“Honey, when the baby comes, I’m going to use a few vacation days and come stay with you to help with things like cleaning the house and cooking. I can even come early and bring the carpet cleaner and help get some spring cleaning done before you go into labor.” My mother was so kind to offer this amazing amount of energy and work to make me and my family so comfortable.
But this was my bonehead response: “Oh, my gosh, Mom! You are so sweet. Would you mind just coming for a visit to see the baby though? We’ll be fine with the cleaning and cooking, honest.”
I had the same conversation with my mother-in-law and my best friends and even a couple of co-workers who I am close with. At the end of every one of those chats, I gave a polite pass. Not because I don’t want the help, but because if I’m being honest, after being used to doing everything myself, it truly does feel weird to have someone come in and take over. Will my mother even know how I like the floors to be done? Will she clean my house and then feel like she is being taken advantage of? That polite pass felt to me to be the proper thing to do.
And OMG, what the hell was I thinking?
I do need the help.
We live in a culture that prizes independence and self-reliance, so it comes as no surprise that this same culture tells mothers they can — and must — do it all, from working to cooking to cleaning to carpooling to sports to being emotionally and financially available all before attending to their own self-care. So is it really any wonder that when I was offered help at every turn in the weeks and days leading up to the birth of my babies that I gave a resounding, “No, thanks!”? I think not.
It might not have been a surprise, but it certainly was a mistake.
Here’s the deal, ladies: We gotta drop the act, and the next time a well-meaning friend or relative offers to pitch in with the laundry or wash some floors or pick up some groceries — or whatever the offer — we should be gracious enough to give a resounding “Hell yes!” And also, a big fat thanks. I mean, we’re not rude — we do have manners and gratitude, after all.
When we accept an offer for help, even when it feels weird to do so, we are accepting that it takes a village to raise a child. Literally, we’re letting the village into our lives, and they want to be there. Having family and friends sprucing up a house or cooking a hot meal means that moms get to rest and spend just that much more time bonding with baby and healing from childbirth. Saying yes to help also means saying, “I value you, and I appreciate the work you are doing for me and my family.”
Think about it, it feels really good to pay it forward in everyday life, right? Have you ever paid for the next person in line by throwing down $5 for coffee or a muffin? Or what about donating time and materials to local charities? Giving a piece of ourselves to better the experience and quality of life and care of another person is a karma-building exercise in loving kindness and compassion and so when you say “yes!” to that offer for helping with the baby, you’re actually giving the gift of making someone else feel good inside because they can contribute to your happiness.
So as much as it goes against the daily practice of self-sufficiency and “I totally got this” mentality that most moms operate under, the next time someone offers to lend a hand, the best answer you can give is a resounding “Yes, please!” You won’t regret it, and your relationships will be stronger for it.
This post first appeared on Scary Mommy