Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
When I was pregnant with twins, a fellow twin mama who had two sets of twins gave me this sage advice: When someone offers you help, take it. If you need help, ask for it. Like many things people tell you when you are pregnant, I heard what she said, but I in no way internalized the lesson until after we’d brought two tiny infants home and fully realized the magnitude of support we could use.
Supposedly it “takes a village” to raise a child. But mothers are feeling under appreciated and over worked, which leads me to believe we don’t have—or aren’t even encouraging—the sort of community that would help us manage some of our day-to-day stressors, not to mention life-changing events.
I know I am much more comfortable in the role of “giver of help” than “receiver of help.” When I admit I need support, it can feel like a failure. By asking for assistance, it’s like I’m shouting from the rooftops that I don’t have it all figured out. As mothers, we are more inclined to make ourselves crazy trying to “do it all” and “keep it together” than we are to reach out to a friend for a little TLC.
Maybe it’s the pressure we put on ourselves to keep up with the picture perfect, but totally unrealistic, Facebook and Instagram posts of our peers. If they don’t appear to be struggling, then why am I? What is their secret? Am I doing something wrong? Could I be the only one feeling this way?!
Of course, I am guilty of this, too. Aside from the expected times when it seems acceptable to receive help—birth of a new baby, a family member in the hospital—I don’t reach out nearly as much as I could. There have been times when I over commit and under-delegate.
Then Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, our home flooded, and we were suddenly thrown in to a master class on how to say yes to help. We needed people-power to do laundry, get wet things out of our house, cut dry wall and pull up floors. It was painfully obvious that we couldn’t do this alone.
As the weeks wore on, some of the things friends, family and even strangers wanted to give or do felt like too much. We learned to say yes anyway. I said yes to a six-week meal train for our family. I said yes to a friend paying for our oldest to go to camp while her flooded-out school was relocated. I said thank you for the gift cards that arrived in amounts that ranged from incredibly thoughtful to mind-blowing. I said yes to friends offering to watch the kids so I could go work on our flooded home. We received their gifts and assistance even though we didn’t think we deserved so much support. We knew there were others struggling more, after all. I said yes so many times that when I finally wrote down all of the things people did for us, we’ve received some kind of help from well over 150 people. That is humbling.
This whole experience has taught me a thing or two. For starters, people want to help you. Desperately. With what I have seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires, once people are made aware of a tangible need, they want to fill it. I’ve learned to let them. They won’t always know the best way to do that unless you vocalize it.
You don’t have to go through a hurricane, flood or a fire to need assistance though. There are everyday things that we can do for each other to make this whole parenting journey a little easier. If buying new clothes is simply not in the budget this winter, ask a friend with older kids if they have some hand-me-downs. Chances are she will be happy to get them out of her house. If you are totally tapped out and need to have an adult conversation with someone, plan a date night or ask a friend if she is free for lunch. Agree to that babysitting co-op you have been on the fence about. Don’t try and plan the Kindergarten Holiday Party all by yourself.
I am sure if you think about it, there are at least 10 things you are trying to juggle right now that you don’t need to be figuring out all alone. I was afraid that agreeing to all of these amazing gifts would make me feel embarrassed. Instead, it has left us with a deep sense of gratitude and a deeper connection to our community and all of the people who went out of their way to lift us up when we were down.
We will most certainly pay-it-forward as soon as we can, and I know that this is not the last time we will need to lean on others to get through a difficult time. While this experience hasn’t been without its pitfalls, I now firmly believe that the simple act of expressing needs and letting others meet them strengthens our relationships with our friends, family and community. It makes us all feel a little less alone and a little more empathetic. I think it does take a village after all. All you have to do is ask.