It was 2 p.m. on a Wednesday. I know this because Paw Patrol had just gone off, and we watch Paw Patrol at 1:30 on Wednesdays. (Isn’t it funny the things you start to know as a mom?)
I was battling a pretty nasty head cold, and my sinus medicine wasn’t cutting it. It made me drowsy, but didn’t take away any of the terrible symptoms, so I was still blowing my nose every five seconds and still had a raging headache. Now, I was just really tired on top of it all.
I had both kids to myself that day and I took them upstairs to play in the nursery. I thought if I could at least get them occupied in a book or the slide, I could rest for two minutes. I could lie my head on the glorious carpet and shut my eyes but leave my ears open—you know, the ways all mamas “listen” when they’re spent.
But of course, the playthings that usually enrapture them were totally lame that day. They wanted nothing to do with dress-up, or dinosaurs, and they certainly didn’t want me to read them a story. So there we were, three hours away from my husband getting home, with absolutely nothing to do but sit and be miserable.
My parents were out that day, so I called my mother-in-law. Almost through tears, I begged her, “Can I bring the kids over for just one second?” She listened as I relayed my woes, and said she’d be waiting in the driveway.
I drove over and practically crawled up her front stoop, a kid in each arm. She kissed me on the head and shooed me away. I went home and got a really hot bath and sunk to my nose in bubbles.
That was one of the very first times I felt compelled to ask for help as a young mom. I tried for a long time to go it alone, because it’s definitely not in my nature to admit a deficiency. I’m a people pleaser to a fault, and I’ll run myself ragged before admitting I can’t do it all, nor can I do it alone.
Since then, I’ve gotten better at admitting my own shortcomings and accepting the generosity of friends, loved ones, and even complete strangers when they offer it. One woman stopped me at Wal-Mart last week and told me I was doing a good job. My son was sprawled out on the dirty linoleum floor pitching a total fit and my daughter was immersed on her iPad in the shopping cart. I was, in every sense, not being A Good Mom.
But she saw that I was at my wit’s end, and she could tell I needed a little grace. She extended it to me, and I took it. I carried her words around with me like a sacred stone in my pocket and that night I shared them with my husband through tears.
Besides making me feel really great and a lot less harried, her words were a balm because they helped me forget for a second what I didn’t know, or what I wasn’t doing right. Instead, her comment shifted my focus toward the one thing I was doing right in the moment. I was keeping my kids safe, and shopping for my family. I was honestly doing my very best.
Accepting help and generosity from others has also strengthened my own knowledge base. Take my brother-in-law, for instance. He’s an accountant and a whiz at math. He and my sister budget to the cent, and they live very comfortably within their means. My family, on the other hand, feels like we’re barely scraping by sometimes. Between the mortgage and preschool payments and feeding a family of four, it can be hard to feel like we’re getting ahead.
So one day, he offered to give us a little free financial planning help using tips he’d learned on the job. He sat us down and helped us prepare a budget on Excel. It was crazy simple and it’s been a huge blessing to us since then. The only catch? He’d been asking to help us for a while, but I was too proud to accept it. Take financial advice from a boy five years younger than me? No thanks! I was the mature older sister, and surely I could manage my own expenses.
Turns out, I couldn’t, and the moment I let him show my family how things are done, we took our first step toward being debt-free.
Whatever “accepting help” looks like for you, mama, I encourage you to rethink your position on it if you’re currently pushing back against it.
If the source of help is rooted in love and kindness, it will only bring those things into your life. As moms, we can try to keep all of those balls in the air, but what happens when one slips? They all come tumbling down. It only makes sense to let someone else stand beside us, hold up their hands, and take some of the load off.
When I took that first long soak while my kids played down the road with my mother-in-law, I started to change how I thought about help. It’s not a weakness that we’re admitting. It’s an openness that we’re sharing.
It’s saying, “Come on in and see me. Really see me. I need you and I appreciate you, so let’s tackle this together.” It’s growing your circle and letting someone else in—and growing a little yourself in the process.