Something I’ve always been terrible at is asking for help. From little things to big things, it’s always been a challenge for me.
As I reflect upon it, I think I have realized that somewhere inside me I believe it is bad to even ask. I don’t know where this comes from. Perhaps it is the emphasis our culture places on being self-sufficient. Maybe it’s because I’ve always heard other people around me, especially women, ladle apologies on and around their requests, as if to say; “I’m so sorry to ask … I’m even sorry that you have to be in the presence of someone so PATHETIC … but would you mind feeding my cat this weekend while I’m away? I’m so sorry! You’re probably busy! If you can’t it’s no problem at ALL! Ahhhhhh!”
The scary thing is that that’s not far off from what I actually would say. I definitely always feel nervous when I ask for favours. I am always considering what this person might be thinking of me. Am I asking too much? Do I offer them enough? Do they think of me as someone who takes advantage of them? Will they stop being my friend? Almost every request is such a risk, because almost every request takes me there, to that place of questioning our entire relationship and my value within the relationship. And that, understandably, is terrifying.
I don’t think I’m the only person who goes there. I think many people do. Recently I have been contemplating how much more challenging parenting is because of this little crisis I go through every time I ask for help. See, I don’t think that it is possible to make it through the raising of a child without help. Without my “village,” I don’t know how I would have made it through my almost eight years of parenting, and I have a lifetime more to go. This has forced me to learn to ask for help, though the fear of it and the distaste for it has never subsided.
What doesn’t make sense about this is that I love it when others ask me for help. I love when I can make some tired mom or dad’s day just by picking their child up from Kindergarten for them and watching her for a few minutes while they are stuck in traffic. I know how that relief feels, to have a trustworthy, dependable fellow parent take your child to their home where that child will be safe and well-cared for and given snacks until you arrive, breathless and full of apologies that you took so long. And then they tell you not to worry about it and present you with your excited child, full of stories about what for them was a fun, unexpected playdate. In that moment you get to feel really loved, and you feel your child is also loved, and that makes you feel extra loved. I love being loved that way, and giving that type of love in return.
And I think that feeling must also be fairly common. It’s so great to be able to help a fellow busy parent, when one is able to. Not to mention that when I “help” my friends out with child care in particular, I get the added bonus of having a playmate for my own child, which has saved me from many a 4-hour-long game of “Princess Kitty Goes to the Vet”.
So I guess what I’m saying here is that I should feel free to ask for help, and so should you. Help may not always be available, but when it is, it’s a blessing — a blessing that goes both ways. And if we don’t ask we’ll never know what it is to hear the words “Yes! I’d love to help you!” And we wouldn’t be able to create such a solid channel for that person to be able to ask us for help, too, sometime soon. We don’t need our requests for help to come with apologies, regrets, or inner voices questioning the strength of our relationships or of our very worth. I think there really is no harm in just asking, and if they say no, we can’t let that rob us of our ability to ask. Because no matter our self-sufficiency as parents (or lack thereof), we should all have access to the kind of love that you only get to feel when you ask for and accept the help of someone who is happy to be there for you.