Note: Weather issues and achy joints and muscles demanded that I postpone my garden fencing project. So that post will, hopefully, fingers crossed, happen next week.
You do so much as scan the internet a tiny bit these days and you will come across someone recommending that you should “take care of yourself” or don’t forget about “self-care.”
Okay, I’m going to be up front. Last night I had a total meltdown. Tears to fill a lake, screaming, stuttering, and pretty much not making any sense, because I kept having to start over at the beginning of an explanation. Desperately trying to explain myself, but just making it worse. It wasn’t anything terribly important, I was only trying to tell my husband that I had come up with a way to fix a hard water issue we have been having with the dishwasher. Nothing traumatic. Really.
I had had a very busy day. Not everything went quite as planned, but again, nothing life altering. Except maybe running out of printer ink. Don’t ya know? Homeschoolers cannot run out of printer ink! Just kidding. It wasn’t anything specific. It was everything. Overwhelm was crushing me. Things have just been piling up. So much to do! As a mother, (and from what I hear I’m not alone in this) I do too much. Followed by not ever asking for help. I cannot seem to help myself.
My sweetheart of a husband tried gently reminding me that I can ask for help. Also, that I don’t have to get everything done on a ridiculous timeline. Those timelines are all my own. No one put them on me, but me. This wasn’t the first time that this has happened. It probably won’t be the last. Still, I want to do something, so that I am not so darn sensitive.
Learning to ask for help is hard. When I was younger, and my children were small I did ask for help. Just a couple of times. Now, I didn’t ask for help unless I could not see any other way. On one occasion I needed to have a surgery. I wanted to wait, but my doctor insisted that it was an emergency. Those gallstones were not going to give me any peace until they were removed. I needed someone to watch my children for three whole hours. Not a whole day, not over night. I asked several people. Every single one said no. Two of them called me a hypochondriac. I was “young and healthy,” so why on earth did I need surgery?! I had to wait more than three months before I could have the surgery. My husband was in military training at the time in another city. My children and I drove to his graduation and drove back, 12 or 13 hours total of driving. The next morning I had my surgery while my husband cared for our children.
We packed up our house and moved to my husband’s first duty station three days later. Yep, right after I had my shredded gallbladder removed. My husband was asking me last night what I can do to better take care of myself, other than asking for help when I need it, of course. I really got me thinking I should jump on the self-care bandwagon. I wish it was that simple.
We live in this society that insists that women should be super heroes. Every. Single. Day. But really should we? Why is so much expected of us? Work hard at a career, care for our children, have a home that looks like it came out of a magazine, be the perfect wife, and have a stellar social life to top it all off. That list makes me tired just thinking about it. And asking for help? Those that do are seen as weak. Even as users or lazy. I can count on one hand how many times I have asked for help and I have gotten those responses. That is insane! Why do we as a society treat people like this? Why do we treat ourselves like this? Something has got to change.
Life can be tough sometimes. Sometimes we need help. It could be just as simple as needing a cup of sugar without running out to the store. Who knows their neighbors well enough or feel comfortable enough to ask? Not many of us. Asking for help could be something much more complicated. Would you feel safe enough to ask a friend to watch your sick child, because you cannot miss work? Do you feel like that is too much to ask? How about the other side of that equation? Would you watch a sick child of a friend on a moments notice, because the babysitter refused? Would you feel like your friend was asking too much of you?
As mothers and homemakers especially, we have opportunities to help friends, neighbors, and family when they are in need. We need to reexamine our thoughts when these things come up. Are we assuming that the person asking for help is taking advantage or doesn’t really need your help? If so, change that thought to one of gratitude that you are trusted and appreciated enough for the person to ask you. What an honor! If you have friends and family that would not hesitate to aid you when you are in need, how blessed you are! Honor them and take great care of those relationships. Do what you can for them and ask when you need to.
Many mothers work day in and day out without enough interaction with others. Sure they may have friends and family, but the day to day work is done alone. Maybe it is inter-spaced with play dates and children’s activities, but it’s not enough. Our culture encourages loneliness and over work. We need to find a way for more community cultivation. Mothers and really everyone need community, we need connection and trust. How long has it been since mothers would gather during the day while children played and they worked together instead of just talking? I have never seen it in my life, only heard stories of past generations.
Care and connection can be built one human interaction at a time. Be kind. Show concern, help when you can, and question your cultural baggage. I am. I am finding that jumping to assumptions about people isn’t helpful. If you can’t help, that’s okay. You can still smile and be kind. Even the most simple interactions influence both people. It will spread. All we have to do is try. This is simply creating a new habit (or enforcing an old one). It’s your choice.
I haven’t been in my current city very long. We just moved into our new house in December, but I hope to get out into my community and meet people. Get involved and offer my help where I can. I am hoping that I can find a group of like minded women that would love to get together for quilting bees and canning and other homemaking fun. Why not build relationships while working together and sharing talents!