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Fairly recently, we were all out to dinner at a local mexican restaurant. We had moved and were still getting into a routine at home, completing the unpacking process, and all that goes along with moving. While we were out, Baby decided that he was going to be fussy. Now, going out as a family isn’t new, we’ve been doing that since he was a wee little one (think 1 week old). That’s the kind of family we are, we didn’t stay in just because, we went on with life and Baby was included. Back to this post though. Hun was quickly attempting to scarf his food down like an animal, while I attempted to keep Baby somewhat entertained and maybe eat a bite or two one-handed. A kind woman from two tables away came over to us and politely asked if she could help by holding him while we ate. Without thinking about it, I said “No, it’s ok. I said that he was being fussy and attempted to joke that he mustn’t like us eating mexican food.” The joke was ok and actually we’d just said that amongst ourselves in the moments before she asked if she could help. We all spoke for another minute or so. She revealed that she has young twin infants at home too. I congratulated her on her babies and wished her well. If I’m really honest, inside I wanted her to go away as soon as I’d told her the somewhat lie, “No, it’s ok.”
Fast forward to a couple weeks later and while I was finishing up folding clothes at the laundry, Baby decided that he’d actually been patient enough and it was time for him to eat and sleep. Baby wanted all of mommy’s attention and he wanted it 5 minutes ago, not in 10 minutes. A kind lady who is employed at the laundromat came up to me and asked if I needed any help or if she wanted me to hold Baby while I finished up. Well, again, without any thought, I immediately said, “No, it’s ok. He’s ok. I just have to get this stuff out to the car.” Meanwhile, Baby is fussing and sporadically crying, read: gearing up for full-blown crying episode. The nice lady sorta stood there nearby. Clearly I needed some help in some way, but I wasn’t taking it.
In retrospect of these two events, similar in that it was quite evident to others that yes, in fact, I might need a touch of help. So, I ask myself, why is it I didn’t let either of these two, seemingly harmless women, hold Baby for just a few moments? Take the woman at the restaurant, she was plainly in sight of our table, hence my watchful mama eyes. The woman was offered in a way that wasn’t at all intrusive, she was with one of her own children, and she seemed to understand our current dilemma. What about the lady at the laundromat who offered to hold the baby or help me get dried clothing out so I could get out of there? That lady was also attempting to provide me some much needed help while I was trying to skedaddle as fast as I could. This woman works there, was well within sight, and actually even closer than the woman from the restaurant. So what’s with me?
As I pondered this question, I came up with this:
I know it’s not any nervousness over letting a stranger hold Baby. I know it’s not fear that something terribly bad could happen to Baby in the span of a couple minutes while I’m right there. It’s also not because he’s mine and only I can take care of him. I know it’s not these things, especially the latter, because I will let people hold, touch, and care for him even if I’m not sure I trust them completely. Take some family members for instance, they may drink too much (or more aptly, they may be drunk), they may smoke, they maybe don’t agree with what we do as parents, and they may be people who are generally untrustworthy for other reasons. Yep, not much problem there. In fact, I allowed a few people that actually were essentially strangers to me (think in-law family that I can’t even remember their names) to hold Baby and they even took Baby out of my line of sight. See, so it’s not nervousness over strangers, fear of bad things happening, he’s mine, or even basic trust.
Nope, it’s much simpler than that. It’s also complicated. Not complicated in the way of trying to build a car engine without a manual, but complicated in the way that I tend to complicate my own matters sometimes. I don’t want others to notice I need help. It all goes back to my difficulty in asking for help. In fact, I wrote about this here. It seems that I still haven’t quite mastered this letting go and asking or accepting help problem I have.
When I have to ask or accept help, especially if it’s well warranted/needed help, I also have to admit that (you guessed it), I’m not perfect and/or I’m not handling a situation perfectly. In essence, it all boils down to my imperfection. Yep, I’m that kind of woman. And I’m now definitely that kind of mom. I’m the mom that thinks to herself and then leads herself to believe thatYes, I can handle it! I have it all under control and your help, kind person that you are, is not needed. So, there!(sticks out tongue like a young child) Oh yeah, that’s very mature, I know – Not!
See, I have this lie I tell myself on occasion (or maybe more days than not) that I can handle it, I’ve got it together, and I can do it! Now, I’m sure many moms tell themselves something like this on occasion. The problem is when I tell myself this so much that I begin to believe it and then I act as if I’ve got it all together and therefore when someone offers to help me (especially when I need it, mind you), then I’m totally shocked and surprised. Yes, surprise is often what I feel in these moments. Surprise that someone noticed me and the fact that I might possibly use some assistance.
It’s also quite the indication that, yes, I do need help. But to accept that help is about like admitting I’m a failure. Oh, so she’s that kind of mom too, you say. Yep, that appears to be the case. I am the mom who feels enough like a failure that for someone to notice that I might need a bit of help is akin to admitting openly that yes, I am failing at this mom thing.
But, where does all this come from? Does it come solely from me or are there messages that I am/have received which account for a feeling of failure? Well, there are messages all around. There are messages about what motherhood is, what it’s supposed to be, what mothers should/not be doing, how their babies should/not be doing. Not to mention all of the messages I receive about simply being a woman and being a woman that is successful in life. It’s an endless cycle of “this is what is supposed to be happening in your life and if anything outside of this is happening, then you’re not measuring up and you need to change what you’re doing so that you can get to this undefined point and then you’d be successful”.
Now what to do. Well, being aware isn’t quite enough. Being mindful is. Now, it is my goal to be more mindful of this cycle and how it affects my life. Now, when someone comes up to me when I clearly need help, instead of not thinking about the situation and the difficulty I’m having before answering, I will say, “Yes, actually that would be helpful. Thank you for offering.” I will be gracious of the offer and grateful of someone’s kindness. I’m no longer going to be blinded by my own suffering, if you will. Instead I will acknowledge that someone is sincerely offering to help, because this motherhood thing really isn’t all that easy, and I will allow them the gift of helping. By doing so, I’m not only helping my situation, I may be helping that person, and I know I’ll be teaching Baby a few things about kindness and compassion and the acceptance of kindness and compassion, as well.