Perfect mum never needs to ask for help. She manages all her responsibilities with ease; raising her kids, keeping house, growing her own fruits and vegetables, investing in her marriage, working at her part time paid job, getting to the gym regularly, meditating, keeping in touch with her friends, volunteering at the local community centre and taking yearly overseas holidays. She looks amazing while she does it, always has a smile on her youthful face and seems like nothing troubles her.
Perfect mum has it all and does it all.
Wow, maybe we should ask her how she pulls this off.
Wait, we can’t ask her.
SHE. DOESN’T. EXIST.
No matter how it might seem to onlookers, every mum has something that she struggles with and goes through times when she really needs help.
Unfortunately, when we look around, especially on social media, we see the attractive, highlights reel of other people’s lives, and assume that it’s always like this and that we’re the only one not managing so well.
We hold ourselves to the unrealistic standard of being a perfect mum (which is not at all required or possible).
And when we find ourselves needing help, we don’t ask for it. Instead, we feel like we have to struggle on, trying to manage by ourselves. We may even have been offered help but didn’t feel like we could accept it.
Asking for help is even more important now that support networks for mums aren’t what they used to be.
You might not have family living close by or know your neighbours well. You might be a single parent, or your support network may consist of other mums with young children who you feel already have enough on their plate. Mums are now often juggling paid employment with raising their family and many are facing financial pressures.
Lovely mum, you don’t need to be a hero. Everyone needs help at some point in their life.
Why you need to ask for help
Asking for help is often perceived as a sign of weakness, and it’s so important that you understand that it’s actually a sign of strength.
When you ask for help, it shows that you:
• Know yourself – what you can handle, what you’re good at and what you need help with
• Respect yourself enough to look after your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing
• Have the courage to let yourself be vulnerable and admit you can’t do it all yourself (check out my blog on vulnerability)
• Are willing to be authentic (the real you).
Asking for help is looking after yourself. And looking after yourself is looking after your family, because you’ll be a much better mum and partner if you’re in a healthy physical, emotional and mental state.
People don’t necessarily know or see what you need without you telling them (this includes your partner). You might look like you have everything under control or they might just be preoccupied with their own life. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to help you if they became aware that you needed it.
It’s also helpful to know that relationships are strengthened by the giving and receiving of help. It actually benefits both parties.
People love to help and are generally keen to share their strengths, skills, experience and resources with you. It makes them feel good about themselves. In fact, altruistic giving causes the most primitive part of the brain (the same reward pathway activated by food and sex) to light up (Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, PhD Savvy Psychologist).
Just having someone respond positively to your request for help, and seeing that they care enough to help you, is beneficial for your self-esteem, confidence and sense of belonging.
Lastly, asking for help is a great way to role model living in community, self-respect and self-care for other mums and also your children. You might just help someone else feel more comfortable about asking for help themselves. We all benefit by doing life together.
Why asking for help is hard
So the benefits are clear but we still don’t ask for help. Why?
Asking for help can make us feel vulnerable.
Here are four reasons why and what to do about them.
• We don’t want to seem like we’re failing or not managing.
Remember, you’re not a bad mum just because you need help with something. This all or nothing thinking isn’t helpful or true.
If you feel like you aren’t meeting your own standards as a mum it’s worthwhile checking whether your standards are the problem. If your standards are unrealistic or you don’t really believe in them, then they’re working against you. For help with this, check out my article on Mum Guilt and how it reveals the (potentially problematic) standards you impose on yourself.
Also, think about who you’re asking for help. Is it someone you trust, who doesn’t judge and accepts you for who you are? Many mums seek help or support online these days and unfortunately some are met with a barrage of criticism and judgements. Be wise about which groups you are seeking help from.
• We fear being rejected, overstepping the line of friendship or imposing
If this is you, think about how you feel when someone asks you to help them. Do you feel annoyed at the imposition or are you genuinely happy to help?
Personally, I love helping people. I love living life together and seeing people’s spirits lifted when they receive help. Often, I feel honoured that they want my help and trust me enough to admit that they need it. Remember that generally people love helping others.
It is possible that someone might say they can’t help and that’s not necessarily a personal rejection. They may not have the available time or resources right now, or they may not feel confident doing what you’ve asked.
• We don’t know how to repay the helper
Often people don’t expect a favour in return for providing help. If you feel it’s important to offer something, you could consider paying them, giving them a gift or offering help in return, as appropriate. Research shows that simply saying “thank you” is highly valued, as it shows the helper they’re needed and boosts their feelings of social worth.
• We don’t believe anyone else can do things as well as we can
This may be due to perfectionism or a need to control things. For help with this, check out my article on letting go of control.
If you can gather the courage to ask for help when you need it, you can get through the difficult stage, look after yourself and strengthen your support network for the future.
How to ask for help
If you’re not sure how to ask for help, get started with these tips:
- Write down everything you would love help with.
- Write down anyone you trust who has offered to help or you think could and would help you.
- Match people with tasks in terms of their skills, experience, schedule, interests and your relationship (for example you might feel comfortable to ask your close friends for help with more significant tasks). Share the load around so you don’t overburden any one person.
- Ask! Be specific and direct. For example,
“I’m finding it hard to get to the shops this week. Would you please pick up a loaf of sliced bread on your way over tomorrow?”
“I’m struggling to finish my work this week. Would you please come over and look after the children for an hour on Wednesday so I can get a few more things done?”
“I’m struggling this week and feeling really lonely. Would you meet my son and I at the park for a chat and a play tomorrow morning?”
“I haven’t had a chance to hang out the washing today, would you please do that for me tonight?”
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to ACCEPT offers of help too! If they’ve offered, they want to help you. I sometimes feel a bit awkward and guilty in the moment but later I usually feel so relieved that I did accept the help.
Lovely mum, let’s lighten your load right away!
Your action plan for this topic is to make 2 requests for help in the next 2 days. What would make the biggest difference in your life?
Did you find this article useful? Leave a comment to let me know.