You’re like me, I bet.
I’ve noticed that women, while as varied and diverse as snowflakes and fingerprints, tend to share a few traits in common. A lot of us love our messy buns, our scented candles, Joanna Gaines, hip hop from our high school days, the moment when we remove our bra for the day, and true crime. We parent differently, dress differently, and order different entrees at different favorite restaurants, but most of us stay up too late and love serial killers.
We love the people around us, empathize with our friends, check up on those around us, and offer prayers to people we know are in need.
But we just cannot ask the same of someone else.
We can create lifelike Valentine’s boxes from leftover materials the night before a class party.
We can learn how to create a sourdough starter just from reading Pinterest instructions.
We can open our hearts to the wondrous pain that is motherhood, loving someone as we potty train them, embracing them as their teenage hormones rage, willingly enduring the physical trauma that often accompanies their entrance into our families.
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We, as women, as mothers, do so very much.
So why can’t we ask for favors?
“Let me know if you need anything!” We nod and smile, knowing we’ll never take up our neighbor on their offer.
“I’m great!” we reply, feeling within the weight of depression, anxiety, loss, pain, sickness, poverty, stress, fatigue, toddlers, and teenagers.
Why am I like this? Why are we like this?
We know if a loved one needed us, we’d be there. We know that if someone has a favorite meal, we go out of our way to perfect the recipe. We know the lengths to which we go to, the dedication we pour into every task we complete out of love. Yet, we stop short of asking from others what we’d willingly offer of ourselves.
Maybe because we’ll shatter any image of strength, or we’ll seem like we don’t have it all together.
Maybe because we were raised to never need anyone else.
Probably because we’re afraid of becoming a burden, convinced we’re not worth the effort for some reason, certain our friendships aren’t as meaningful to others as they are to us.
I lived most of my life this way.
I’d take all of my kids to the grocery store and deal with the meltdowns, rather than asking a friend to watch them for two hours while I shopped peacefully and uninterrupted. I’d power through flu season, ignoring my need for rest so I wouldn’t have to ask someone to bring us a meal. I’d pay for a ride home from the airport, keep my birthday a secret so no one would feel obligated to get me a gift, pull all-nighters, complete entire group projects, and generally do way more than I should have—all to avoid asking for help.
Then, I became disabled.
Now, I don’t have the option to power through. Now, I can’t do a lot of things by myself. Now, my family’s needs remain great while my own abilities have greatly decreased.
The first time I needed help, I felt wretched. No fever, no vomiting, just shame at asking someone for something they’d offered months before. I asked a friend if she could bring my daughter home from school for two afternoons one week. I can’t drive and my husband was out of town, and I was embarrassingly close to just keeping my kids home from school so I wouldn’t have to ask a favor of anyone, but I did it. I asked if she could help—the text was littered with apologies for the inconvenience I was surely causing. And do you know what happened? The sun continued to shine, birds still sang, no severe weather patterns suddenly formed over my house, and I survived. More than that, my friend said yes. Even beyond these earth-shattering realizations was the recognition that my friend was not mad at me for asking!
I asked for help, I got help, and everything was fine. We’re still friends, even!
Then my husband got sick on our anniversary and neither of us could cook or go pick up a nice meal for dinner. I had a decision to make: I could heat up some SpaghettiOs to celebrate nearly 20 years of marriage or I could reach out to a friend and ask for help.
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I paused longer than I probably should have, but I did, eventually, send a text—again, filled with apologies—asking if she could pick up a meal I’d called in and bring it to our porch. Not only did this friend heartily agree to help, she was so glad to be able to help that she paid for our meal.
We all survived my request, my husband and I got a lovely anniversary meal, and my friendship grew even stronger because I’d allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to ask for help.
Isn’t it something that we can lay bare our souls with one another, encourage each other through tears as we share the burdens and pressures of motherhood, even share details of our menstrual cycles, but asking for help seems a bit too exposed? What is so fragile about ourselves that we’re afraid of breaking should we need a favor? What is so much more burdensome about ourselves that we are more willing to break under the weight than share it with someone who loves us?
People want to help.
People love you. Friends, family, church members, neighbors, the class mom you’ve joked around with a few times, coaches, charities—we all exist as a community. And sometimes it’s OK to ask something of that community. Remember how you loved? Remember how happy it made you to invite the lonely widower to Christmas?
People want to help, and if they can’t, they’ll let you know. No single relationship is so fragile that the inconvenience of need will destroy it. And any relationship that is damaged or threatened by reaching out for a helping hand was not strong to begin with.
I asked for help because I needed it, but the best part was that I survived it. It’s time we—as women, as mothers, as members of this massive community of believers—reach out and take up what’s been offered. The village doesn’t exist solely for the raising of children—sometimes those kids need rides, too. So if you find yourself overwhelmed, trapped, short a few dollars, sick, or in any way without, swallow the pride that doesn’t serve you and allow those who love you to care for you. All you have to do is ask.