I want to give your siblings the benefit of the doubt and believe that they may think this about you, too.
For a little bit, it may feel tempting to take control again of all of the transferred tasks. Be prepared. Sometimes people will drop the ball. Sometimes people forget. But if you’re there to pick up the slack, your siblings will be more than happy to relinquish the responsibilities. Let them forget things, let them fail at their new jobs.
Draw these boundaries and do not budge.
And then, enjoy the holidays.
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