I am standing in my living room, with my wailing newborn tucked into the crook of one arm and a toothbrush, loaded with toothpaste in my other hand. The toothbrush is not mine. It’s for my 3-year old, who is still downstairs sitting defiantly on the couch, unwilling to go upstairs to bed. I’m waving the toothbrush at her, begging her to brush her teeth while my newborn is crying even louder and thrashing a bit on my arm. I’m trying not to drop him, but also I also need my older child to get ready for bed because it’s time. I’m tired. It’s been a long day. If at least one of them could go to bed, things would likely be slightly easier. However, I know the baby needs boob. He wants to be nursed. I could ask my husband to help with our daughter, but I am determined to do it all myself, dammit. I can nurse one and brush the teeth of the other simultaneously, right?
If you’re a mom and you’re reading this, raise your hand if you’ve fallen into this trap, too.
The “I can do everything. I am a mom. I am all that is woman. Hear me roar,” trap.
There are very few of us who haven’t fallen for this “Supermom” siren song at some point or another, if not every single day of our lives.
Why is that?
Why are moms so unwilling to ask for help when we need it?
I believe the answer is twofold.
The first reason is personal.
I don’t like to ask for help. I pride myself on my independence and resourcefulness. I am stubborn to a fault. While I’m not averse to collaborating with someone else to create something that is successful or powerful, I don’t like relying on someone else for my success.
The second reason is a little bit bigger.
Women have worked really hard to prove themselves equal to men. Not that this should have been necessary, but in order to gain access to the same benefits as men (which we are still not yet receiving), women have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their abilities are no different than our male counterparts.
We’ve gone so far, however, that if we give even an inch, that progress can be stripped away more quickly than it was gained.
Anytime a woman asks for help, especially in a professional situation, the simple request for assistance is looked at as a sign of weakness and inability.
As a mom, this can cut even deeper.
Recently, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, wife of current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was publically criticized when she stated that in order to serve the people of Canada more fully, she needed help. Her statement was simply that as a mom of 3 young kids, she needed a bigger team of people to help her help others in an official capacity as the wife of the Canadian PM.
Instead of being grateful at her desire to serve and support Canadians more, many people lashed out at her, calling her entitled and disconnected from “reality that Canadian women face.”
Thankfully, some others stepped to her defense, but this is a common issue that moms face.
The criticism of Sophie Trudeau struck a nerve with me.
Parenting is rarely considered to be an actual job.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the perception is that all you’re doing is raising and caring for your kids. You’re not getting paid for it. You’re not contributing to society by running errands, making meals for your children, ferrying them to various activities or appointments, and cleaning the house. At least not as much as someone who is gainfully employed.
If you’re a work-at-home mom, like I am, you’re faced with the double-edged reality of wanting to spend time with your kids but also needing to get work done. The expectations are high to do good quality work while also raising well-adjusted kids who aren’t glued to the TV 24/7, thoroughly love the outdoors, and are capable of entertaining themselves for hours with little more than pots, pans, a ball of yarn, and popsicle sticks.
I feel like I have 3 jobs and all of them are dependent upon my ability to do extreme multitasking in order to succeed.
Working mamas face their own set of issues around trying to do it all as a mom and a professional woman.
None of the mamas are excluded from this “I can and need to do it all” mantra.
If the wife of Canada’s beloved Prime Minister can be attacked over something as simple as asking for help as the mother of 3 children, the door is wide open for the rest of us.
I’m not the wife of the Prime Minister of Canada and I only have 2 kids, but lately I’ve been realizing that getting help would not only make my life smoother, but far less stressful. In my professional life, I have a Virtual Assistant who I delegate work to and having her take some of the less enjoyable tasks off my hands makes my job easier.
Lately, I’ve learned that asking for and accepting help is a healthy part of parenting. I’m not supermom. Neither is Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. None of us moms are, even though some appear to be more supernaturally gifted at the many daily tasks of motherhood. I’ve gotten better at asking for help when I know that trying to do 5 things at once would be too much and would likely cause me to do all of them poorly.
I’ve gotten better at saying “yes, please help” and “thank you”, when accepting support.
I’ve gotten less resistant to reaching out.
Sometimes the old impulse to do it all rises up, like it did the other night with the tooth-brushing/nursing incident.
Most days though, I am learning that asking for help doesn’t make me weak. It makes me stronger.
After all, even the greatest superheroes aren’t actually going it alone. Every superhero has an Alfred or a Giles or a Dumbledore they can call on whenever they need help. Honestly, the best superheroes usually have an entire posse of friends they rely on all the time to help them solve problems and fight the baddies.
If you want to be a real “supermom,” know who you can count on for support. Make the conscious choice to ask them for help before the shit hits the fan. Don’t beat yourself up for asking. And make sure to return the favor when your fellow mamas are in need.
We’re better when we lift one another up, mamas; let’s not waste time tearing one another down.
Everyone needs help sometimes. And there should be no shame in asking for help when you need it.