Why do mums find it so hard to ask for help?
"I need help please."
As a mum it is common to have umpteen plates spinning – packed lunches, school forms, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, washing, tidying up…and that’s often in addition to a paid job to pay the bills. Sometimes you can feel you’re doing it all on your own.
Having coached numerous mums in the last five years, I know many of them struggle to ask for help. They feel they are being a nuisance or that it’s an imposition to ask. They’re aware that others are busy and they don’t want to be a burden. Some said that asking for help can bring added stress and can take away control. One area they observed is that they often ask for help when they are at the end of their tether and then they just feel frustrated and desperate, which doesn’t help the ability to communicate their feelings clearly and calmly.
Many mums I’ve worked with share that they were brought up with the notion that they were expected to do it all themselves. As Ritu B Hasin writes in her article Do you struggle to accept help?, “I absorbed the idea that to be a strong, independent woman I should be able to handle everything on my own, and that asking for help was a sign of weakness. I was socialised to believe that I should focus on giving help to others.”
This way of thinking is deeply flawed and it doesn’t serve us as people or professionals. Giving without taking just isn’t healthy, or realistic. It can take a toll on our well-being and our self-worth.
So what contributes to us struggling to ask for help?
It was felt that there was some truth in the saying, “If you want it done properly, do it yourself”. Some mums said they were reluctant to ask for help due to the fear of the request being rejected or done grudgingly, particularly by family members.
One of the deeper reasons for being uncomfortable about asking for help from others is that, somewhere along the line, we have learned to believe we are not worthy to have other spend time caring for us. It may be that this is linked to receiving conditional love along our life journeys, both in childhood and adulthood, and could be tied back to lack of love and value of ourselves.
What are the potential consequences of not asking for or accepting help?
Several of my mum clients have shared that they have a really short fuse at the moment. This is a tell-tale sign. They know this is down to stress and it is getting in the way of them being the mum they want to be.
Trying to do everything on our own can lead to feelings of overwhelm, failure, anxiety or even burnout or illness.
There is also the question to consider on the other side of the coin. How does it feel to give or offer help?
The mums in my group coaching programme, The Mum Boardroom, shared that there is warmth in giving and you feel worthy and significant. Some felt flattered to be asked to help. There was also something around the permission to say no, being assertive about your boundaries and giving when you have the capacity. Giving out of the ‘overflow’ of what you have, not out of an empty cup.
10 ways to accept help
Finally, how could you be more accepting of help from others? Here are 10 ways:
1. Be open with others about when you are struggling, communicating clearly without emotion.
2. Set aside your pride.
3. Think of the benefits of accepting help.
4. If you’ve got a particularly busy time coming up, work out how you can communicate your need for help before things get out of hand
5. Practice self-realisation – you don’t have to be good at everything.
6. Don’t negatively second-guess what the giver might be thinking.
7. Try to accept the help, even if it’s not up to your standard.
8. Give yourself time to reflect on where you need help.
9. Look at others who do accept help well. Consider what you can learn from them.
10. Don’t feel you need to give back having accepted help. You can always ‘pay it forward’.
Asking for help is an important part of building workable and meaningful relationships with others. Let’s consider the legacy we are looking to leave as we model behaviour to our children. Enjoy experimenting with this.