One Sunday afternoon before dinner with friends, I frenetically paced the kitchen finishing the prep work for dinner. Appearing to be strung out on meth, I washed dishes, scrubbed counters, tidied our office nook, and packed the kids’ lunches for the next day. When I slip into this state of crazy, there is no pause between shifting tasks. It never occurs to me to ask for help.
Most times when my husband sees me multi-tasking like a madwoman in the kitchen, he will offer to alleviate the burden. “What do you need help with?” he’ll ask. My husband is very capable (and ruggedly handsome), so you’d think I’d hand off a task or two to him; instead, I usually snap back that I’m fine. He’ll then retreat to another room to avoid being in my way in our tiny kitchen. Eventually, the juggle will become too much for me–something will boil over in my frantic clumsiness and anger moves in like a midwestern thunderstorm as I quickly forget my husband’s offer to help.
I’ve got a feeling I’m not the only woman who tries to take on the burden of parenting and running a home all on her own. Women are a strong, resilient breed of people. My mother and my grandmothers taught me the value of hard work by simply demonstrating it in their own homes. For much of my childhood, my mother worked an often difficult full-time job caring for adults with developmental disabilities. She managed to juggle long hours working with shuttling my brother and me to baseball, softball, wrestling, gymnastics, volleyball, football, and track; oftentimes she even coached us in these activities. On top of this, my mom cooked and cleaned and managed to have a social life. Much of me wants to emulate this work ethic for my own kids, but I’m learning there is also strength in asking for help. I’ve read a lot of blog posts, articles, and books lately calling for mothers, in particular, to help one another out. But wives, what if we relied on our husbands to help us? What could they do if we accepted their offer to help?
You see, I’m lying when I tell my husband that I’m fine, and he knows I’m lying because he is the one person in my life who knows me best. When I turn down his offers to help too many times, eventually he may stop offering. Perhaps my husband will begin to think he is not competent enough to help me. So why do I turn down his offers to help? For me, it’s 10% related to wanting to be strong and 90% due to the fact that I love control. It’s true. I like to be in control of how my floors are swept, how my kids are dressed, what we eat for meals, etc. Maybe you can relate. When I take a step back, though, and think about my need to control, I am ashamed at my narcissism. It is rather selfish (and ridiculous) of me to think that only I can cook meals or pack the kids’ lunches.
How would our homes change if we accepted our husband’s offers to help us? I know it’s difficult to let go of the control, but maybe we can look at life through a wider lens. Does it matter how our husband sweeps the floor if it ends up clean? Does our daughter’s hair have to be perfectly poised if she is healthy and happy? And what are we teaching our kids and husbands when we turn down these offers? What are we doing to our marriage? Accepting help from our spouse does not mean we are weak; rather, there seems to be a kind of quiet strength apparent in accepting help from others. This kind of strength will save us from multitasking meltdowns; it will teach our kids that it’s okay to ask for assistance, and it could strengthen our marriage as we achieve balance and learn to work together.