The best advice I ever received as a mother was “ask for help.” It was given to me by one of the few of my friends who’d started this parenting thing before I had, and who’d been determined, she finally confessed, to make it look easy.
It was hard advice for me to follow. My friend knew it would be, which is why she offered it in the first place. As motherhood has become a competition, as villages become more virtual than actual, as the most educated generation of women in history feel flummoxed by what they think should be simple, and reluctant to be seen as less than masterful, it feels ever harder to ask.
Gradually -- (by necessity more than enlightenment) -- I learned how: asking friends to spell me when I had too many tasks and not enough hands; accepting advice from my mother even when it began "maybe you don’t want to hear this but..."; actually reading childcare books rather than stacking them by my bed and feeling superior; switching to formula in the middle of the night so I could alternate shifts with my husband.
Thank goodness I did. Accepting the need to ask for help rescued me from more than one free fall over the years, and it also led me to embrace something else, something that is simpler, and grander -- the responsibility to offer it.
Yes, there are endless reasons not to: We have too much on our own plates; we don’t want to intrude; if they wanted our help they would ask. But we must do it anyway. Sometimes lifting the burden literally (carrying a stranger’s groceries so she can carry her toddler, now that yours is old enough to walk on his own), as well as metaphorically (being honest about your own doubts and stumbles rather than pretending all is perfect, thereby giving others the freedom to do the same).
I remembered my friend’s advice when the Global Mom Relay asked me to participate in this online crusade to help mothers around the world. Because the need to ask for help is universal, as is the responsibility to give it. True, more of us feel isolated as mothers because the world has gotten bigger -- we live away from our families, our support system, our villages. But the same things that scatter us -- technology, transportation, information -- also bring us closer. The mother halfway across the planet shares the same fears and dreams for her children, and this same screen on which you’re reading my words allows us to see her needs. Now let’s use it to answer them.
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