I’ve often felt that modern motherhood can be pretty isolating. Talk to any woman and she’ll tell you that it can be a lonely road, and a challenge to make friends in the beginning of the journey. People often muse that we’ve lost the “village”- the female friends and relatives that live in close proximity and are constantly ready to pitch in to help. And this is probably partially true. But sometimes I wonder.
Because I know lots of people who live with their parents in close proximity, some friends on their block, and even grandparents and great-grandparents who are happy to help with whatever they need. And still- feelings of loneliness and isolation. This happens to the best of us.
I’ve certainly felt this way, which is why I’ve been giving it some thought. The thing is… even for those of us who are surrounded by people willing to help and love our families, there is a step we have to take first. We have to let them help. We have to respond to their offers with, “Yes. Thank you.”
“Yes, it would be great if you could bring over a dinner.”
“Yes, I’d really appreciate you watching the kids for a bit so I can have some time alone.”
“Yes, it’d be great if you swung by and helped me fold my laundry and share a cup of tea.”
“Yes, please, I DO actually need a shoulder to cry on. Grab the tissues.”
“Yes, we actually really could use prayers right now.”
How often do we really say yes to people who want to help us? Not often enough. Either we don’t think people would really want to help us (they do!) or we don’t want people to think we need help (I mean, we all want to feel like superwoman, but at what cost!?) or we don’t think we’re worthy of the help.
Guys, I do this all the time. I turn down help all the time because I feel I don’t need it. And maybe I don’t. I could technically do it myself. But why? Why would I choose to do it all by myself when I could do it with the help of my friends and family and sometimes even strangers? And there lies the key. If we want to build up a village around us, we have to not only offer help, but accept help.
Right after Miriam was born, a friend offered to set up a meal train for us while we adjusted to our new addition and I recovered. My first reaction was to write back, “Oh, that’s so sweet of you, but I think we’ll be ok.” I felt a little guilty accepting this help when I knew that all the other women in my life have so much on their own plates- more kids than I have, full-time jobs outside the home, etc. And we would have been ok. I felt fine and no one would have starved. I could have made it happen.
But then I stopped, took a breath, and decided that maybe this time, I would just gracefully accept the help. Just let go of my pride or guilt or whatever it is that keeps me from accepting it usually, and say, “Yes. That would be great. THANK YOU.”
And you know what? It was glorious. Not just because I didn’t have to worry about dinner for a few weeks. Not just because I didn’t have to stand over a pot of mac n’ cheese at 5 pm while everyone was losing their ever-lovin’ minds. Not just because it took a little pressure off so I could really savor the first month of my baby girl’s life. It was wonderful because every other day or so, I had a friend stopping by my house, handing me a meal, giving me a hug, and in essence saying, “Hey, I care about you. I’m here when you need help. You can ask me for help and I will help you.” And can I tell you? As a person who struggles to ask for and accept help, it was a revelation to me. The meals were great, but the love I felt from my friends (and even a few people I didn’t know all that well) was like a balm to my hormonal-laden, tired, emotional soul.
I had always thought that if I wanted to build a community around myself, I had to be prepared to serve. But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s just as important to allow yourself to be served. By letting go of some of my pride and admitting that I need help, I was given a glimpse of how loved I am by the people around me, which is a pretty special gift. I honestly feel embarrassed at how little I allowed others to love me and to serve me over the years, and to accept their love wholeheartedly and without reservation. I’m not talking about the safe people- like my husband or my parents- the people who I somehow feel are obligated to love me and are therefore “safe bets” to ask for help. But how many friends have I, unthinking, kept at an arms’ length by refusing offers of help. By essentially saying, “No, I don’t need you. I can do it on my own.”
On the flip side, I’ve had a few friends ask me for help with little things now and then, and I always have felt so honored that they felt comfortable enough with me to ask for help, and genuinely happy to do whatever I can for them. Why do I deny that to others? Even Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet, let Mary pour perfume on his own feet and dry them with her hair. He showed us now to serve, but also how to be served. Because often, by allowing others to serve you, you are blessing them just as abundantly as they are blessing you.
So today, do one less thing on your own. Take someone up on their offer of help. Call someone and ask for help. You will be blessing them abundantly. And you might even get a casserole or some folded laundry out of it.