“May you always do for others, and let others do for you.”
– Bob Dylan
As I raise my children in an increasingly self-centered world, I am constantly trying to instill in them the importance of serving others. I talk about service, and I model it in my own life. I tell my children when I am setting aside an extra batch of cookies for someone, and I take my children with me when I am delivering a meal to someone in need. I file away ideas for teaching my children to serve when I observe other families serving.
But, until recently, I was never willing to receive help. My “super-mom” mentality told me that I could do it all. My overachieving self vowed to juggle all the balls and make it look effortless. Asking for help wasn’t in my parenting tool kit, and when help was offered, I politely declined the “unnecessary” offer.
Things changed when I became pregnant with my fourth baby. I have never had easy pregnancies. With my first three pregnancies, I was bedridden for the first four months and struggled every day after that until the baby arrived. But Baby Number Four was apparently trying to do me in: I required daily IV nutrients and medication, and I had to spend every moment of the nine months in bed. With three children under the age of six, it became impossible to depend only upon myself.
I first looked to my family for help. My husband runs his own company, my parents had moved to Australia, and my in-laws were still working. I suddenly found it necessary to accept any help that was offered. I had spent many years doing for others; now it was time to let others do for me.
Help poured in in unimaginable and innumerable ways. One woman brought three meals a week every week for five months. Another watched my one son who was not in school yet. Another came to drop off and pick up the older children from the bus. Someone else folded the laundry. Another deep cleaned the house. Some would sit with my husband at church to manage the three young boys. Some would drop off movies, books and gifts to cheer me up. Others would simply sit with me and chatter about their lives, as I was unable to participate much in the conversation.
My concept of service expanded. People definitely helped me around the house, but they also helped me emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I had no idea just how much help I was going to need in all areas of my life if I was going to get through the entire nine-month trial whole.
I also saw that I was not a burden to those helping me. Most people who helped were dear friends, good friends or acquaintances. Others were people I had only known from a distance prior to this experience. I realized that they were experiencing the same joy I had felt when I was healthy and seized the opportunity to serve. When I accepted the fact that I really needed help, I was participating in a special two-way relationship in which we both came out ahead.
It has been six months since our last little baby joined our family. I regained my health the minute she was born and am back 100% to managing my home and family, but now I almost always accept when others offer to help me. I have come to realize that accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. Not only will it ease my burden, even in a small way, but it is also letting someone else receive the joy of service.
I see now that it is silly not to accept a genuine offer of help. For example, when I have my hands full of diaper bags, car seat, purse (and all the other things we moms tote around), and someone asks if they can carry something, I say yes! Sure, it was all balanced and I was waddling along just fine, but why not let someone carry a bag or push the stroller? If a friend asks if she can hold the baby while I take another child to a public bathroom, I say yes! I mastered doing many things with a baby on my hip a long time ago, but why not let my friend help?
I also came to realize that sometimes I can create opportunities for others to help that would actually bring much happiness to them. A grandmother whose grandchildren live far away loves to cuddle my baby on Sundays at church, so while I teach the children’s class, I ask her if she will hold my newborn. Another dear friend was feeling depressed after a miscarriage, so I called and asked if she would help me organize my playroom. She is the queen of organization and loves these sorts of projects. She was elated to get out and help me, and I finally had some order to the chaos of the playroom. We both benefitted.
I have learned how accepting and even inviting help can smooth the bumpy road of motherhood. As my children watch my interactions with others, they are learning from me how to serve–and also how to graciously be served. Serving others is a two-way street. One cannot serve unless someone is willing to be served. If we as “super-moms” can let go of the desire to “do it all” without anyone’s help, we can become a strong, beautiful community of mothers who lean on each other, ease the mountain of to-dos, and make this journey joyful together.
QUESTION: Can you accept help from others? If not, what prohibits you from allowing friends to serve you?
CHALLENGE: Even if you think you can handle the situation or do things yourself, say “Yes!” the next time someone offers help.
Image by Chessa/Flickr.com.