See my Family Photos: Today’s Topic Overfunctioning women and underfunctioning families

Good Afternoon Friends,

I hope it is a good day for you this post Christmas Monday. Sometimes it can feel a little blah after all the stress of getting ready for the big day. Take the time to simply enjoy a slower pace for a change. One of my Christmas gifts was some knitting needles (I asked for them). I’ve wanted to learn how to knit and my friend, Lois, offered to teach me. The problem is when will I find the time to knit? Perhaps by next Christmas I’ll have made myself a nice winter scarf.

I’m loving the time I get to spend with my new granddaughter, Amaya this week.The first photo above is of my daughter, Amanda, her husband and Amaya. The second one is of Amaya in her Christmas dress. She is so much fun. Christmas is very different when small children are present. I just love being a grandma!

Recently in my quiet times I’ve been asking the Lord what he wanted me to “do” next year. Today I heard him say, “Be peaceful, be quiet, stop rushing, be in my Presence, and wait on me.” This is NOT my typical “to do” list and by now, I usually have lots of concrete New Year’s Resolution written down. That’s how I know that it was Him speaking to me and not just my own thoughts. Confirming it, last week He led me to my personal application verse for 2011. It’s Psalm 116:9 NLT, “And so, I walk in the Lord’s Presence as I live here on earth.”

So friends, hold me accountable to daily walking in the Lord’s Presence and I’ll let you know how it’s going throughout this next year.

Please share with me a verse or text God has given to you to practice this New Year. I love to see how God speaks to each of us so specifically and personally for where our needs are right now!

Today’s Question: I’m angry, hurt and tired. It seems like I’m the only one doing all the preparations for making our holiday a nice one. If it weren’t for me, we’d have no tree, no presents, no cookies, and no Christmas dinner. But it’s not only the holiday’s that I feel this way. I feel like I carry the entire responsibility for everyone’s life to go well. Am I being selfish that I want someone to care about me and my needs once in a while? A burned out wife and mom

Answer: No you are not selfish for wanting someone to notice that you are a person and not just a machine that makes sure everything go well for the people in your life. That said I find many women in your exact predicament. You over-function which enables the other people in your life to under-function. That’s fine once in a while or when there is a specific crisis, but when that becomes “normal routine” for a family, marriage or even workplace, it can lead to disaster.

Let me explain. When you do all the preparations and carry all the responsibility, people begin to see you in that role and expect you will continue. The perks of over-functioning is that you get total control (which some people want and that’s why they do it all). However, most people get worn out over time and begin to feel resentful and unloved (which by your letter is happening now). If you start to balk or complain or get crabby, your family members look annoyed and wonder what is wrong with you? If you ask for help they either ignore you because they are used to you doing it all, or they give you such an attitude it’s just easier and more peaceful to do it all yourself.

When this happens in a marriage or family it’s important for you to realize that it not only hurts you to carry the entire load, it hurts them not to help you. You are not doing anyone any favors by allowing them to think you can do it all while they relax on the couch watching television, sit in front of the computer playing games, or do their own fun things. It only enables selfishness to flourish and for your resentment and bitterness to grow – a lose/ lose pattern.

So how do we change this pattern? It starts with you. You have to be willing to relinquish control of everything and how things are going to be. Next, speak up to whoever your change will affect. Begin this dialogue by taking entire responsibility for over-functioning (don’t blame your family) but you are no longer going to continue. Tell them that you are tired and starting to feel angry and resentful toward them and don’t want to have those negative feelings so YOU are going to change. You let go of control of how it’s going to be and then specifically spell out what you are no longer going to do. For example for the holidays next year you might say something like this:

“Hey guys, I need to apologize for being so crabby lately. I think the reason I get that way is that I feel like I have to do everything in order to make it a nice Christmas for you all. But then it’s not a very nice Christmas when I get upset and resentful is it? So next year I’d like to simplify the decorating – I’m going to get an artificial tree so it’s not a hassle going out and cutting one down and I’m not going to bake anymore. It’s just too much work and I don’t want to feel resentful that you guys don’t want to chip in to help. I’m realizing that perhaps my expectations were too high and those things just aren’t important to you so I’m going to let them go.”

Now, you HAVE to mean it if you say it. Here’s what will happen next. If those things are important to them and they do want a real tree or home baked cookies, then they can offer to take responsibility or help to make sure they happen next year. If they don’t, then you must LET THEM GO in order to demonstrate that you will not carry the entire load anymore. Until your husband or children experience the consequences when you stop over-functioning, they won’t begin to pick up the slack.

Here’s another example of a possible speak-up dialogue: “Honey, I’ve gotten burned out this Christmas with all the gift buying for everyone. Next year I’d like it if you took the responsibility for getting the gifts for your whole family. I don’t care what you get them but I don’t want to carry the entire load anymore. If you don’t want to do that, just let your family know that we won’t be exchanging gifts with them next year because I can’t do it all.”

Many of you reading this are seeing lots of other areas where you over-function and allow your family to neglect carrying their own load of caring for themselves and caring about you. Please understand that God doesn’t want you to sacrifice yourself in order to allow someone else to stay lazy or selfish.

The Bible says two things that at first glance appear to contradict one another but both are important. First, we are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and second, each person is to carry their own load (Galatians 6:5). Both teachings are true. We carry another’s burden when he or she is unable to carry his/her load alone. However, when we carry a load for someone who is perfectly capable of carrying it themselves, we enable that person to under-function and that hurts them. It allows them to stay lazy, dependent, selfish and self-absorbed. As C.S. Lewis so wisely wrote, “Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness.”


  1. Anonymous on December 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Adorable family you have, Leslie! Thanks for sharing pics with us:) Great answer to a much asked question as well.

  2. Anonymous on December 27, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Very beautiful family and great advice that I will heed to…Thank you Leslie.

  3. carilyne on December 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Beautiful family and sweet baby granddaughter. Looks like a Happy Christmas.
    Your post was so relevant to me today. We did just that this Christmas — if they didn't want to help it didn't get done. So no tree, no lights, no extras except a Nativity set. It was different but nice.
    My question is (and there are lots of them but this is the big one) when you need help carrying the burden of finances and he refuses to help figure out the bills –what does letting go look like? You can't just not pay the bills.
    Well you can when you are in a depression fog so deep you forget some, but the mess that is there when it clears is such a hassle.
    Any advice?
    Thanks for your encouraging words and great books.

  4. Leslie on December 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm


    You're right you just can't act irresponsibly but so with the money you may have to take "control" because noone else will. But there are so many other areas of family life that we don't have to be "so responsible". If the house doesn't get cleaned every week it will not fall apart or if someone's laundry doesn't get done, or folded, maybe that will teach them to do it for themselves or at least get it in the hamper by laundry day. So let go of what you can do that whatever energy you do have, you use on the have to's, not the want to's.

  5. carilyne on December 28, 2010 at 12:51 am

    That is basically what I have done. It's just so frustrating while battling the depression (Chronic, and becoming medication resistant). I guess I feel bad about all the other stuff he does, and then get frustrated when my checkbook is a mess because I was not functioning the month before. It's getting better. I guess I'm saying I wish we could share the burdens, not split them.
    I could ask you a million questions. I am currently reading your books to see what I can do.
    Thanks for the answer.

  6. Amy on December 31, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Just wanted to drop in and wish you a wonderful New Year, Leslie. Your blog has been such an encouragement to me through a very long two years of separation/divorce from an abusive husband.
    I pray that God continues to use you greatly during the New Year.

  7. Leslie on January 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

    Thanks everyone. My granddaughter left today so I'm a little sad. I"ll post some more pictures on Monday. Have a Happy New Year.


  8. Anonymous on January 6, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Great Family Pics!
    Thanks for sharing them.

  9. Annonymous on March 26, 2013 at 9:51 am

    What happens when you stand-up as in your second example, and the husband uses time that is dedicated to the immediate family or husband/wife relationship to do shopping. My husband would gladly do shopping and then blame me if I say, but you took time away from such and such. He’d say-well, you told me to do it.

  10. Leslie Vernick on March 27, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I think that if my husband took tiem to go buy the presents that I did not want to buy that year, I’d be grateful and not resentful that he took time to do it. The time has to come from somewhere. IF he’s working full time there may not be a lot of extra time to go shopping without taking some time from normal family time. HOwever, if there is a special family time that you don’t want him to miss, then tell him clearly, “I don’t want you to miss the Christmas party, or the tree decorating to go shopping for gifts.”

    • Crystal on April 26, 2022 at 12:21 am

      I hear what you are saying Leslie. I really appreciated the original question. I would like to take it a step further and ask, What if there actually seems to be time available where it doesn’t impact the family, but that time is used for meeting a friend or something else that shows a lack of valuing family time/needs? I ask, because in my relationship, there seems to be a lack of understanding of how to use time in certain situations when you can’t just kick back and do what you want when you want at the leisurely pace one may desire. I hope that is clear. I will restate it in one more way. Christmas time can be a busy time (even as hard as one may try to make it NOT busy), and we often are not able to do all the normal activities with the added activities of Christmas (especially if yo have 4 small children). What if your husband is unwilling or almost always has to be asked to understand and make space for the specific season, albeit Christmas, graduations, birthdays, sicknesses, etc? Thank you in advance for your thoughts. 🙂

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