Why Do Mothers Struggle to Ask for Help?
Becoming a mom does not magically give you the powers to do it all, and yet we continue to think we have to be some kind of Superwoman. I certainly don’t believe that I’m better than anyone else. If anything, I often wonder at other women who seem so in control when I feel as though I’m barely holding things together myself. But saying no and asking for help have been two of my biggest struggles in both my personal and my professional life.
If I’m being honest, there are a few reasons why asking for help is so hard for me. First and foremost, I never want to be a burden to anyone. This is probably a self-esteem issue, but it’s the truth. However, I’m also a bit of a control freak (my family might smirk at the “a bit of” part) and worry that things would not be done the way I would do them. I am really working on that one. Also, fear of rejection is another biggie.
Sometimes though, life removes the option of trying to do everything ourselves. Whether it’s a divine life lesson, the result of accidents brought on by being spread too thin, or simple chance, it seems to happen when we have burned our candles at both ends a little too long. That’s how I’ve had to learn to accept help in my own life.
Shortly after I was pregnant the second time, our daughter was four years old and Halloween was right around the corner when I ended up in the hospital due to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. I nearly died from blood loss and had to remain in the hospital for several days. We had quite literally just moved (my husband had to leave the hospital to return the moving truck we had rented) and so everything was in boxes.
My home was an absolute mess and I would not be able to lift, carry, bend, or even work for several weeks. I hadn’t even taken care of my daughter’s Halloween costume yet. Yet there I was, laid up in the hospital in both physical and emotional pain, unable to do anything. Well, almost anything. I was able to ask the people in my life for help.
Swallowing my pride and putting my fears aside, I started making phone calls and posing requests of my family and friends when they visited me in the hospital. I was both elated and humbled when they not only agreed but went above and beyond doing what I had asked of them.
My mother took time off from work so that my daughter could stay with her so my husband could spend time with me at the hospital. Knowing that our little girl was missing Mommy, Daddy, and her daily routines, she found ways to turn the time into a fun little vacation. My mother-in-law began unpacking our things, putting necessities such as kitchenware and linens where she thought I might like them to go. Although I did rearrange a few items, she had several wonderful ideas that would never have occurred to me.
My best friend headed up a group of friends and coworkers who cooked meals and baked treats. I came home from the hospital to a freezer filled with meals and a refrigerator loaded with goodies, which I appreciated increasingly after I came home and realized the healing process would take longer than I expected. My sister found a Halloween costume for my daughter and then researched to find a way for me to go trick-or-treating with the family.
I came home from the hospital the day before Halloween. My sister came with my nephew and helped my daughter get her costume and face paint put on, and then we all loaded up and headed to a nearby mall that was hosting an indoor trick-or-treating event. We were even able to rent a wheelchair at the mall so my husband could wheel me around, as the excessive walking would have been a bit too much at that point.
I received so much kindness, generosity, and love when I was finally able to let down my guard and ask for help. It may be better to give than to receive, but there are also many blessings in store when we learn how to graciously request and gratefully accept support from the wonderful people in our lives.
So Why Don’t Women Ask for Help?
My own reluctance to get help had me wondering why, as women, we don’t let others know when we’re struggling. From talking with numerous women, most cite one or more of the following reasons:
- Immense pressure to be independent
- Fear of owing someone else
- Fear of appearing weak or unqualified
- Inability or refusal to give up control over the tasks at hand
- Fear of rejection
- Guilt over burdening someone else
Whether or not a legacy of sexism is at the heart of our reasoning is up for debate, but one thing that’s sure: We miss out in getting the support and assistance we need in our daily lives. In the process, we also miss out on connecting with people in a new way that’s positive for both people involved – the one who gives help, and the one who accepts it.
How Can We Overcome Our Pressure to Do It All?
The first step in asking for help is a shift in your perspective. Rather than believing that you will appear weak or incapable, you can start by thinking of help as an issue of trust. You will trust others to come through. They may not approach the task in the same way you do, but the job will get done – which is well worth your sanity and energy.
Here are some other mental shifts you can make to breakthrough a cycle of struggling on your own:
- Let it go. Giving up control can often make us feel insecure or stressed. But trying to do it all will definitely make burn you out. Give others the pleasure of lightening your load. Think of it this way, in a corporate office, assistants love to have work delegated to them. It makes people feel like you trust them and find them qualified to help. Let your kids, partners, friends, and family step up and support you as well.
- Delegate and elevate your own role. Rather than worry that asking for help is a sign of weakness, you need to see it as a strength. It’s a skill to put the talents and support of those around you to good use. So start delegating and manage your day like a boss.
- Believe in the goodness of others. You’re surrounded by kind-hearted people. Just as you yourself take pleasure in helping others out, so too will your friends and family enjoy stepping up to support you.
- Know your weaknesses. We all have them. Being less proficient in one area doesn’t mean that you are a weak or incapable person as a whole. You don’t need to – and simply can’t – amass expertise in every single subject matter. And no one expects you to be a superwoman (other than yourself!). So, if you know someone who is especially proficient in a certain area, simply ask for help.
- Stop fearing rejection. A polite ‘no’ does not mean rejection. You need to understand that we’re all carrying our loads and someone may be too charged to take on a new task. Trust that others are simply evaluating what they can and cannot take on at the moment, rather than worrying that they’re rejecting you as a person.
Do you struggle with asking for/accepting help from others? Share your stories with us!
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