You know you need some help and you’ve decided you’re going to ask for it.
That’s a huge step in itself.
Asking for help can be really hard, especially for mothers in modern society where there are some very unrealistic expectations placed on women to do it all, without help and with a smile. You can read more about the reasons it is so hard for mothers to ask for help in my blog on this topic.
Once you’ve actually worked up the courage to ask for help, you might find yourself wondering about the best way to do it, so as to not create any negative responses. If this is where you’re at, I’m going to share some tips for you!
I’ve found there are valuable 5 things to consider or do:
1. Accept that you might feel uncomfortable asking for help
My hope for you, is that one day you will feel completely comfortable asking for help. However, if you’ve struggled to ask for help up to this point, those feelings are not going to go away overnight. So let them be there. They are normal and natural and they don’t have to stop you from asking for help. Accept them without judgement, name them and ask for help anyway. Remember why you are asking for help and know that many people love to help others.
2. Find the best person to ask
Some of us will have more options than others here, depending on your situation and support network. However, in general, consider someone you trust and who cares about you who:
- Has the capacity to help
- Has the resources to help
- Enjoys or is confident in the task you need help with
- Has offered their assistance in the past (how many times have you not taken up offers of help?).
Be careful that you don’t assume too much and end up not asking someone that could help. I’ve had a friend feel disappointed that I didn’t ask for her help! We usually don’t know the full story of what is going on in other’s lives and they may be able to offer some alternative help if not the exact help you are asking for. There may be instances though, where it is more obvious that they may not have capacity, for example if they have told you they have a lot of extra work right now, or they are unwell.
3. Be specific and direct in your request
“I’m finding it hard to get to the shops this week. Would you please pick up a loaf of 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?”
Make sure what you need is really clear, so the person can decide whether they can manage it.
4. Allow them to say yes or no and manage your own emotional response to that
Sometimes we don’t ask for help because we worry or anticipate that they will say no. However, it is really up to the person we ask for help to decide whether they want to help. Our responsibility is to ask for what we need. Their responsibility is to decide whether they will help or not.
We are also responsible for managing our own emotional response to their response. If they are frustrated at you for asking for help – that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t have asked. It is their responsibility to manage those emotions, and it probably has less to do with you that it appears. Similarly, if they say no, it is your responsibility to manage your emotional response to that.
No might feel like rejection or you may feel guilty for asking in the first place, but it is OK for people to say no. In fact, I believe it is healthy for people to know that they can say no to you and you will respect that. A no may simply mean they don’t have the capacity, energy, or resources you need right now, or they don’t feel confident in providing what you need.
What is worse than a no is a yes that comes with a whole lot of resentment and obligation. This is not conducive to healthy relationships. When someone can say no when they cannot help you, and they know you will understand, that paves the way for a mutually supportive relationship where either of you can ask for help and decide whether or not you can manage it.
5. Be vulnerable and courageous and show other women it is ok to ask for help
Asking for help can feel very vulnerable but the good news is that it gets easier with practice. You aren’t alone in feeling uncomfortable with asking for help and for this reason, we all need more women to be courageous and do it anyway! When you ask for help, you show other women that it is ok to help.
We aren’t meant to do all this alone. In modern society we don’t automatically have the support networks we need and so we have to build them. Asking for help is one way to do so. Most people are so happy to help, and if you reflect on situations where your friends have asked you to help you may notice this is true for you also. There’s no prize for doing everything yourself and burning out in the process. Motherhood is a long journey and we need to think about our long term wellbeing and create the networks that will see us through the ups and downs.
It may be useful to see helping each other from a broader perspective, where it’s not a one for one transactional exchange, but rather as we all chip in here and there and help each other out when we need it, everyone is better off. No keeping score, no debts. Just a genuine desire to make sure no one is doing it alone. Asking for help can be a powerful move in this way. The building of momentum and acceptance of this communal approach to life.
Individually, asking for help allows us to better care for our own wellbeing and for our families. It allows us to be the mother and woman we want to be as we make our load more realistic and create space in our lives for what’s most important. For your children, asking for help models self-respect and self-care. We all benefit from helping each other.
What is something you need help with right now?
Who can you ask and when will you ask?