Our 2 year old has reached the “I do it” stage. He’s finding his independence as he tries to do daily tasks on his own; getting dressed, washing his hands before dinner, building Lego towers. If he gets stuck or overwhelmed, he calmly says, “I need help.” To which we happily jump in to help.
Observing him has left me curious about what keeps us from asking for help when we become adults – specifically mothers. I have a few theories on what stops moms from asking for help based on my own experiences and the experiences others have shared with me. See if any of these resonate with you.
Asking for help means we have to put aside our pride and admit that we can’t do it all alone.
The reason my toddler doesn’t have an issue with asking for help is that he isn’t ashamed or embarrassed to ask for it. He hasn’t learned those feelings at this point in his life. For the rest of us, it isn’t that easy. Especially if you’ve been taught that you should be able to juggle it all and asking for help is a sign of weakness.
You might fear judgement from others and then experience self-judgement when you contemplate asking for help.
CONSIDER: How would you feel if a friend asked you for help? Would you think less of her? Would you judge her?
If she was someone you cared about, you would probably jump at the chance to lighten her load. Well guess what? Your friends and family feel the same way about you. They don’t want to watch you drowning in responsibility while they sit on the shore with a perfectly good lifesaver. They want to help you. You just have to get past your own beliefs to ask for what you need.
Asking for help means we have to be okay with not being able to control everything.
Expectations and our need to control how something is done can often get in the way of us asking for help. We want others to do things the way we would do them and we don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation.
An example that comes to mind for me personally is laundry. I don’t ask for help with the laundry because my husband folds bath towels differently than I do. Then he puts them in the linen closet with the non-folded edge facing out. Because I can’t stand to see these towels folded awkwardly and stacked on top of perfectly folded ones already in the linen closet – I don’t ask him to help me with the laundry.
Another example related to maintaining control I often hear is others (aka grandparents) won’t uphold our rules when watching our children. In other words, they might stretch the boundaries of bedtime or stop to get ice cream when babysitting.
CONSIDER: What does controlling everything costing you? In other words, what is the trade-off – your mental wellbeing? A chance for your children to make memories with their grandparents?
You get to decide what matters most to you, but consider how those boundaries and expectations are serving you. If you aren’t willing to be flexible, you aren’t setting yourself or others up for success. Not only will you end up not getting the relief you need, but you might make those you love feel as though you don’t need, appreciate or trust them to help.
Asking for help means adding to someone else’s plate.
I often hear other moms say things like, “I hate to ask – their plate is already full.” To which I ask, “How do you know their plate is full?” They usually respond with a list of all the things they know about that person’s life, schedule, and stress level. In other words, they assume, based on what they think they know about the person, the individual doesn’t have the capacity to help. So why even bother them?
CONSIDER: What if you asked anyway and left it up to that person to determine whether they have the capacity to help? After all, it’s their responsibility to manage their time and resources. If they aren’t able to help because their plate is in fact full, let them be the one to tell you. Don’t let your assumptions get in the way of asking.
Asking for help feels selfish.
As moms we are the caretakers of everyone, but often at the expense of ourselves.
When it comes to asking for help, it can feel selfish. You might feel selfish leaving the children with your spouse to take a girls trip. You might feel guilty hiring a babysitter to take a little time for yourself. You might think it’s wrong to hire someone to clean your house so that you can focus on other responsibilities.
We often forget that our wellbeing is just as important as our family’s.
CONSIDER: How does the person helping benefit? It’s easy to think about how doing something for someone else might be taking from them but have you considered what it gives them? Here are a few examples:
- When your parents babysit for a few hours, it gives them a chance to love on your children. It might give them something to look forward to and keep them active.
- When your spouse watches the kids while you head to Target (you know for the essentials), he will benefit from having a less stressed and happier wife.
- Your friends might feel good being able to help you. It might inspire them to ask for help in the future and remind them that they aren’t the only one who struggles to manage all the things life throws at them.
It can take courage to ask for help but your wellbeing is just as important as everyone else’s. When you try to do it all, you can end up overwhelmed, exhausted, resentful and sometimes sick.
The other day I heard one mom say to another, “Take the S off your chest and put down the cape once in a while. You deserve it.” I love this analogy because oftentimes we think we have to be Super Moms and do it all. You’re not doing anyone any good if you’re trying to tackle everything on your own. Remember even superheroes ask for help.