The world expects a tremendous amount from the modern mom. You’ve got to juggle work, home management, parenting, and maybe find a little time for a life in there. And even though most moms think asking for help is a sign of weakness, it’s actually an indicator of incredible strength.
The “no” is automatic. Just like the way we say “no” to our children when they ask for ice cream before dinner, a later bedtime, or permission to travel overnight with their totally responsible friends. The same word comes immediately to our lips when someone asks, “Do you need help?”
We turn down help for the mundane — schlepping our groceries to the car — and the trivial (“No, I can bake all 430 cupcakes by myself, thanks.) all the time. We’re so unpracticed at accepting help that when we need it, we don’t even realize how overworked we are.
Think for a moment. Can you even remember the last time you accepted someone’s offer of help? Probably not, because we’ve been trained to believe that we shouldn’t need help. We’ve been taught that we’re strong, and we don’t need anyone.
In other words, we’ve been set up for complete failure.
The strongest woman is the one who knows her limits
There’s no shame in asking for help, or accepting when someone offers. In fact, quite the contrary. It’s the responsible thing to do.
Would you let your best friend bear the burden of caring for her sick triplets, cooking dinner for the partners in her husband’s firm, and coordinating the PTA blood drive all in the same afternoon? Of course not. So why, when it’s your day that has suddenly morphed into a nightmare, are you so unwilling to let anyone help you?
Turning down help doesn’t win you any prizes. It doesn’t make the job any easier. And it’s quite possible that it will increase your own stress to the point where your health is in jeopardy, your temper is short, and your chance of making mistakes is great. Who’s winning here, exactly?
They ignore what we say and do what we do
For better or for worse, we can’t just tell our kids what to do. Our actions speak much louder than our words ever can. So if you tell your child that there’s no shame in asking for help when she needs it, she won’t hear you. Instead, she’ll see your desperate need to do it all alone, and that’s what she’ll internalize. She might even think that her own need for help is a sign of her inferiority — after all, Mom does it all.
What would happen if you accepted help when someone offered? Astoundingly, the world would continue to turn on its axis. You would keep breathing. And you would have help. Kind of sounds like win-win, doesn’t it? There’s another benefit, too: your kids would see that you can ask for, and accept, help. They’d realize that it really is okay to get help when you need it, that there is a limit to what one person can do alone. And that’s a powerful lesson.
Lead by example and get out of the way
Here’s another thought: think about how you feel when you offer your help to someone and she turns you down. It stings a little. Is that what you want to do to your friends? They’re asking to help for a reason. Get out of the way and let them help.
Understanding limits is a critical lesson to impart to your kids. Do you want them to grow up believing that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders alone? Or do you want them to internalize the truth that it’s okay to recognize when a task is bigger than you are?