Our first born is celebrating her birthday this month and as I reflect on my almost seven years of motherhood, I am in awe of all the amazing experiences and moments we’ve shared as a family. I’m also very humbled by life lessons that come with motherhood. For me, realizing that “asking for help is a strength, not a weakness” is one of the many lessons I have learned and for our family one of the most important.
It all started with a bout of Mastitis when my third baby was just a few weeks old. I really thought I would be fine once I started the antibiotics and that I could manage on my own. We did not live near family and we seemed to have it all figured out. I relished in our reputation that we (more honestly, I) did it all without help. No family support, nanny, or house cleaner. At times, because my husband works long hours and travels a lot, without him too. So, I tried to keep up with everything, but I physically couldn’t do it. By mid-afternoon I texted my husband to come home ASAP.
When my husband came home I was holding our baby, crying, angry and blaming him. He calmly and sweetly looked at me as he rubbed my head and suggested that we needed help. We had been struggling for a long time on our own.
A few days later my husband introduced me to Aileen. She was a college student and part time nanny for our friends and he wanted her to be our part time nanny too. He explained that she would help all of us, but I kept thinking what he meant was that I needed the help. I was really upset. We hadn’t talked about needing help since that evening and I was definitely back on track to being crowned, “Mrs. I Don’t Need Help.” Did this mean he didn’t believe that I could take care of our family and shouldn’t he be the one helping me more? Should we be spending money on this?
Aileen’s first day with us she played with our two little girls and made them lunch while I showered, nursed and slept with our baby. I woke up to clean and folded laundry and later she stayed home with our newborn while I took our girls to dance class. She continued to come each week and offered to come extra days and evenings. I asked her to help put together the party favors for our daughter’s birthday party and I asked her to help us take all three of our children for pictures with Santa Clause. I continued asking for more and more of her help.
I will admit that the first few months I felt guilty, indulgent and ashamed that we had Aileen in our lives especially when other moms would make comments about how nice it must be to have so much help. I would sense some kind of snarky judgement, but I soon realized it was my own insecurities making me feel this way and I would simply smile and agree, that yes, it was nice.
I am so grateful for my husband’s love, compassion and insight about what our family needed. We needed help, we needed Aileen. Her help was priceless and budgeting in the cost of her help was incredibly beneficial for our whole family. The children had another adult in their life that loved them and she graciously showed me how to accept help from others. I finally realized that asking for help wasn’t a weakness.
Aileen continued to take care of and love our family for nearly two years until we moved. We’re on our own again, but I don’t try to do it all. I ask for help in many ways. I ask my husband for help, hire babysitters, I carpool and swap child care with other moms and I even ask my children to help me out. Asking for help is definitely one of my strengths. I don’t dole out unsolicited advice to other moms (another lesson I’ve learned), but when I do the only advice I give is “ask for help.”