I have a three-year-old kid who’s pretty capable. And while she can do a lot of things by herself – go to the toilet and do a (reasonable) wipe job, put on her own socks and surf Netflix like a boss – she still asks Mummy and Daddy for help. Like a lot. With absolutely no shame. ‘Cause she needs it. I mean, she’s short and her hands are small. These are the facts. She’ll figure things out eventually, but it’s a learning curve, and for now, she needs a boost.
Becoming a parent is all about learning new skills. When we bring home that first baby, none of us has ever done it before and it’s hard. We can take all the prenatal education classes in the world, but nothing fully prepares us for keeping an infant alive until we actually are responsible for one 24/7. Keeping that infant alive while we also feed ourselves and take care of personal hygiene? Again, it’s a learning curve. So why is asking for help so hard for us? And why do we feel ashamed or like we’re failing if we reach out?
Help is not a four-letter word (well, not that kind)
I recently had two interesting conversations with some mothers I know that got me thinking. Both are intelligent, compassionate, capable people with excellent problem-solving skills. But as awesome as they are, there aren’t superhuman. So, they’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately. And in separate conversations, they both confessed to me that they were thinking of … wait for it … hiring a cleaning lady. They didn’t reveal this in their normal voices, mind you. They whispered it like it was “Voldemort.” They were embarrassed to admit they needed some help. There’s something wrong with this picture. Can’t we all just lean in and accept that we can’t do it all by ourselves all the time?
Now, hiring a cleaning lady is outside of some families’ budgets. But asking for help can look like a lot of things. You know how all your friends and family are dying to come and see the baby you just brought home? Let them come over (for an hour or two). Just ask them to bring you some food. The price of admission to the baby show is a home-cooked meal (or a pizza from that place you love). If you’re expecting, consider asking for gift certificates for a cleaning service (or, ahem, a postpartum doula.) People can go in on them together and believe me, having someone come in and take care of a giant pile of laundry for you is easily as great a present as the 25 receiving blankets you’re bound to get. Let your mother-in-law take the baby out for a walk while you shower. She’ll be psyched and you’ll smell human again. Win-win.
Let’s be as kind and patient with ourselves as we strive to be with our kids. (Which isn’t all the time, obviously, but hey, it’s a goal.) We’re great at lots of things. We need help with others. It’s okay. We’ll figure it out just as surely as we figured out the Netflix queue.