When I look at strong, fierce women I admire, one of the similar threads amongst all of them is this; they know when and how to ask for help. They also know how to accept help when it’s offered. And they are not apologetic about it. Note that I specifically say “when” AND “how,” because to me, these are two extremely different things. But more on that later.
It’s a seemingly easy task, but asking for (and admitting you need) help can be daunting. Especially to a new Mom (Hi, that’s me! A new mom with control freak, Type-A tendencies!). And it doesn’t help that in today’s day and age, when you do buck up and ask for someone’s help, you’re worried you’ll be judged for asking. Well, guess what? You are being judged. Get over it. And get over it fast because if you try to be a Mom while worrying about what people think of your parenting style, you’re going to be miserable for the rest of time.
Asking For Help
But, I digress – back to asking for help. Let me tell you – this is what I’ve struggled with the most as the mom to a wonderful (and exhausting) new baby girl. By no means did I expect parenting to be easy, but what I didn’t expect was just how much I would struggle with asking my husband and my close friends and family to help throughout my pregnancy and with the baby. Maybe it’s my control-freak tendencies rearing their head. Or maybe it’s some deep-seeded belief that asking for help makes me less of a Mom. It could even simply be the fact that I’m so knee deep in taking care of a newborn that I simply don’t think to stop and ask for help (auto-pilot mode, amiright?). But whatever it is, I know it has to stop. And over the past months, I’ve learned that if I don’t ask for help, I’m not going to survive this journey through Motherhood.
There are a few things that have been super successful for me in learning how to ask for and accept help with the baby. Key point – They work for ME. You need to do what works for YOU. But hopefully at least one person reading this will benefit from my experience.
When I was finally ready to admit I needed something from someone, I learned quickly that I needed to be specific. Remember that people cannot read your mind – especially your partner. I read an article recently titled, “I Shouldn’t Have To Ask.” The whole thing was written from a mom’s point of view about how she believed she “shouldn’t have to ask” her partner to do certain things to help with the baby. Though I see her point, I disagree with the underlying implication here – that you shouldn’t have to ask for help because your partner should be able to read your mind. For me, my husband was definitely helping out from the moment we had our baby, but not necessarily in the way I needed him to. I would find myself getting extremely frustrated that he wasn’t doing what I wanted him to be doing. But then I realized, if he doesn’t know what my version of “help out,” is, then of course I’m going to be frustrated! That’s when I got specific. I told him things like, “it would be super helpful if you could take care of bringing home dinner so that I don’t have to worry about it.” Or, “If you see bottles or breast pump pieces laying around the house/in the sink, it would be amazing if you could wash them.” And, “Can you take over the baby’s bath time at night?” And what do you know, those things started happening. Which led to not only a happier Mama, but a happier husband because I wasn’t nearly as frustrated every day.
How To Ask For Help
This leads to my previously-mentioned second point of how to ask for help. Know your tone and know your timing. Because your delivery is absolutely going to affect what you receive in return. I can tell you right now that if I commanded orders at my partner like a drill sargent and expected him to do everything I asked at the moment I asked him, our marriage would be in shambles. As stressed out and sleep deprived as us moms may be, we still need to ask for help in a respectful manner – especially because we have little ones now that are watching and learning from us. How my husband and I talk to one another is going to be how my daughter learns to speak to others. I very much want her to understand that her parents respect each other above all else. And our tone and actions must reflective of that.
Now on to knowing how to accept help when offered. First and foremost, when someone offers to bring you food, ALWAYS SAY YES. And if there’s something you want, tell them (remember point one? Be specific!). For me, it was sandwiches. I think my entire social circle now knows that if you’re coming over to visit the baby, you need to bring an Italian sub (no onions, extra pickles) or I may not let you through the front door. In all seriousness, though, accepting help is probably the hardest part of motherhood me. It’s easy for us moms to respond to offers of help with, “oh no, I got it.” New flash – you just carried a human being for 9 months that destroyed your body, your sanity and wrecked your emotional stability (yay hormones!). And you survived it all with (mostly) grace and strength. We know you’ve got it. So now sit back and let everyone else help you out! At the end of the day, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you HAVE to. So when someone says, “I can change her diaper,” or asks, “can I start a load of laundry for you?” thank them and go pour yourself a glass of wine. Because believe me Mama, you’ve earned it.
Honestly, at the end of the day my best advice is that it takes time and practice learning how to ask for and accept help from others. Just know this – it does not make you less of a mom. It does not make you weak. And it sure as hell does not make you a burden. Quite the contrary, in fact, because the most bad-ass women out there know that it truly does take a village. And that village may just be what saves your sanity in the end.
Oh, and hey – if you’re reading this and you’ve got a mom that asks for your help, please don’t mistake it for her asking you for advice. If that’s what she wanted, she would say so. Just bring her lunch, hold the baby, fold the laundry, make her coffee (lots of it). But do not (I repeat – DO NOT) give her unsolicited advice. She may just throw that well-earned glass of wine in your face 😉