Mothers are ashamed to ask for help, and it’s a huge problem. I was at a play center recently with my two girls, letting them blow off some steam on a rainy day. It was one of those places with a ton of structures for kids to climb and crawl through, with little nooks and crannies they can hide in and peek out of. I was helping my two-year-old out of the ball pit, when another mom came up to me.
She had a sheepish look on her face, and her cheeks were flushed. She didn’t make eye contact with me, instead looking down at her shoes. “Um, can I ask you a huge favor? Um, by any chance, do you have any baby wipes I could use?” She looked up, visibly embarrassed to be asking a stranger for something for her son. “I can’t believe I forgot them at home. I’m so disorganized these days,” she added, feeling the need to justify her reasonable request, make a disclaimer for it.
“Of course,” I said, as I handed her a couple of wipes from my bag.
“Oh, my goodness, thank you!” she exclaimed, as if I had just handed her a million dollars. The gratitude was pouring out of her. But I was just amazed she felt so uncomfortable asking me for something so small.
Fellow moms: We’re in this together. There is absolutely no reason we should be ashamed, embarrassed, nervous, even hesitant at all to ask each other — or, for that matter, plenty of non-mom folks — for help. In fact, we should be encouraged to do just that. Here’s why.
We are not perfect, and we shouldn’t be expected to be.
We’re only human, and we’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to forget the baby wipes, and we’re going to leave the snacks by the front door before we head to the park. We’re going to dress our kids with too few layers on some days, and too many on others. We’re going to grab the wrong kind of diaper for swimming and not realize until it’s time to get into the pool.
And you know what?
It’s okay — it’s even good — to make mistakes.
How else will our kids learn that it’s okay for them, too? Learning how to fail undoubtedly builds resilience, and we need to show that to our kids. It’s okay to not remember every single item you need to cart along with you, especially when you have 476 things in your diaper bag to keep track of. It’s okay to ask another mom for a favor or the answer to a question that’s on your mind.
It’s a learning curve.
Motherhood doesn’t come with instructions. There is no user manual with step-by-step directions for what to pack when going out for a playdate. There is no one Mom Checklist that can possibly contain everything you need to consider when looking after your child.
One of the most empowering things I have done for myself is getting used to asking for help when I really need it. It didn’t come easy. Like many new mothers, I was under the assumption that I was just supposed to know how to do this 24-hours-a-day job on the first try.
We don’t work/live/love in a vacuum — and we shouldn’t parent that way, either.
I ask for help in other areas of my life all the time. I ask colleagues for their opinions on my work so I can get better at honing my craft. I ask my husband to pick up the groceries once the kids are in bed so I can have some “me time” and run on the elliptical. I ask my mom to bake banana bread because hers always tastes way better than mine does — and it saves me an hour I could really use for cleaning the bathrooms.
When it comes to taking care of my kids, however, I used to cringe at the thought of asking for help. On one such occasion, I needed a hand from a fellow mom at the park — and she needed my help, too. That’s when I realized we’re really all just in this crazy motherhood game together.
At the park, my daughter sneezed and had a booger the size of Texas on her face, and I didn’t have any tissues with me. I was not really in the mood to wipe the green goo with my hand, so I asked another mother who was there with her child if she had a tissue I could use. The only one she had was in her pocket — and it was miraculously clean! She let me use it to wipe my daughter’s nose, and we both laughed about how unprepared we always feel.
Ten minutes later, her daughter had a meltdown over wanting Cheerios, which her mother had not brought along with her. Luckily, I had some with me, which I shared. Afterwards, the mom told me she had four kids, and realized after the first one that she was not going to be able to “do it all.”
Motherhood isn’t something where practice makes perfect.
There are infinite scenarios we just can’t fully prepare for, nor is it reasonable to expect anyone to be able to do that for every part of parenting. That’s why we parents need to be there for each other, work together, lend a hand when we can, and reach out beyond our own circles if necessary. And, we need to do it with our heads held high, because asking for help is a sign of strength.
So say it with me, moms: I will ask for help. And I will do it with confidence.
No more apologies for asking someone to hold the door open for you while you push your double stroller through.
No more shrinking at the thought of asking the mom at the park if you can use her hand sanitizer or sunscreen.
No more being mortified at the thought of not being perfect. It’s not worth it.