The Art of Asking for Help

IMG_2463I’ve never been good at asking for help. I like to do things myself. I’ve always been very independent, and even as a kid, group projects were the bane of my existence. I have always been of the opinion that if I want something done quickly and well, I’m better off doing it myself. This had always served me well in life, until I had kids. But raising children is one of those things that you just can’t do by yourself.

In the months and years that followed John’s birth, I did get used to asking Andrew for help, though it took some time. I tried doing everything myself for a while, but as I struggled to balance my job demands and caring for my son at home, I quickly realized that Andrew and I would need to work together. I was working in my office a few days a week after all, so I couldn’t be responsible for John all the time. When I left my job and became a stay-at-home mother, the arrangement became a bit more complicated, since I felt like I only had one job, and that was to take care of my children. So asking for help was kind of like slacking off, right? Wrong. Raising children was never meant to be a one-person job. It takes a village, right? We just need to be wise enough to know when we need help, and humble enough to actually ask for it. Here are four reasons why you should never be afraid of asking for help:

1.) Motherhood is a job that you work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 (or 366) days a year, without vacations or sick days. Even when you’re technically “off,” you still need to be “on.” You never stop being a mother. Even when Andrew and I go out for a date, our thoughts are never far from our children. Even when our kids are sleeping through the night, we know that illness or bad dreams could change that in a minute. Even when all is peaceful in the house, we’re already preparing for the next crisis, tantrum, or mess. When you consider the hours that a mother “works,” it should come as no surprise that it can feel overwhelming. Even when I was working overtime at my job, I wasn’t putting in nearly as many hours as I do as a mother. Looking at it that way, I know I shouldn’t feel at all ashamed asking for help from time to time. Everyone needs a break now and then.

IMG_24582.) Generally speaking, grandparents enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. My parents moved down to Virginia about a year ago, and it took a little while before we settled into a new normal. Now I see my parents nearly every afternoon during the week. At first, I felt guilty asking my mom for help, but I’ve come to realize that my parents really enjoy spending time with my kids, and they’re really happy to help. We by no means take advantage of my parents, but it’s been so helpful when I would like an extra set of hands at the doctors office, or when Andrew and I want to have a date night out on the town. We try to show our gratitude as often as we can in our own ways- invitations to dinner, freshly baked cookies, and little hand-made notes and cards from the kids. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to say thank you.

3.) Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. This was probably the hardest truth for me to accept as a mother. I originally saw asking for help as a sign of weakness, that I wasn’t good enough to do it myself. But we were never meant to do it ourselves. Historically, young mothers often lived near their own mothers, or their mother-in-law, or else they were surrounded by other women who assumed they’d lend a hand from time to time. As the saying went, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Now, the village has been isolated to include only the nuclear family, and mothers feel pressured to do it all themselves. Our society might have changed, but the needs of mothers and children have not. Mothers still need help, and we have every right to ask for it. Raising a child was never meant to be easy. But the most fulfilling, incredible gifts in life rarely are. They’re challenging, elevating, life-altering. Having a child changes you, and that change can hurt. That’s why we need friends and family to help make the transition to motherhood a bit easier.

Four years after the birth of my firstborn, I still regularly need to remind myself to ask for help when I need it. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking Andrew to switch a load of laundry so that I can finish making dinner. Sometimes it means asking my mother-in-law to watch my kids for an hour while I go for a run and take a shower. And sometimes it means asking my mom to take the kids for an afternoon so that Andrew and I can do dinner and a movie. Asking for help reminds me that I don’t need to do everything, and that I am meant to approach my life as a mother with humility and thanksgiving. Asking for help reminds me that it’s okay to admit that I can’t do everything on my own, and that I have been blessed with so many wonderful people, my friends and family, who are so willing, and happy, to help me.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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