SHARING THE LOAD
Dee Chadwick
07 Oct 2019
This is a concept that brings me great joy. Loads are so much lighter if willingly distributed amongst those around who are available to join in. Be they physical, emotional, or sometimes financial loads.

LOAD SHARING AND ME

I have to say that I chuckled when, at a village event over in Yorkshire many years ago, someone had been looking for me. The chuckles were caused by a colleague’s comment – ‘You obviously don’t know her very well. If you did, you would have come straight to the kitchen where she is always to be found getting stuck in with what needs to be done.’ I guess I have always rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in without waiting for others to feel the need to have to ask for help. I have never been afraid of a bit – or a lot – of hard work.

This attitude has at times counted against me as I tend to hope that others would act similarly if I was the one who would benefit from that extra pair of hands chipping in. In fact, it has royally ticked me off on more than one occasion – for example on a hot summer’s day at the charity for whom I used to do voluntary counselling. I was outside doing my best to demolish an old sofa in order to get it into my car and to the tip. The lack of a decent tool kit saw me attacking said sofa with a saw, a screw driver, a lump hammer and an old kitchen knife. A colleague, young enough to be my offspring, squashed past me to get inside, returning a few minutes later with a cup of tea in hand. She perched on the window sill sipping her tea as she commented that it looked like hard work. No **&^^ joking, sunshine. The only positive aspect of her words were that they fired me to hack away even more vigorously at the poor unsuspecting sofa. I guess it is each to their own – but she could at least have brought me out a cup of tea.

OK, so maybe she wasn’t a DIY type of person, but an offer of help would have quickly elicited the suggestion of piling the pieces that were flung around – putting them into the boxes waiting for this very thing to take place, or simply holding the sofa steady whilst I hacked. There again, maybe she didn’t trust me with those tools being wielded with much grunting and very little finesse.

I know that I am always saying that we are all different, but I do find it hard to accept when people do not step up to help when others are struggling. For me, the equivalent of standing next to a life belt when someone is in difficulty in the water. You may not be able to swim, so it’s a non-starter with going in to any depth; however, what of having a go at throwing out that life belt - as you yell for assistance of course!

THOSE WHO TRY, BUT DON’T SUCCEED

I have worked with clients who complain that their partner never does anything to help.

In some cases, any helping was usually wrapped around with complaints. ‘That’s not how I do it’, ‘That’s not how it should be done’. A no-win situation as both parties ended up cross – one as their strict rules for the job weren’t being followed; the other – why bother to help if all I get is a head pecking? But, who is to say that the pecker’s idea of how said task should be done is the definitive way of doing the task? Was the pecked one aware of the standards they were supposed to be meeting? Did they care about this often repeated way of being? Call me cynical, but maybe, as a part of a relationship, there needs to be at least some degree of give and take; an explanation of the idealised way of task completion by one and an explanation of the other’s concept of their method of task completion. This to be followed by a meeting somewhere in the middle ground maybe? At the core of any relationship there should be good communication, so maybe in this instance, symptoms of a general lack of such an essential?

In this case it was a wife who told her husband to forget about doing the tasks, sharing the load, if not going to do it ‘correctly’. Just a sneaky thought, but maybe she was her own worst enemy who also tended towards martyrdom? As for the husband – could it be that he got what he wanted? He got out of the tasks that presumably he hadn’t been keen on doing in the first place.

For some couples, a designation of jobs works well. One partner does the cooking, the domestic chores such as washing, ironing, cleaning whilst the other washes the car and tends to the garden. If it works well, then fine, though I have known things to become a little fraught in winter when the garden no longer needs to be weeded or the grass cut, yet the inside tasks continue unabated. Again, a need for communication and maybe some wiggle room built in for seasonal changes?

What if those tasks are divvied up along the old he does/she does demarcations? The female taking responsibility for the indoor stuff, the male the outdoor. These days, more flexibility is called for as such demarcations are much less etched in stone than they used to be. However, it can take some time for attitudes to change, to become more accepting of less rigid gender-led roles. For example, a couple of years ago, I took part in an activity day. Part of the day involved making a ‘racing car’ from a four-wheeled chassis and lots of thick cardboard. We were divided into teams. I was the only female in our team and I hadn’t previously even said ‘hello’ to my fellow team members. No matter, it was straight away decided that I should design the logos to go on the car and the cover-alls. Not even the faintest hint of was that ok with me? Eyebrows shot up when I said that I too would like to work on the car bodywork and one of the men actually went as far as to say out loud – ‘you’re best doing the ‘easy bits’. I decided against making things awkward for the organiser by making a scene and digging in my heels. I quickly made the logos then hunkered down to join in with the body work only to find that my suggestions were not deemed fit for consideration. Long story short, the bodywork was far from successful, with the organiser (who happened to be male) even going so far as to say why didn’t you just do this …. and making the same suggested that I had earlier floated. OK, I tried not to gloat, but am sure that a smug look crept on to my face… whoops. I also admit to being flabbergasted when their reply to the organiser was along the lines of ‘great idea’!!

SHINING EXAMPLE OF LOAD SHARING

Some years ago, I attended a funeral at which the load was very much shared. The resulting happening was probably one of the most uplifting funerals I have ever attended. My bit – the flowers, having driven there the night before with a car full of greenery and mini beasts deciding to leave their leafy home to investigate where we were heading by crawling onto my shoulders and face during the drive. As for the service – there were those who sang, those who played an instrument, those who spoke about the deceased. As for the wake… there was a seemingly never-ending stream of dishes, trays, containers of so many different foods. The tables magically were set up by many hands making light of the work as the food kept on coming. A wonderful sharing of the load, sharing of the feelings at what otherwise could have been a sombre event. Afterwards – yes, of course, the plates were washed, dried, put away, the tables cleared, the floor swept and the remaining food distributed. It all just seemingly happened without anyone having to ask for help. Human nature at its caring best.

TEAMWORK

Those funeral arrangements were a great example of teamwork at its best. A team which didn’t require a designated leader, rather a group of like-minded people who observed, stepped in, completed their part of the task. You must have come across this – maybe there are some people with whom you can share a kitchen as they look to see what needs doing and just do it. OK, they may have to ask where things are kept or should be put but have usually had a good guess first. I had a wonderful friend who, after a dinner party or lunch for friends just automatically got up to help with clearing between courses, grabbing containers to put left-overs in to, loading the dish washer even though she didn’t at the time have one herself. She used her common sense to load it – and I wasn’t precious about what went where as I believe some people can be. Then it was pudds from the fridge and through to the table whilst I set up the coffee machine. It all simply happened.

It is felt that the concept of teamwork through division of labour, of sharing the load can be seen in industry. As, for example, in the car industry with the conveyor belt taking the vehicle-in-making from one specialised operative (or robot) on to the next. I often wonder if this would lead to boredom, with a struggle to find job satisfaction because of such a high degree of specialisation leading to less opportunity for change. In fact, this seems to be the opposite of teamwork in many ways as each is working independently. Yes, each is reliant on the person back along the conveyor belt having performed their role correctly. However, rather than a sharing or the load, I feel that there is a heavy reliance on the load having been carefully divided up into pre-determined chunks with no collaboration or communication when the sharing takes place. The demand for increased efficiency is the primary aim, with job satisfaction seemingly coming way down the list, if it even makes it onto that list at all. Whilst each is a member of a team producing a finished article, is there any team spirit amongst those operatives, especially if your nearest working neighbour may be of the robotic variety? Does it become a means to an end of paying those never-ending bills? I do not envy those who work in conditions such as these.

As the saying goes, there is no ‘I’ in team. Rather, effective teamwork can be described as the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts. Those parts, those people, simply gel – just like a good football team with players slipping forwards or back to fill in gaps without the manager having to bellow from the side lines for them to do this. Great when this works well, but so annoying when it’s your team that appears to be playing as a group of individuals lacking this fluidity, communication and load sharing! This latter was written with gritted teeth as I’m afraid that is how I feel that ‘my team’ are currently functioning.

I include a link to a short, amusing animation about teamwork – and sharing the load – do click through to check this out.  

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