You are a mom. But you are not just a mom. You are a chef. You are a teacher. You are a housekeeper. You are a nurse. You are a friend. Maybe you’re a spouse. Maybe you’re a gardener. Maybe you’re a caretaker of a pet (or two or three). Maybe you’re a baker. Maybe you have an occupation outside of the home.
We can see just from that one paragraph how motherhood can be extremely overwhelming. I’m already thinking of more things now that I could have added to it. And somehow, after having a baby, we mothers are supposed to just have a system all figured out and be able to keep up with it all on our own. Of course, those of us who have helpful partners are very grateful. But why, outside of that, are we telling ourselves that we are supposed to do it all alone?
I’ll tell you the short answer: we aren’t. The phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child” exists for a reason. We simply shouldn't do it alone and I, personally, believe that we weren’t designed to do it all alone.
Allow me to first say, mothers are warriors. Sometimes seeming superhuman. The number of things a mom can do simultaneously is astounding. I’m saying all of this as a mother, myself. Since having my second child, I have surprised myself with the amount of things I can accomplish one-handed while holding a 20 pound baby in the other hand. Vacuum, apply make up, cook, do dishes, the list goes on. My joints may ache by the end of the day, but I can do it.
But if it wasn’t for the help of my friends, my parents, and my in-laws, I probably would have slid down a slippery slope of negative emotions as I tried to navigate daily life with two children all on my own. I needed them.
Now, I understand that each mother has a different circumstance. Not everyone has access to help from loved ones as easily. To this mother I say: My heart breaks for you and I’m here if you want a helping hand. But I also know, because I have seen, that there are many that have access, but choose not to utilize help.
I think we all know that there has been a façade in our society that one is deemed “weak” if they ask for help. We should be able to do everything we need to do on our own, right? Yes, I do believe that there is a shift happening where this topic is concerned. Counseling isn’t something that is a well-kept secret anymore, people seem to give real answers when asked “How are you?” now, and the “hot mess mom” is something we see on our social media news feeds more frequently. However, I still believe we have a long way to go to completely normalize this.
Why is it such a scary thing to do, asking for help? Why is it something of which we feel ashamed? I took to social media to ask my lovely followers these kinds of questions. The answers I received varied from not wanting to add stress or inconvenience to others, to not asking because we feel shouldn’t have to and that people should just know, to convincing ourselves we can do it all on our own and maybe having the mindset that we have something to prove to others, to feeling like a failure.
So let’s dive into these responses, shall we? Starting with not wanting to add stress, inconvenience, or burdens to others. Let me tell you something, anytime - anytime - a close friend of mine has asked for my help, if I’m available, it has always been a “yes,” an “absolutely,” an “of course.” Without hesitation. Need a sitter? Need help planning your son’s birthday party? Need me to pick up something you can only find at Costco and you don’t have a membership? I’ve got you, friend. I have never felt inconvenienced or burdened with my friend’s needs. I know not everyone out there is like me, but I can say that I love my friends. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that they feel the same way when I ask them for a favor. Because if you have a close friend, and I hope you have sweet friends like mine, you want to be there for them and they want to be there for you. Don’t hesitate. Something that has stuck with me for a few years now is this: when asking someone something, the worst they can say is “no” and we simply move on to someone else. Plain and simple.
Now let’s talk about not asking for help because we feel like the people around us should know we need help. A couple I know once went through marriage counseling and one of the things their therapist pointed out was that they are often disappointed with needs not being met because they weren’t vocalizing clearly what their expectations were. We can see how this can be a similar situation with any of our relationships. You can get upset at your mother (telling yourself “she’s done this before, how can she not know?”) for not just assuming you need help with the house chores or that you just want her to hold the baby so you can finally shower. And your mother would be none-the-wiser that she’s disappointed you. Give her a call, ask her if she has time to pop over tomorrow for an hour. Again, the worst she can say is “no” and next you call your friend.
Next I want to address not asking for help because we’ve convinced ourselves “I've got this” and possibly also have it in our heads that we have something to prove to others. Look, I’m not going to be the person that tells you you can't do it all on your own. Maybe you are doing it all. Kudos to you, my friend. What I am going to tell you is that you have nothing to prove to anyone. Nada. We should not be moms that do what we do for spectators around us. We are moms for our children. Are you working from home and homeschooling? Wonderful. Are you the mom that keeps your house tidy 99% of the time? That’s so great. Do you have multiple kids that are each involved in a sport and you’re able to navigate the practices and games with ease? Love to hear it. My life, however, is not changed by how you live yours. So don’t do it for me. I also want to suggest that maybe you’re telling yourself you’ve got this and things are actually slipping through the cracks. That’s a recipe for an emotional storm, sweet friend. Humble yourself, ask the person you’re closest to for that small favor you may be secretly needing. I just know they’ve got your back.
Lastly, feeling like a failure. I should hope by now, after reading all of this, I’ve already convinced you that you’re absolutely NOT a failure for needing the help of another. Like I said above, I don’t believe humans were designed to do life alone. (Feel free to look up some studies on this topic that prove my point.) Shove those nasty thoughts away from your mind and remind yourself that our precious tiny ones are co-dependent beings 24/7 and as much as we love them, we can get exhausted. If you’ve got someone close to you that’s not-so-exhausted in their current stage of life, please reach out to them for whatever it is you need.
And remember, you always have your friendly neighborhood postpartum doula (that’s me, by the way) that is here. for. YOU. Postpartum is hard. I’m not ever going to beat around the bush about that. Don’t do it alone. I’d love to hold your hand through it, mama.
(Photos are of me with my newborn sons by Stacey Harting Photography and Ser ODeens Photography, respectively.)