I really don’t like asking for help. Part of me may even hate it a bit. I don’t know exactly why this is a challenge for me but I guess I can be a bit of a control freak about things ( I can imagine my husband laughing at these words when he reads this). Those who have worked with me in the business setting know this all to well and my family and friends have been exposed to my inability to just let other people help, do the work, give me a break, etc. It is certainly not that I think I can do it all….because I humbly admit that I cannot. It is not because I don’t trust other people to handle things or that I believe I am best suited for every project or parenting moment because many times I doubt my own ability at a given task. Lately, I have been doing some research on this issue to try and understand why it is so hard for me to just ask for HELP. This is certainly ironic considering how long it has taken us to get Charlie to ask for help in a variety of scenarios. He simply was unable or unwilling to admit his frustration and ask us to help him. We worked on this for a very long time and were first successful in getting Charlie to use the sign for help with him eventually saying the actual word (although we often still have to prompt him to say “HELP mom”). I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all…..
HELP or the idea of asking others for help really has become a four letter word for me personally. After doing some reading, it has become evident that there are a multitude of reasons why this is a challenge for me and it is not as simple as stating that I have a need to control things (the truth is I would love the option to control a lot less than is sometimes on my plate). At it’s core, asking for help has come to signify weakness, an admission of failure and an acknowledgement of my vulnerability. Admitting that I can’t do it all, that I am tired, frustrated, need a break, don’t know how to do something, am unsure of myself, or just have too much to deal with at a given moment has become one of my personal goals. What I have realized, however, is it is not just about asking for help but actually being able to accept help from others without feeling guilty or bad about myself. For way too long, I have held onto the belief that if I have to ask someone to help me than I am admitting that I cannot do something I should be able to do on my own.
After becoming a mother, I started to realize that it truly does take a village and that asking for help is a necessary survival technique. This was especially true while I was a full time working mom who traveled on business, worked long hours and had a demanding career. I felt guilty asking for help and it was very hard for me during that time. The interesting thing is that since I have become a full time mom, it has become ten times more difficult to ask for help because I now feel as though I truly should be able to do everything on my own – this is my job being a mom, I don’t work currently outside the home so shouldn’t I be able to do it all on my own every single day? This type of thinking definitely leads to burn-out and resentment (neither of which I want in my daily life) and it is crucial that we are all able to call in for reinforcements no matter what our specific circumstances may be.
Immersing myself in the world of special needs, autism, evaluations, IEP’s, ABA therapy, occupational and speech therapy and all of the other things we do with Charlie has really opened my eyes to how much I need help and need to be honest with those around me about how they can support our family. Seeing how much Charlie struggles with asking us for help with even the littlest things (and how frustrating it is for us as his parents who simply want to help him and support him) gives me a taste of my own medicine. I want to help him, I want to support him and I want to be able to work on things together with him. When he becomes too frustrated to let that happen, it makes me equally as frustrated and actually it can be hard for me to understand why he acts that way sometimes. How ironic is that statement? Thinking about it from that perspective, the one of the mom who just wants to help her son, makes me realize that those who are close to me are offering their support, time and help not because they feel obliged but because they truly care. They see that maybe I need a break or that maybe they can offer some guidance and insight based on their own training and perspective. Looking at it in this way, it seems downright silly to be concerned about all of the reasons why I hate asking for help. Of course there is a chance I could be rejected or feel vulnerable by asking someone to help me out; of course I may feel like a bit of a failure in some cases and based on my personality I doubt I will ever be able to let people help me without feeling as though I am burdening them in some way or another. But it is very important to let those who love us help us and to allow them to be a part of our lives even during the challenging times. We are currently in the process of engaging with a team of ABA behavioral therapists who will work with us at our home. I anticipate some anxiety and nervousness when they come to our house and I explain certain things that we need help with but realizing that these professionals have the tools and knowledge to help my husband and I deal with some difficult situations makes it easy to just say HELP (we can’t figure this out on our own).
Everyday my life throws challenges at me I have never encountered nor thought I would encounter as a parent. The stress of trying to learn as much as I can about autism, the worry over whether we are doing things right or what else is out there that we have not tried, the pure physical and emotional exhaustion of dealing with all of the aspects of our situation – they are not things a person should or could deal with alone. It truly does take a village and asking my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my family and friends, our babysitters, our therapists and teachers for help is crucial. Everyone has heard the quote about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping other people and at the ripe old age of 36 (almost 37) I believe I may finally be understanding what that is all about.
So here is to removing the negative connotations of this particular four letter word and trying to open myself up to asking and accepting HELP. If for no other reason than to be a role model for my son in showing him that it is completely acceptable to ask for help with something that is hard. If all else fails, I guess I could try using sign language like Charlie and it is kind of cool that this is something that he and I can work on it together!