I’ve been writing some posts about managing stress and being overtaxed as parents – particularly as working mothers – in the past few weeks.
One common thread I find with those who have responded with ideas about how to destress, at least a little, is this: Find some help.
As mothers we tend to feel we need to do it ‘all.’
By all I don’t mean simply working and then going home and making sure the children are bathed: I mean cooking, cleaning, dusting, trimming the trees in the yard, running kids to and from games and practices, volunteering for PTA activities, baking cookies for a bake sale, coaching T-Ball, and so on and so forth.
Doing it all means working to collapse.
And many times, it means doing it alone.
For some reasons, mothers today feel the need to handle everything solo – no help from family, friends, the community, or our significant others.
We feel we are the only ones who can do what needs to be done, and we should be able to handle it or we are inferior (to what, I’m still not sure?) We don’t ask for help – that would mean we can’t handle it. Instead, we continue to charge forward until, oftentimes, we collapse.
Where did this idea come from, that we alone have to do it all?
I had a great conversation with a friend of mine who spent some time teaching in Africa.
There, she said, the women work together in a community to raise the kids. You would never think twice about sending your child to a friend’s house, who would also have other children over, while you went out to take care of something.
You would never think twice to pitch in and make a meal for others, so someone could have a night of cooking off – and this, too, would be done for you. Women worked together, helping one another, easing some of the stress.
These things were done without thought. It didn’t mean you were weak, to accept help; it meant you could be stronger.
We mothers in the US often see asking for help a sign of weakness, but why?
My friend was surprised when, after having children, she returned to the states to raise them. She expected the same type of community help since she was moving close to friends and fmaily, and yet instead she experienced a high sense of isolation. This led to feelings of being overwhelmed, since she had a young daughter and a newborn. Suddenly no one stopped by to help, and she was doing it all on her own. The sense of community was gone, and she was isolated and on her own.
Since moving to the east coast, away from friends who were eager to swap childcare so we could each have some quiet time to get things done, or just to recharge and renew, I’ve experienced the same thing. It is tough to make this transition with two young children. And suddenly I feel strange asking for help – or offering help – and I’m not sure why.
As working mothers, we must make this a priority. Asking for help does not make us weaker – it helps us grow stronger. It gives us a renewed sense of self. It alleviates some of the stress of having to ‘do it all.’ It gives us a support system with whom we can talk and share.
If you feel overwhelmed right now, do you have help? Do you have a support group of friends or family members to whom you can turn, share duties, express your frustrations and joys?
If you don’t have one, why? Is it because you aren’t asking, aren’t offering, or a little of both? Are you feeling strange about requesting help, even from the people who love you most?
Reaching out is tough, but it is a necessity. Things you can do to create a support system include:
- Begin a mom’s group in your area, or join one – just get together with some ladies a few times a month, allow kids time to play (older kids may not be interested, but you never know!), discuss your frustrations and triumphs, share recipes, share secrets and tips for getting things done.
- Help each other out with meals. Cooking is time consuming, but if you can create a large pan of lasagna and share it with a friend, who in turn can do this for you, even once a month, you’ve saved a night or two of cooking a meal!
- Child swap. No, don’t give them away for good, but you take someone’s child(ren) for a few hours so she can have time to destress or get things done without having to do the childcare at the same time, and then swap. Free babysitting, kids are entertained, and what we have found by doing this is even the person watching the children is able to get a few things done since the kids have someone to entertain.
- Let go of the idea that you can do it all. Really, you can’t, and that’s okay!