Last night a friend surprised me by showing up at my door at the end of a terrible day (think needing to recruit friends to help you drag your four screaming children out of church). She came with treats, helped me put my kids to bed, cleaned up my house while I nursed the baby, and offered to hang out, all while missing an outing with our friends. She showed up unannounced because she knew I would’ve told her not to come. She cleaned quickly while I was upstairs so I couldn’t tell her not to bother. And when she offered to stay and hang out instead of meeting up with our friends, she said, “Don’t just say no!” before I could get the “no” out.
As moms, our first instinct is to turn down an offer of help. I don’t know if you would call it a societal norm or an unspoken rule, but “no” just seems to pop out of everyone’s mouths. Accepting help seems to admit weakness while placing an unacceptable burden on someone else. It took having three children under the age of 18 months to quit automatically saying no to offers of help and to realize that it’s okay to say yes.
It’s been a challenge, but in the last few years, I have accepted a lot of help from a lot of different people. From lengthy family visits to help me with the kids, to meals, to babysitting, to boxes of hand-me-downs to free haircuts, I have been the grateful recipient of so much generosity from friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers. And I’ve learned a few things about why saying “yes” to an offer of help is important for EVERYONE.
By accepting help from someone, you receive whatever she is offering, which is great! But when you say “yes,” you also get a lot more. First, you get an opportunity to grow in humility. You are admitting to another human being that you can’t do it alone. That takes a big chunk out of the ol’ pride. We moms want to feel like we can do it all, but it’s good for us to admit that we can’t, and it’s also good for other people to see that everyone needs a little help from time to time. (Maybe they will have the courage to accept help next time they really need it, too!)
Accepting help also allows us to appreciate the goodness of other people. After the birth of #4, a friend with three kids of her own asked to take my older kids for the day. I was a button push away from texting, "No thanks" back to her when I stopped, reminded myself that it's okay to say yes, and took her up on it. She picked up my kids in their jammies the next morning - bringing me coffee, blueberries, and a meal for later - and brought my kids home and freshly washed for bed at the end of the day. I was amazed to the point of tears that someone could be so kind. Marveling at the goodness of another human being brightens the soul and keeps bitterness away. It also inspires us to pay it forward, which is beneficial to the whole world.
Finally, believe it or not, letting someone help you is a gift to them. I can’t tell you how many times people have thanked me for letting them serve me (it’s shocking the first few times it happens). My uncle’s girlfriend (not even my biological or legal aunt) has flown into town to help me for a total of 8 weeks in the last 3 years. Every year when I try to thank her, she cries and thanks me for trusting her with my children. By saying yes, you are letting that person into your life a little or a lot, which allows that person to feel valuable and grow in the virtues of generosity, love and service to others. You never know how often another person is able to offer help. Rejecting an offer may rob a person of a rare opportunity to do something for another, or even discourage from offering again.
Since Catherine Pearl was quietly raised as the only child of well-established 30-something parents, she thought she would throw sanity to the wind by embracing four children under four in her twenties when the budget is small and the house is smaller. Baby #1 and the Twins were gestated and raised to toddlerhood while finishing her master’s degree (she had a full-ride so the Husband wouldn’t let her quit in a fit of morning sickness induced exhaustion). Currently Catherine spends her days enjoying a ridiculously easy Baby #4 (thank goodness!), taking kids 1-3 up to the bathroom 10,000x a day, and supporting a pretty great husband who’s got big aspirations with love and clean laundry.
Image Credit: David J Laporte