Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Complex Dilemma of Asking for Help.

I've always had a hard time asking for help. In my first job out of university, I preferred to sit at my desk, stewing over a problem rather than ask a colleague for help and risk exposing a weakness. When I moved to Canada I refused to let my family back in England know that I was having a difficult time during those first few months. And then, when I had children, guess what? I still refused to ask for help. If someone offered, I'd usually take it. But I wouldn't go out of my way to ask anyone, preferring to manage it all by myself.


I think it has something to do with projecting an air of independence and strength to the world. And where does that even come from? At what point in my life did I become a person for whom it was important to be completely self-reliant and never admit I needed support?

Because really, it's not important to prove to the world I can cope alone, in fact it's kind of a lousy thing, and a lousy thing to teach my kids, too.

Have you ever heard that saying "it takes a village to raise a child"? I always wondered where the hell this village is - because it isn't in my neck of the woods. Practically all the parents I know are as self-sustaining as me. We're all doing it, more or less, by ourselves. Many people live far from their families, relying on the support of friends and outsourced help. It sometimes seems as though the way of the Western world is to be strong (whatever that means) and self-sufficient.

Or is it just me?

In some Asian countries, it's not uncommon for two or three generations to live together in the same house. The role of family plays a much bigger role, and families are much more involved in each other's lives.

There they are, with their villages raising children, and here we are, doing it alone.

Which is better?

Saying all that, I am fortunate. Very fortunate, actually. Despite living thousands of miles away from my parents and brother in England, I do have help here. My husband's Mom and her husband live in the same city as us and they are wonderful.

And it's because of this relationship that I felt okay, for (I think) the first time last week, calling my mother-in-law on a rainy Thursday morning after a bad night's sleep, for no other reason than feeling completely unable to face the chores of the day, to ask whether she could come over - and help me. In typical me-style, I felt awful asking. As if, by asking I was admitting I was an imperfect human, thereby revealing my vulnerable side. Gasp! She came over, no questions asked, no judgment. Having raised two boys alone, she understood.

On that rainy morning, as I drove around the city carrying out my errands childless, I was so glad I'd asked for help that it made me wonder why we don't ask each other more.

Like I said before, many of us live a long way away from our families, so we rely on friends, neighbours, acquaintances. And in a way, our friends become our alternate family. But it's not as easy to ask friends for help as it is family. We hate to impose. We don't want to be a nuisance. But we should ask, shouldn't we? Because when we ask for help, we admit that we're human. And we let other people know it's okay to ask for help, too.

How about you? How often do you ask for help?
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Christy said...

In the last year or so I've really learned to ask for help -- and since we don't have any family nearby at all, it's from my friends. Sometimes they're available, and sometimes not. But we do it for each other. I've also found 3 fantastic sitters and use them as often as I can afford to - they're lifesavers. I wish you were my neighbor - I'd love to chat more with you and take turns watching each other's kids! :)

LisaDay said...

I hear you. I hate asking for help, too, even though, particularily with kids, people would drive miles to help, with no questions asked. I am glad you reached out and I hope you feel better.


Bear and Bones Mama said...

Yes, I hear you. I'm terrible about it, but getting better. I am raising my children - 2 boys - in a village. It's not my family, but an extended family in an intentional community. It's not a hippie commune, truly. Kinda like a condo association where you interact everyday with all your neighbors - for good and for bad. If you ever want to talk about it let me know. It's pretty cool.
BUT that doesn't mean I don't fall on my face dead tired and screaming at my children rather than asking for help. Oh no, that would be too easy. But I can, and my friends/neighbors know me well enough to say to me - "let me take the kids - go lay down/run errands/stare blankly in front of yourself". Or they're there to co-miserate with me and drink wine as we let our kids climb the walls.

But it's so hard to ask for help. But so easy once you do it.

Lizbeth said...

I only ask certain people for help. My sister or my mom. They will help, no questions asked and are usually chiding me for not coming to them sooner. I will never ask my MIL on the simple fact she will "come to my rescue" and then blab what a horrible mom I am. Sigh. They come for annual visits and we're all happy with that!

Elaine A. said...

I ask for help more now than I ever have before. Having 3 will do that to you - ha! But I'm still kinda bad about it.

I wish I still lived in the same city as my MIL. She's awesome. Glad yours is too!

Sally said...

I think there's an element of pride (for me at least) in not asking for help. It's like admitting I've messed up, or I didn't plan properly for something, or I over-estimated what I could take on - and I get into this loop where I decide I must fix my own mess and then say to people, "Oh, look, this went wrong but I've fixed it now, so it's okay."

I think the point of it being a bad example to children is really interesting - never looked at it that way before.

Mwa said...

I don't. And I should. I really should right now. Ok, I'll consider it. :-)

Yay you, by the way! We all should get some help like that sometimes. I think I may ask my mother to take the kids for a day soon as well.

Angela said...

I don't like to ask for help either. I do have a fantastic mother-in-law though, and when husband was out of town recently on a week-long business trip - I found myself having to have two kids in two separate parts of town, 30 km apart, at the same time, while I was needing to be at work, another 30 kms away, at the same time!

For that, I asked for help. And skipped out of work early. :)