mom holding crying baby

I’m pathologically independent. Ok, I made that up, but sometimes I need to ask for help and don’t. The most I come up with is some passive-aggressive statement like “Mommy can’t do five things at once.” Not that I don’t try. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I cry in the shower and eat copious amounts of chocolate. More often, I feel overwhelmed and lose my shit. I seldom ask for help.

My palms sweated on the few occasions I asked a favor from someone other than an immediate family member or my best friend. (Just a side note, parenting partners don’t help. They parent. Or at least that’s what they should be doing.)

I’ve been avoiding help my entire life. While everyone else’s parents helicoptered over their offspring, my dad dropped my brother and me in the middle of the woods and told us to find our way out. (Yes, that happened. No, I have not been camping in my adult life nor do I intend to leave the comforts of electricity and plumbing again). I was taught at an early age to handle my business—whether it was finding civilization or working through a problem with a classmate. My parents seldom, if ever, stepped in. While I appreciate the backbone of steel they crafted through my formative years, it means I have a hard time depending on other people or asking for assistance.

For example, I once bathed a three-year-old while holding a newborn, which isn’t that big a deal except I had stitches along an entire latitude of my body. My in-laws live a mile away and would have come over had I asked. I didn’t. I handled my business—and it hurt like hell.

My childhood experiences might be extreme, but this inability to ask for help when needed plagues parents—especially moms—everywhere. I often hear moms say, “I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m tired.” I’ve learned this is mom speak for I’m so f’ing done I could lie on this asphalt and sleep for two weeks with Caillou blaring in the background. If you ask these women “Do you need help?” they almost always answer “Oh no, I’m fine.”

No. You’re not fine. You’re one toddler tantrum and a blowout from crying in the shower with a mega Reese cup. Many of us refuse to ask for help or take it. Why? Are we afraid of appearing lazy? Does asking for help or accepting help mean we’re failing as parents? Would we ever fault a friend for asking for help when she needed it? I wouldn’t. I doubt you would either. Yes, some people are lazy slubs who ask for more than they give, but if you’re reading this, that’s probably not you. Still, we judge ourselves, harshly, and we need to stop.

Here’s a simple truth: Sometimes we need help, and sometimes we enjoy giving it. I feel indebted to anyone who has helped me in the past (I’m thinking of you, Lisa, who walked my kid a mile out of your way, so I didn’t have to leave the house with a puking toddler.) I love helping the people who have supported me. If you won’t ask for help because you need it, consider asking for help because it will bring joy to the person helping you. (Ok, joy might be a little strong, but they might get the warm fuzzies of a Hallmark commercial by doing you a favor).

I propose a pledge for the men and women facing the shit show of parenthood:

I [state your name] am not superhuman. Sometimes, I need help. I promise to ask when I need it, to accept it when it’s offered, and to provide it when I can.

There, that wasn’t so hard. Now, let’s go handle this business of raising humans together.

Related: This Season of My Life is Laundry Season

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Kathryn Hively

I started Just BE Parenting as a way to cope with the anxiety of balancing work, motherhood, and the impulse to write. That’s right, I’m not a parenting expert. I, my kids, and my family are perfectly flawed in MANY ways. As a parent, I’m trying to let go of perfection and just BE the best mother I can for my kids. The ‘B’ and ‘E’ in Just BE Parenting also represents the first letters of my children’s names. What works for me and my family may not work for you and yours. That’s ok! Even if we’re not the same, I hope you’ll find something relatable here.

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  1. Well written and really hits hope. However, sometimes the “help” only creates more work for me!

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