Why is it so hard for mothers to ask for help?
I remember my husband lowering me into our bed, leaking breasts, dozing in and out.
Grimacing with pain, I couldn’t tell which was worse. The newest pain across my stomach or my rock hard boobs telling me it was past due for my son to eat. Four weeks earlier I had delivered our first baby. Now I was settling from having emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder & appendix. Still between wakefulness and sleep I lay in bed replaying the long list of things my body had endured. How am I going to take care of my son and myself now? Where do I even start? I can’t do this alone!
I was spiraling.
Perceptions of motherhood vary. Would I be a June Cleaver? A Lorelai Gilmore? I envisioned myself being a Mary Poppins version. In reality, day-to-day motherhood is exhausting, lonely and overwhelming. It’s said it takes a village because you can’t do it alone.
Yet, if it takes a village, why is it so hard for mothers to ask for help?
My confidence in myself was low as I second guessed all my choices and thoughts. My expectations weren’t realistic as a new mother. I thought I should instinctively know how to care for him. That I could do it all without breaking a sweat.
But I didn’t know how to take care of my son at first! And I thought having to admit I needed help meant that I was weak or a bad mom.
This is where I had my first bout of mom guilt.
I remember thinking I was failing him on so many levels. I struggled with breastfeeding and needed more time for my body to heal. My tank was depleting and fast. I felt embarrassed telling my husband how I was feeling, so I called my mom. As soon as she answered, my voice cracked and the stress came rushing out. She offered to come stay with us to help out while my husband worked nights. I told her I didn’t want to impose, and I retreated from all my earlier statements, I told her I was fine. She came anyway, despite my denial she knew I needed the support, the help around the house and with the baby.
After a few days of my tough super mom act she looked me in the eyes and asked “why am I here if you aren’t going to let me help?”
I was taken aback, what does she mean? I scoffed at her, of course I was letting her help! Where was this coming from? I felt attacked. She sat down with me and laid out her version of the earlier days, the real version. It was like a movie that I was staring in and hadn’t seen before.
Every time she offered to do the laundry, change the baby, tell me to go take a shower or nap — I denied her offer. I had been so desperate to portray that Mary Poppins image, that I couldn’t begin to allow anyone to offer support. I was a sinking ship that wasn’t sending its distress call. She was watching me burn out and at every turn I was pushing away the help. It was eye-opening.
My mother helped me find my voice that day, and this is where I urge you to find yours. Asking for help with motherhood is not weak.
The world is upside down, friends! There are more decisions to make, countless tasks to add to our daily lives and anxiety. Oh, the anxiety! It is imperative to talk about what you are struggling with. What your needs are or when you could use some back up. The type of mother you see in your head, may not translate into life, and that is ok. I repeat, THAT IS OK! I’m not the Mary Poppins mom, but I am a better mom because of this! I realized asking for help doesn’t define me as a mother and it doesn’t define you either!
Knowing when to ask for help with motherhood:
Everyone’s stress level and breaking point is different, but you know what your point of no return is. Clenching teeth? Hiding in the bathroom from your family? The wave of anxiety creeping up your chest? It’s time to say it out loud. I need help! Who to turn to for help: I believe finding the right people to help is important. Who are you close to? Friends, family, your partner, neighbors. Whomever you confide in, even if they aren’t aware that you need it. Speak to them, be honest. Your people will be willing to help with whatever you need. Use your circle, that’s what they are there for.
Help during COVID-19:
This will be more of a challenge now. We are in the middle of unprecedented times — depression and anxiety are on the rise! But don’t let that deter you. Talk to the people in your corona bubble, who you’ve seen or trust that they are being responsible. Hire a temporary house cleaner, talk to your doctor, ask the kids to fold their own laundry. Talk to someone; virtual therapy is available, and you can vent from the comfort of your own home. It’s never been easier to connect than it is now. So take advantage of it!
Asking for help varies from big or small. It’s as easy as asking your partner to do a few loads of laundry weekly, help with remote learning, ask them to make dinner one night a week. Ask your parent(s) or sibling(s) if they can watch the kids so you can run errands or to get out of the house. Whatever you need to take that growing weight off your shoulders. Communication is key, use that voice and reach out!
Take the help! Don’t feel bad or like you are burdening people. That’s the little voice in your head trying to talk you out of it. Don’t listen! Tell your girlfriend you are coming undone and be honest when they ask what they can do for you! Allowing yourself to accept help is the first step. This doesn’t only apply for the newborn stage, every stage and age has its dumpster fire moments. Your level of needs may vary depending on your situation, stress level and family. Voicing that I needed help made a world of difference for me and I know it can for you as well.
I needed to see that I couldn’t do it all alone.
Being honest about your needs in life in general is important, but even more so in motherhood. You wouldn’t shy away from telling your boss that you’re overworked, under staffed, or not meeting a deadline. So why wouldn’t you do it in your personal life as well? It’s like taking your bra off after a long day: liberating! The stress literally coming off your shoulders. Just do it mama! You won’t regret it — just ask for help with motherhood.