Recently, I’ve been humbled by my inability to do it all. I was pregnant with my second child — a pregnancy that was considerably harder than my first. Plus, I was chasing around a toddler. And oh yeah, my husband’s company was moving us across the country to a state I’ve only visited twice in my life. My plate was full, and I couldn’t deal with it properly.
Throughout my adult life, and particularly in my mom-life, I am more than willing to help. But I am completely resistant to accepting it. Why? To me, accepting help means admitting weakness. It’s weird. When I offer help, I don’t see those people as weak, yet when I accept help, I view myself as weak. It’s a twisted reality that only serves to hurt myself and others.
I tried to keep it together; I really did. But, I was like a duck swimming in a pond: Serene on the outside, but flailing uncontrollably underneath. I thought if I just kept a smile on my face, everything would be fine. But then one day one of my close friends said to me: “I don’t know how you’re so calm; I would be a mess!”
That’s when it dawned on me. I wasn’t helping anyone by putting on a “brave face.” I certainly wasn’t helping myself, but also the stereotype that women should have it together all the time. I wasn’t helping my friends by pretending to be okay. I get it — I look at other people and marvel at how they’re keeping it “so together,” and I inherently tend to shy away from those people because it’s so not me. And here I was probably pushing away some of the people I cared most for in my life because I felt I had to pretend I was fine. It’s the complete opposite of what I want! The whole point of having a “village” is to be open and honest and dependable. And here I was being the opposite. I am drawn to the woman who admits she is imperfect. Those are my people. Suddenly I was questioning why I felt I had to act perfectly in order to attract that.
I wasn’t helping anyone by putting on a “brave face.”
It started simple. One of my friends offered to bring me dinner while my husband was traveling. I accepted. It took everything in me to say yes. It seems so simple, but it felt so hard. Admitting I couldn’t handle dinner time? That felt so weak to me. But the truth was, I was utterly wiped out by the end of the day. I was about a million weeks pregnant, and my toddler was exhausting. So I accepted the lasagna. And it was wonderful. She came over with her daughter. The girls played, and we ate and laughed. It was so nice to have company! Adult conversation! It was a great evening and lifted my spirits. I came away from that dinner feeling hopeful and re-energized. Is this what accepting help feels like?!
From there, it became easier and easier to accept help. My close friend offered to take my daughter to gymnastics with her kids and out for a treat. My neighbor offered to take my daughter for a few hours to play. My daughter was beyond thrilled to play with a friend and I was beyond in need of a long shower and a nap. It was glorious. Afterwards, my neighbor asked me how I was holding up. My instinct was to lie and say I was fine. But, I was trying to challenge myself, so I told the truth. I told her that I was struggling and I often cry. Her response sits with me to this day: “Well that means you’re human and we can be friends!” She, too, was seeking imperfection. I instantly felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. She was able — and willing — to help me carry my burden. This is the sisterhood I want. I just have to be open to accepting it.
I was about a million weeks pregnant, and my toddler was exhausting. So I accepted the lasagna.
The path to accepting help is hard. I still struggle with it. It’s hard to admit that you can’t do it all. But being willing to open yourself up to help opens up so many doors. It weeds out the fair-weather friends, and cements your village.
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