My mom was doing me a solid today and watching my 18 month old while I had a doctor’s appointment and a dentist appointment. This is not an uncommon occurrence. That is, my mom watching my children, not the whole doctor situation. After I got home and my mom was getting ready to leave she apologized for not unloading my dishwasher.
Yea. She apologized for not unloading MY dishwasher filled with dishes made by MY family that had been run the previous evening. I told her not to be silly and that she isn’t there to clean my house but to spend time with the kids. Her reply, as she was cleaning up from making my daughter lunch, was something along the lines of “Yes I know, but I like to help. I know it’s appreciated and I know how hard it is to be a busy mother.”
Thanks mom. No really, thank you.
This got me thinking. How many times had she offered help in the past with things like this and how many times did I say no? I mean I know she does this stuff here and there without asking (because now I think she knows me better than to ask) and you bet I am super appreciative, but how many times have I said no? The answer is a lot.
I think back to the time when my four year old was born. My mother had checked with her job and had gotten FMLA approved and was ready to take it to help me if needed. I can’t tell you why but this annoyed me. I think I took it personally like she thought I couldn’t do it or something. Silly Silly Laura. I said no.
I said no to offers to clean the house. I said no to offers to do the laundry. I said no to food after awhile. I said no to offers to do the dishes. I said no to any offer that in any way could help me.
Why you may ask? Uhhh, because I am stubborn to a fault and had something to prove to myself.
When my second came along I knew better. I said yes to offers of food. I said yes to offers of sitting with the baby so I could go get my nails done. I said yes to sitting with the baby so I could nap. But there were things that still I said no to. Like laundry, dishes, and cleaning.
Its not like these things didn’t stress me out – of course they did. I just have a very difficult time giving up control.
I know without a doubt that this inability to give up control during both of my postpartum periods contributed to my anxiety levels and feelings of isolation. Not only did I feel alone, but I made sure that I was too.
And my mom wasn’t the only person I said no to. I said no to friends if they offered to push the stroller while on a walk, I said no to friends offering to clean, I said no to anyone that could offer me even the slightest bit of relief.
I wonder how things may have been different if I had been better at accepting help. I guess I don’t want people to feel like they have to help or that I am expecting it…which is silly, I know, they aren’t offering because they feel like they have to!
So to the mom out there who is like me – who says no when she should be saying yes – let’s say yes together. You may not have your mom close by (which I am eternally grateful for) but if you have just even one person, including your partner or spouse, say yes when they offer help. Say yes when they offer relief. Say yes to these tiny moments where you are able to focus on one thing at a time, or walk without pushing a stroller, or change one less poopie diaper, or eat your meal without a child attached to you, or eat a meal you didn’t have to cook.
When we talk about supporting the postpartum mother and utilizing your support system during this time, this is your area to do the work. This is where you need to let go of a tiny bit of control. Not too much, I know it can be overwhelming, but just a little bit.
There is no medal for the moms who didn’t accept the help. There is no prize at the end. There are just long days and longer nights as your feelings of isolation and discontent grow.
One day I will thank my parents the way that I think they deserve. One day, I hope to give them the same feeling of being cared for and let them know that all they have done and are doing is appreciated. Even more, I hope to be able to offer this help to my daughters if they choose to become mothers themselves one day. Because like my mother, I will know.
In the meantime though, I will say yes.