Before having kids, I thought I knew what all the hardest parts of motherhood would be: lack of sleep, terrible toddler years, teen angst, my total loss of identity, and exhaustion — just to name a few.
I had a pretty good idea after having four sons that shit was gonna be tough — and I mean really fucking hard — for many, many years to come, and I would just have to deal. I told myself I had asked for this and I could handle it all on my own, therefore heading off asshole arguments like “Why did you have kids in the first place if all you do is complain about how much work it is?”
I had to buck up, sacrifice, push myself harder and harder than I ever could have imagined, and continue to just miserably exist in my bone-tired martyrdom because that’s what modern motherhood told me to do.
“Just handle it! You asked for this!” constantly rang in my ears, and I refused — and I mean straight-up refused — to ask for help. I didn’t need help, dammit! I could do this! Help is for wimps! Help is for moms who let 2-year-olds call the shots, for impatient moms who too often lose their temper, for lazy moms who don’t have their shit together, for moms who don’t love their kids and need those silly “breaks” from them all the time. Help is not for me. I am mother, hear me roar!
And then I hit the mother of all mothering walls and collapsed in epic fashion. I was toast. Burnt fucking toast. And burnt toast can’t raise children.
The good thing about ramming your stubborn head full speed into your personal meltdown wall and then epically falling on your ass is that after you fall down, there is only one way to go — up.
The bad thing about hitting your personal meltdown wall is you’re gonna need someone to help you up.
I needed help — so much help. I needed someone to lift me up.
My someone ended up being another mother, one so wise, gentle, and giving that, to this day, I still remember the day my meltdown happened at her house, and I’m grateful that the first hand to help me up was hers. But more important than what she physically did for me that day were the words she spoke as she lifted me off the ground.
She said, “You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you help someone?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Well, when you don’t ask for help and take it, you are taking away that feeling from someone. When you don’t take the help that is offered, you are taking away someone’s chance to minister to you in a way that they may need to do. Stop taking those chances away from people, because there are people who are put on this earth solely to be helpers. It’s fundamental to their existence. You may not know who they are, but they know who you are. Let them help you. You need to ask for help, but more importantly, you need to take it.”
Like an addict taking the first step toward recovery, I needed to admit that I needed help. And when I finally did that day, I felt both vindicated and completely liberated. I was free of trying to do it all. Finally, I was free. Help? Bring it.
I would never have imagined that the real hardest part of motherhood is actually admitting you can’t do it all by yourself and that you need help. The second hardest part? Taking the help.
We hear the saying “It takes a village” all the damn time, but then we sit alone in our homes in our village and suffer needlessly. Whether it’s because of pride, ignorance, stubbornness, or some mental block that keeps us a slave to the lie that we have mothering shortcomings if we reach out for help, I don’t really know. I think it may be a combination of all of those things or this do-it-all society we live in, but whatever it is, I know we need to purge ourselves of it stat and allow ourselves to become vulnerable enough to ask for and accept help with an attitude of grace, not defeat.
I’m many years out of that now-infamous meltdown, and I firmly believe I am still somewhat mentally sane, and a great mother, simply for the fact I stopped doing it alone. In local circles, I’ve been famous for saying things like, “If you have a pulse and can dial 911, then yes, you can watch my kids.” And even now, though my kids are older and I’m able to handle more of the crazy by myself, at the slightest hint of another mother offering help or doing me a favor, I snatch that shit up faster than a vulture on roadkill. Hell yes, you can help me!
Many times since that day, I have found myself repeating my friend’s wise words to younger mothers, watching the relief wash over their tired faces when they realize they now have permission to not be perfect. I tell them about the helper people roaming this planet waiting to be asked for favors, how trying to do it alone always ends badly, and how we need to stop taking away the chances for the helpers to get warm and fuzzy feelings.
Perhaps I am now one of those people put on this earth to help, swooping around saving the souls of young mothers, offering help, doing favors, and keeping mothers sane. Who wants to be my first roadkill?