Why It’s OK For Mums To Ask For Help
I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by women I would describe as ‘copers’. As mothers, most of my closest friends fall into this category; they don’t complain, they get on with whatever parenthood throws at them, they don’t feel the need for domestic help or night-nurses and they cope pretty well with sleepless nights. My own mother somehow managed to juggle fulltime work and two children (one of whom was sick), with not much help from my dad (as was the way with dads then), and still clean the house and cook everything herself to the point that we’d never even seen a fish finger.
Having these sorts of influences around you tends to make you stronger and more resilient to the hardships of parenthood because you realise that everyone is going through it, not just you, and if my social circle consisted of women who hired people to help them with all aspects of running a family home, I may have felt from early on that I ‘needed’ that too, that it was just the done thing.
But hold on a second. What if I do need it?? What if by believing for so long that I am a coper and that I can ‘just deal with’ having a child who hasn’t slept for 15 months, I’ve exhausted myself even more?
You see, I do see myself as a coper and on the whole, I have been to an extent. Although I crave time on my own to do the things I love, I also genuinely enjoy the kind of chaos that a house full of kids brings with it and I look forward to the day when my kids are older and all their friends want to come to our house because it’s so warm and inviting and there is always food on offer, just like it was at my mum’s house.
In wanting to be ‘that’ mum, my ego has prevented me from admitting when I need help, or admitting to how hard it is to survive on 4 hours sleep and be on the go all day, instead of answering with ‘it is what it is’ – which is what I do (with a smile on my face) when people ask how I cope – or admitting that I’m not as much of a coper as my buddies.
My baby is the best thing that has ever happened to me, I prayed so hard for him and I thank God for his existence every day. But I shouldn’t need to justify that I feel like that in order to be able to talk openly about how hard it is to be a mother in 2017.
You see, humans are pack animals. Going back to when we lived in caves, right up to not very long ago, humans lived in extended families and children would have the advantage of being surrounded by many different mother figures (mothers, grandmothers, aunts) who all had a role to play in their upbringing, while the men went to hunt / work. This is where the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ comes from. It does take a village, but the village has ceased to exist.
Nowadays, the men still go to work, but hey, so do the women. In these foregone days of extended families, the women would all chip in to do the cooking and cleaning and raising of the children, not just one woman on her own. But now, we’re expected to do all of that ON OUR OWN, regardless of how many children we have, and still go to work…
In our age of information, we also have a huge responsibility to not only protect our children from the dangers that lurk in cyber-world and out, but also to nurture our children in a way that our parents were never able to do. With access to information about child psychology at our fingertips, we have no excuse to stand back while our children suffer; we can use the information so readily available to us to work harder to be better, more conscious parents than previous generations were given the chance to be. But that, too, takes work, commitment and sacrifice, and those things take up even more time in a day that already has too few hours. And of course, all these things have to be done regardless of how little sleep we have had and, to add to that, we have to do it all with a smile on our face in case, heaven forbid, someone gets annoyed with our moaning.
Today I’m changing that. Not just for me but for any mum who is reading this and is wanting to tear her hair out from exhaustion, or whose head is about to spontaneously combust from the deluge of mental lists of all the things she needs to do but will still dutifully answer any questions of ‘how are you’ with ‘yes, great!’
I’m changing that because, mummies, it IS okay to ask for help. It is okay to voice your struggles. I’m listening.
I believe that we were created to work together, to NOT do it all on our own. And if the extended family isn’t an option anymore, then we need to be okay – finances allowing – with bringing someone in to help out.
I congratulate my ‘coper-friends’ on being able to do the awesome job they do, but I have decided, for my own sanity, to throw my ego out the window and be okay with asking for help and most importantly for my ego, not feeling embarrassed about it.
You can see this article on my author profile on The Huffington Post
You can follow Lauren Vaknine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurenvaknine
Her autobiography, ‘My Enemy, My Friend’, can be found here