Asking for help...Why is it so hard?
It can be hard to ask for help when you are a new parent. There is something about acknowledging the challenges of parenting that can create conflicting feelings. You might think you should know how to do it without struggle or difficulty, but you might also feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Asking for help isn’t easy, but in the long run, it is an investment in your health and well-being, for you and your family.
Even when help is offered it can sometimes be difficult to accept. You might be quick to say “Oh, that’s ok. I’m doing fine. I’ve got this. I don’t want to trouble you.” You might feel embarrassed or lacking in some way and that can keep you feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
I think it’s time to change this pattern and view needing help as a sign of awareness and strength. It’s an act of courage. It’s a way of saying I’m willing to learn, and I want to do what I can to be the best parent I can be. It’s time to re-frame asking for help so you can claim your needs as important and valid.
Taking care of someone else’s needs (your baby’s) does not mean your needs should go on the shelf never to be taken down again. You can’t put your need for rest and sleep on the back burner for very long before your own reserves get depleted.
Here are some suggestions for ways to make asking for help easier:
1. First, recognize what it feels like when you are depleted. You might get cranky, or spacey, or teary. Or all of the above. When you can be honest with yourself about what you are feeling it is easier to do something about it.
2. Use proactive statements like“I could really use a hand with the laundry”. Or, “I’m feeling very tired and need to lie down. Could you hold the baby (watch my older child(ren) while I rest?” Or, “I just need to talk. I don’t need suggestions or advice.” Or,“I would love it if you could bring over something for me (us) to eat. I can’t think about what to make right now.”
3. Make a list of the things that you would most like help with and pass it on to your friends and family. They will be so grateful you made it easier for them to help!
4. Find other parents in your community to meet with and talk to. Online forums are good sometimes, but there is something about gathering in person with others that can keep you from feeling you are doing this alone.
5. Find time each day to: go outside, take a shower, eat something healthy and fresh at regular intervals throughout the day, lie down and rest (you don’t have to sleep), listen to music, move your body, stay hydrated. None of these things will take away all your struggles, but they might help you gain some much-needed perspective.
6. Reaching out to a paid professional can sometimes be the best way to go. Knowing that person is there to help you through a tough transition can make all the difference. Hiring a postpartum doula, a newborn care specialist, a night nanny, a therapist, and/or a sleep consultant can go a long way to helping you feel more rested and able to meet the day to day ups and downs of early parenting.
7. Sometimes the best thing you can do is let yourself cry. Crying can help release tension, which may be keeping you from seeing the bigger picture. Of course, if you can’t stop crying, then it’s time to seek support from a professional who can help you find your feet again. There’s no shame in this. It is an act of courage that will benefit your children. You are modeling for your kids what it looks like to receive support and help when needed. This is a good thing.
Asking for help isn’t easy, but like anything else that’s hard but worth doing, it gets easier with practice. Let’s continue to find ways to re-frame how we think about asking for help so we can all feel more supported and rested, and ready to take on the challenges, and revel in the joy of early parenting.