I’ve just spent two weeks sick, oh my god, since I’ve been a ‘grown up’, I can hardly think of any times that I’ve had to rest and recuperate for so long. Now once I got my head around it, I’ve really appreciated the experience, but initially it was blinking hard, because I had to ask for help so much. There were calls to neighbours, in-laws, friends, husbands having to work from home, and people paid to help out. I had to pathetically ask people to get me a drink, food, pills, or comfort my baby, just so that all of my energy was focussed on recovering, and I found it at times very distressing.
I had plenty of time to think about it too, and one day I spent a long time looking back and back, wondering why I hated it so much. Yesterday I read an interesting blog by AlphaMummy about the same sort of thing, and their discovery of a fab charity called Homestart who can help out when things get too difficult. It was suggested that it was a middle class thing to ‘just get on with it‘, and I must admit there was an element of that. After-all, someone who was upper-class or very rich, could just throw money at it and employ ‘staff’, and someone very poor can ask for benefits from the government (I know there is an element of generalisation here). Before I fell sick I emailed my local NCT yahoo group for ideas of how to cope or get help with the evening routine, now that I have 2 kids (no family of my own, no local in-laws, and husband working long hours). I got one lovely reply also mentioning Homestart, which was quickly followed by another reply from a Mum saying that Homestart was only for people with ‘real problems’, i.e. not available for ‘nice middle class’ families!
The question was, why did I find it so difficult to ask for help? What was at the root of it all, and what was the basic fear that was being triggered?
With some people it is the wish to be independent, or hate to show vulnerabilities or weaknesses, which I suspect many people would think was my reasoning, but it wasn’t. There might be a social aspect, where we don’t like to be considered a hypochondriac, or to be a burden on other people.
My parents had the same tendency. I remember nursing them throughout my summer holidays after my O Levels. Mum had broken her pelvis, and Dad was recovering from a heart attack. They could easily have paid for some help, or gone into hospital to recuperate. But instead they stayed at home and kept it quiet how ill they were. The downside was a very pissed off teenage daughter by the end of the holidays, who started smoking from the stress of it all; potentially not what they planned for!
The saddest story I’ve heard recently was of a young boy of 11yrs old, who waited in a corridor for a teacher, whilst having an asthma attack that he later died of. If this is the kind of potential ramifications of my not asking for help and passing on the same tendency to my children, then I definitely needed to get my head around the issue.
When I broke down my fear, I realised that the reason that I was so uncomfortable was because I could never be sure of people’s reactions. They could jump to my assistance with enthusiasm and willingness. Alternatively, there were bound to be times when they were plainly irritated, tired or could refuse or ignore my requests. The earliest memory I could find of not asking for help was as a 2yr old, in my attic bedroom, in the midst of a storm and absolutely terrified. Looking back it seems daft that I didn’t absolutely scream for help, but I didn’t. To be honest, it also seems weird that my parents hadn’t worked out how scared I would be. Instead I imagined an angel watching over me, and hid under my blankets until morning. It suggests that I was used to not getting an ‘ideal’ response when asking for things, or any response at all, and I had just basically given up.
So, I sat in bed an had a little chat to myself. I looked at the worst possible thing that could happen. People could think badly of me, they could think that I was weak, they could think that I was making it up, and they could refuse to help. But, I remembered that only 50% of the world will think like this, so there will also be people who think differently. They will enjoy being asked to help, or being paid to help, or knowing that I’m not perfect so they don’t have to try and live up to something impossible. Rather than focus on the reactions that I didn’t enjoy, I thought about the ones that had been supportive, helpful and comforting, because there were going to be as many of them as the negative ones. Some of the benefits of my being ill this time, were an much closer bond between my in-laws and my kids, which is really lovely to see. Plus I have a better understanding of my husband’s values and what his priorities are for a ‘happy home’, which is important as both of us have changed with the arrival of the 2nd child, and maybe it’s time for some adjustments in the way we live.
So I’m not going to run out into the world and ask for help all the time, because that extreme would be just as unhealthy. I’m going to try and ask for help half the time, and show my kids that it’s OK to sometimes need help and OK to sometimes be independent. Plus when my daughter screams in the car seat that she hates so much when taking my son too and from school, I will remind myself that it’s better that she lets me know (however horrid and uncomfortable for me that she is crying), than that she ‘just puts up with it’; hmmm, I might need to do a little more work on that one for it to not leave me feeling gutted each time, but it does feel a little better.
Do you find it difficult to ask for help? What is it you don’t like about it and WHY do you reckon that is?