What is it about becoming moms that makes us allergic to asking for help?
I remember being 25 and holding my firstborn as I tried to get her to nurse. Up and down and from side to side, I tested countless positions with her little head to avoid the stabbing pain I had been feeling since day one. Feeding my first-born was bloody hard- literally. Having expected total bliss, the first few weeks of breastfeeding had become the complete opposite. Yet as a new mom, I saw these complications as a rite of passage. Sending out an SOS would feel like a sign of weakness. Giving her a bottle at the time, would've felt like defeat. I chose to suffer in silence.
When a friend offered to cook for me, I’d politely turn them down. When a family member offered to pitch in for a night nurse, I immediately rejected their offer. When they asked if they could care for my baby so I could hit the gym for a quick hour, I’d always find an excuse.
“You chose to have a baby before all your friends,” I’d say to myself, “You chose to have kids while your mom is still young and working.” I felt like I stood alone in the deserted island of motherhood. Did other moms feel as clueless as I did?
For some reason, being a mom subconsciously seemed to me like a chance to assert my self-confidence. Was I sleep deprived? Heck yes. Was I bored and lonely? Absolutely. Did my diet consist of toast, clementines, iced cappuccinos and the occasional vitamin pill for six months? You bet. But something in me didn’t want to give in.
The word “help” became synonym with “I give up”.
It all changed the day I accepted a family friend's offer to set me up on a "blind date" with a fellow, first-time mom. As we sat across from each other at the mall food court, dividing our attention between our cooing babies and our episiotomy stories, I knew that it would be unrealistic and downright boring to do motherhood alone.
That friendship was only the beginning. As one baby followed another, and a community of fellow “clueless” moms organically formed around me, a realization as fundamental as my coffee addiction hit me. Asking for help as a mom doesn’t turn you into a wimp.
The day I began to say "yes" to my mom-in-law, "yes" to someone to help clean the house every two weeks and "yes" to fro-yo with a mom whose stroller I admired at the park- was the day I could finally breathe again. Suddenly, motherhood turned from a responsibility bordering on burden into a rewarding, shared journey. It became a place where being open and vulnerable to others didn't make me weak. It made me feel empowered.
Looking back to my early motherhood days, I wish I would’ve had the guts to ask for help from the very get-go. Looking to the future, I can say that I’m grateful for the power of social media and its ability to fill that void for so many women in the same situation. New moms in 2018 have a leg up over women who became moms almost a decade ago. Every Facebook community is a chance for a mom to reach out for help, and for others’ to reach right back. Every funny viral mom video makes us feel validated and normal- crazy is the norm.
Motherhood is one of the most common human experiences, yet it can feel so intensely lonely. For me, knowing that there is always someone willing to lend a hand and that there is no shame in asking for it, returned that sense of community that should be so intrinsic to the experience of mommyhood. It now feels great to have turned a corner, knowing that I am ready to help out, the same way so many others have done for me.
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