In a former life, I had a *grand* picture of what I would someday “look like” as a mom: put-together, calm, organized, and level-headed. In a word, I would be self-sufficient.
Yeah, that picture disappeared pretty much the day I brought my son home from the hospital.
I love being a mom, but honestly, I’m far from the put-together image I once imagined. Mostly, you’ll find me wearing my gym clothes with two screaming toddlers and bags under my eyes. I’m pretty sure Target employees hide when they see us coming. My husband came home last night to me, sprawled out on the living room floor, surrounded by the mess of the day, my pregnant belly being used as a car ramp and my legs being used as a jungle gym. I hadn’t showered and dinner was nowhere near done.
My self-sufficiency is often…less than sufficient.
When our twins arrive, we will have four children ages three and under. With the news of our expanding family, several friends have generously offered to “help out with whatever we need.” My husband keeps reminding me that I’m going to need to take them up on their offers. I’m not going to lie, as grateful as I am, this has been REALLY hard for me.
I shouldn’t need help. This is my family. My problem. I need to handle it MYSELF.
Even throughout this pregnancy, accepting help has been extremely difficult. I have countless doctors appointments and I hate having to ask friends to watch my other kids during those times. I’ve been more exhausted than I care to admit and with some of my physical limitations, my husband has had to take on some of “my duties” around the house. I LOVE him for it, but I find myself embarrassed that it had to come to that. A family from our church brought us a generous bag of groceries the other evening and while I was so grateful, I felt guilty, too.
A friend asked me several weeks ago, “Why is it so hard for you to accept help?“
And, there’s a laundry list of reasons I could give her:
“I’m a giver. I’d rather be helping other people than allowing them to help me.”
“Everyone has stuff they need. Why focus on me?”
“I don’t want people to feel “taken advantage of” – there’s just no way I can repay them right now!”
“I can do it myself.”
Right on cue, I found myself at Papa Murphy’s a few days later. My husband was running late and called to ask if I could swing by and pick up the pizzas for a meeting we were hosting that night. No big deal, right? However, as I stood there watching them assemble the four pizzas and two tubs of cookie dough my husband ordered, Princess on my hip and Buddy Bear running amuck in the restaurant, I had the sudden realization I didn’t have enough hands. Shoot.
Just then, I spotted an older couple heading toward the entrance. I attempted to open the door for them, but in my fumbling, the shuffling gentleman beat me to it. He was obviously unsteady, slow-moving, but still independent. To my embarrassment, Buddy Bear dashed toward the door as they cautiously navigated over the stoop, almost knocking them over. I reprimanded him, apologized for his behavior, and shifted Princess on my hip as I reached toward the pizzas, which I’d determined to balance on my growing belly.
At that moment, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the little old man. He motioned for me to stop, then said, “Let me help you.” Stunned, I watched him slowly and carefully pick up the tower of pizzas and cookie dough. He shuffled, slowly but surely toward the door as his wife held it open for him. I was so embarrassed. It was I who should be helping him, but my hands are full, my energies drained, and he had beaten me to it. Buddy Bear looked up and asked in his curious three-year-old voice, “Why are you helping my mommy?” The man smiled and looked kindly upon my son, replying gently, “I bet your mama helps you all the time. Someday, she’ll probably be helping me, too. But today, your mama needs help.“
My embarrassment melted to gratitude as the man turned and shuffled back into Papa Murphy’s. As I drove home, I remembered my list of reasons it’s difficult to accept help, and I realized none of them were as noble as I would like to believe. Rather, in all honesty, I don’t like to receive help because I’m proud. Plain and simple. I’m afraid that accepting help makes me needy, weak, fragile, and unequipped to mother my children. Accepting help blows my “self-sufficient mom” cover.
But y’all, we ALL need help from time to time. Whoever said we had to do it all alone? I’m reminded that asking for or receiving help is NOT a sign of weakness, rather it’s a sign of strength, knowing your limitations, and humility. And often, in this very short season of motherhood, we really do need help.
And that’s okay.
Because someday, we’ll see a mama so busy helping her small children in Papa Murphy’s, her hands will be full. But ours will be free. And in that sweet moment, we can help her to realize that every mama needs help from time to time.