My sister called me this morning.
Her husband was discharged from hospital last night after an operation to have half his insides removed following a diagnosis of bladder cancer.
Instead of asking “Can you help me a couple of days next week while I’m at work?”, she asked “What would I need to pay the lady who helps you if she is available to give me a hand?”.
Wrong question!! As a busy mother with a full-time job, what she really wanted, and absolutely needed, was a family member to come and just be at her home for her husband while she was at work.
Yes, I would do this at the drop of a hat! And if I couldn’t be there the whole time, I’d recruit another family member to stand in. That’s what families do.
Why then is it so hard to ask for help? My sister has never had a better card to play in that department than she does now, and it is a card we all hope never to hold.
I can identify entirely though with her struggle in reaching out for help. Our youngest child was born with severe disabilities yet I could count on one hand the number of times I’d asked family members to help us with her.
Why do we find it so hard to ask for help when we need it? Is it the planning required? Is it the risk of feeling beholden to another person? Is it that we don’t think anyone can do it like we can ourselves?
For whatever reason, many of us find it difficult to know when to ask for help and, then, how to clearly spell out what help we need. We send signals perhaps, drop hints, and then expect others to pick up on those.
Worse still, if you’re like me, you might resent it when family members do not pick up on your muted signals and offer to help. I remember dying for someone to offer to take the kids early in the morning when we were on a shared family holiday so I could enjoy just one morning’s sleep-in! Remember them? A dim memory I’m sure for parents with young children. But did I think to ask for help? My pride held me back. To ask for help means we are not perfect and far be it from me to expose that I am not coping.
Getting back to my conversation with my sister though, we spent the first five minutes of the call discussing rates and availability before it dawned on me to cut through all that and take the responsibility out of her hands. I felt good knowing there was one thing I could do to help, and she was relieved knowing that one part of the messy life she is currently leading was in order.
So, save yourself the sleepless nights wondering how you’re going to juggle it all. Write a list of what help you need and who might be able to help. Be precise in describing what help you need and when you need it. You may be surprised!