If you're a doer, you'll want to read this one.
One of my biggest challenges as a mom early on was asking for help. In truth, sometimes it was dealing with the equally difficult occasional truth of not getting the help you asked for. When it was so.damn.hard. to ask in the first place. Hence I found myself not asking very much. So I sometimes felt torn when help was offered: should I accept and with that, also accept different ways of doing things or should I turn reject the help, fearing the worst possible outcomes? It went both ways in the early days with my daughter. But not anymore.
Now, when someone offers to help with Elisabeth, I take them up on it. My sister-in-law, Dorothea, for example. She and her husband don't have any children and are busy academics but they live close by and love Elisabeth. Dorothea offered a number of times even from the early days to watch Elisabeth if we wanted to go out. We took her up on it a few times but for the past few months (since our schedules have finally synced a bit), she has been coming over at least once a week to play with Elisabeth for 2-3 hours while I run errands or take a little self-care time. It's been wonderful on so many levels. Not least of which is the fact that Elisabeth gets fresh attention from an adult who she doesn't always see. Dorothea plays with her in a different way. She's patient with reading the same story and is able to keep up a steady pace of play, chatter and stimulation until my husband or I get home. Dorothea isn't bored or burned out after a long day, as I can be on a day where there hasn't been a nap or one of us is cranky.
My friend Anna also offered to babysit Elisabeth this past spring when she was over for dinner. She doesn't have any children either and seemed to really like Elisabeth's company. A few weeks ago when I knew I had a scheduling conflict, I emailed her and asked if she was serious about her offer to babysit. She replied back immediately that she was. We did a trial run last Sunday where she came over for a few hours to play with Elisabeth so they could get used to each other. Again, the differences of another adult watching your child are really fascinating. When Elisabeth brings me one of her mini German books to read, I explain that I can't read the German. Anna, on the other hand, "read" the German book to Elisabeth telling me later that she couldn't read the German so she just made up the story based on the pictures. Of course I could do the same and sometimes I do. But more often than not, I read for her books for my pleasure too and my impatience to know and share the "real" story often gets ahead of my willingness to improvise! Anna will come back this weekend to watch Elisabeth.
I've come to realize that we do others and our children a disservice when we turn down help. It's like giving back a gift or downplaying a compliment that you receive. The giver feels rejected and not worthy enough and you haven't done yourself any favors either! But when you take the hand that's offered, you offer the giver a return gift: trust and vulnerability. This is so good for you (think relationship strengthening, personal growth, self-care) but it's good for your child also. Her boldness or his comfort with strangers will develop in no small part to their exposure to different scenarios, different places and different people.
Asking for help can be a slippery slope but accepting the help that's offered is a path of support that's less painful and prone for rejection. So next time a hand comes your way, grab it!