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?