- This article is the first in a two-part series on asking for help.-
I can think of dozens of times since becoming a new mom when I have felt completely alone, overwhelmed, and exhausted. My heart wanted to reach out to someone for help, but my mind provided excuse after excuse as to why I shouldn't. Instead, I suffered through the overwhelm and exhaustion on my own until eventually the feelings passed. Did I survive it? Yes. Would things have been easier and less stressful if someone had been there to help? More than likely. So why in those instances was it so hard to follow my heart, be honest with those close to me, and actually ask for help?
For most new moms, it often comes down to not knowing exactly what you need or how to ask for help.
The Mind Game
Our mind plays games with us. It asks...
What makes your challenges more important than someone else's?
You know that your family loves you, that your friends care about your well-being, that those closest to you want to see you happy and thriving. But you also know that everyone is busy and has their own challenges and struggles. Why should yours be any different?
What would you actually have someone do if they did offer to help?
Let's say you actually put yourself out there and tell someone that you need help. Let's say they actually say "Yes! I want to help you." Now what? If someone is going to give up their time and energy to lend a hand, you want to have something productive and meaningful for them to do. You want to make them feel useful, that they are making a difference, that helping you was worth their time. But what is it that you really need?
How do you know that this occasion truly warrants someone's help?
You don't want to be the girl who cried wolf. You don't want to ask all the time. You want to be selective and prioritize your requests and only ask when you truly need help the most. So maybe you should just wait...and wait...and wait.
Follow Your Intuition
When you get into this kind of thought loop, where your mind is trying to talk you out of something your intuition is telling you you need, try to remember this:
Asking for help takes practice
Every time that you don't ask for help, it gets harder and harder to ask in the future. It's a practice that takes practice. Start small so that when you need to make a big ask, it's not as hard.
There is never going to be a RIGHT time
You could wait and wait for the right, most pressing time to ask for help. But the truth is, if you feel in your gut that you need help, NOW is the time.
Help is not a finite resources
There is no set number of "help sessions" that you get from friends and family (or even strangers). If you are genuine in your need for help and provide specific details around what it is that you need so people will be able to confidently step up to help, they will likely do it again and again.
Start by giving to make asking easier
I'm not saying that you need to keep score, as I do believe in paying things forward. But if you're struggling time and again to ask for help when you know you need it, maybe start by giving help. You will likely be reminded that it's not that much of a hassle and it actually feels good. Then channel that memory the next time it's your turn to ask.
Now let's say you're ready to ask for help. Or maybe you don't have an issue with asking for help and it's already a part of your regular practice. Remember these few things to make the experience better for everyone - for you, for the giver, and for all moms who will be asking in the future.
Be specific about what it is you need.
Do you need help with a specific task, baby-sitting for a particular date and time, some adult conversation, a coffee? When you ask for help and start with "sometime, I would love it if...", you are not providing enough direction. Most will respond with "sure" and then never follow through. When you make a very specific request, it makes everyone's lives easier because people can respond honestly with whether or not they can be the one to help you. Tell those around you exactly how to help you and when.
Say thank you in one way or another. If you're not good at doing that in person, write a thank you note and express sincere gratitude. It goes a long way.
Spread the word.
The only way we can start to make it more acceptable to ask for help, is by asking for help. When you receive it, be sure to let others know that you're not doing it all alone. You have a tribe, a village who supports you. Then encourage others to ask for help when needed and be sure to give help as well - either by paying it back or paying it forward.
It Takes a Village
I think most of us enjoy helping and being needed. We don't do it enough because we don't know who could use help, how to best help or we don't want to intrude or assume anything. By asking for help, we are paving the way for others to ask for help too. We break down the stigma that only the weak need help. EVERYONE needs help at some point or another and somehow along the way we have forgotten that it takes a village to raise a child, to raise a mother, to build a family, and to create a community.
When was the last time you got vulnerable, stated your needs and asked for help?