I’m still digging out from our family health emergency. SO many emails, phone calls, texts to return, thank-you’s to write. The experience gave me a totally new perspective on needing and accepting help, let me tell you. I’ve always liked to think of myself as someone who is generous in offering help, but who doesn’t need it that often. (Except with the laundry, that is; aka “Mount Clothesmore.”) Boy, did that change.
I realized that if people are offering to help, they really mean it. And you should let them. Also, as this post points out, the more specific the offer, the better. Want me to drop off dinner tonight? Can I take your kids to the park today? I’m at the store, need anything? Want me to mow your lawn? YES, please! And I don’t even feel guilty about it anymore, because I know I’d do the same for them.
Here’s a post from my archives about the nicest thing anyone ever did for me when I had a non-sleeping newborn.
Why Moms Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
(and Why They Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Give It, Either)
Early morning on a school day. Standing outside in my sweats and slippers with my 3-year-old while my newborn finally – FINALLY – slept peacefully inside. Delirious from sleep deprivation and paralyzed with indecision.
I needed my son to go to preschool so that I could get a few hours of precious sleep. But I could not – WOULD not – risk waking the baby. His school was barely a five-minute drive away. I could almost see it from our front yard. Could I zip over, drop him off, and get back before the baby woke up? I was seriously considering it. But with my luck, that would be the day I locked myself out or got stuck in traffic or forgot to turn off the stove.
Sleep deprivation can lead to bad, bad decisions.
Fortunately, I was saved from making a stupid mistake by my neighbor. At that moment, she drove by on the way to take her own kids to school. She took one look at my disheveled appearance and red eyes and offered to take my son to school in her extra car seat. I was so grateful I cried. Some more.
Like a lot of moms I know, I have a hard time asking for help. Sometimes even admitting I need help. “No thanks, I got it!” I might say, while carrying a baby, a diaper bag, and five bags of groceries, one in my teeth. “Oh, no. I could never ask you to do that,” I might reply to a friend who offers to watch the kids so I can run to a doctor’s appointment solo. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. People are busy. They have their own stuff to deal with.
What changed my mind was being on the other side of the equation. A friend asked ME for help. Not only was I happy to do it, but it made me feel good. Useful. Needed. Connected. And I didn’t feel so bad asking her for help the next time I needed it. It was a win-win.
Of course, you must be mindful of boundaries. Lending someone a cup of milk or giving a kid an occasional ride to school is one thing. Being a chump who provides free childcare for the whole neighborhood is another. But most moms I know have a pretty good nose for freeloaders and drama queens. We don’t have time for that stuff.
But when it comes to asking for help and accepting it, the pluses far outweigh the potential minuses, if you ask me. Think about that the next time you’re contemplating waking up a (finally!) sleeping baby.