Today’s Question: I’ve got 3 kids, ages 1, 3, and 5. My oldest has special needs. Recently, I got the flu and was totally out of it. Before I could fully recuperate my kids all got sick. It’s been two weeks and I’m EXHAUSTED. Total zombie mommy, barely functioning, and yet…I STILL cannot bring myself to ask for help. My parents live nearby, I’ve got friends and neighbors who I’m sure would step in, but I struggle. I will die on the sword before I admit I can’t do it all by myself. What is the deal? If my friend was in a similar situation, I would love to take her kids for a couple of hours or cook her dinner. Why can’t I allow others to extend me the same courtesy? Meredith
Parent Educator Answer: Usually I start with a parent educator answer, but today’s question is a little different. Parent education offers helpful advice and insights into child development and parenting strategies that work for moms and kiddos. In this case, Meredith KNOWS what she needs to do, but she can’t bring herself to do it. For this, we dive straight into the life coaching.
Life Coach Answer: We want to look into the feeling that she is trying not to feel which comes up for her when she asks for help.
The only reason anyone does anything is because of the feeling we imagine it will give us. We want to win the lottery because we imagine feeling totally free with endless possibilities. Many people avoid asking for what they want because when they do, they feel vulnerable and afraid of rejection.
Many Supermoms have the idea that they are supposed to be able to do it all; easily and well. Supermoms avoid asking for help because it brings up the feeling of embarrassment. That we have failed at achieving effortless perfection.
When we have the emotions of possible public humiliation, vulnerability, and failure coursing through our veins, it’s a recipe for inaction. Nobody likes feeling these emotions so we go back into our comfort zone, curl up into a ball, and ride it out.
Even though these feelings are coming from thoughts that are untrue, we still need to allow these emotions to move through us. Why?
Trying to resist an emotion is exhausting. It’s kind of like boiling a pot of water on the stove: putting a lid on it does not make the boiling go away. In fact, it gets louder and messier, eventually spilling over or burning the pan. Before Meredith can take action, she needs to allow these emotions to move through her.
The way we do this is to ask ourselves: “what does embarrassment feel like?” “Where in my body do I feel it?” Be sure to keep your breathing slow and steady while noticing how the emotion manifests in the body. Does it feel warm or cold? Heavy or tight? Does it feel like a solid, liquid, or gas. Ask yourself enough questions that you have a really clear image of it. Your brain isn’t going to want to do this. You will be tempted to think, analyze, judge, interpret, or change the subject, but if you can keep your full attention on the physical sensations in your body without going into your head, it will dissipate.
It is much easier to do this with a life coach so if you struggle to do this on your own, that’s perfectly normal! If you want to try it out, get in touch at: www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me.
Try the same thing with the emotion of vulnerability. Pay attention to the differences between the embarrassment and vulnerability. Do they feel different? Is one in the solar plexus, the other in the throat? Try it again with failure. When you understand the process of allowing emotions, you are free to do anything because there is no fear. The worst thing that will ever happen to you is a negative emotion, so learning how to allow emotions will set you free. You will feel so much more confident knowing you can handle anything that comes your way.
Once you’ve processed this emotion, you can take a look at the thought causing it. It’s probably going to be something like “I have to do everything right” or “I should be able to do this on my own.” Certainly, our Supermom culture supports this thinking, but is it true? Is it helpful? Would you ever say to another mom with three sick kids: “You should be able to do this on your own?” No, it’s not nice! So why is it ok to say to yourself?
It feels good to help others, especially when they need it and appreciate it. If you have a friend who is overwhelmed and having a hard time that asks you for help, how do you feel? Most of us feel happy to help. It increases positive emotions. You feel happier and your friend feels grateful. When we don’t ask for help, we’re creating more negative emotions. Does our world need more negative emotions? No! We need more positivity. Saying no when someone offers help, is interrupting the flow of kindness and positivity.
When the clerk at the grocery store offers to carry your groceries and you say no, it’s like saying: “I reject your kindness and refuse to allow you to feel good about yourself today.” We do it because we like the feeling of being a Supermom: juggling three kids, a shopping cart, and ten grocery bags. When we choose stoic heroism over gratitude and appreciation, we cut off the flow of kindness and support that is trying to uplift our energy. It is in giving that we receive, but it is in receiving that we give.
Asking for help is humbling, but not because we NEED help. Of course Meredith can do it all, she was doing exactly that! It’s humbling because it is admitting that we aren’t perfect, as our current culture suggests we should be.
Askng for, and recieving help take courage. It’s taking a stand and saying, “I am human, I like support, community, and time by myself. I want a reciprocal amount of giving and receiving. Our culture is out of balance and my inner mommy wisdom is saying so!”
Supermom kryptonite: Perfectionism
Most people don’t think of themselves as perfectionists because their house isn’t immaculately clean, but perfectionism is really more about all or nothing thinking. “I either do everything right or I’m a total loser.” “I’m either a good mom or a bad mom.” Trying to perfect is exhausting because it’s impossible to achieve. The moms and daughters in our culture are swimming in perfectionism and they don’t even know it! When everyone else thinks they have to do everything right, perfectionism feels normal. Give yourself permission to be an imperfect human. Celebrate your mistakes. Laugh at them. Compete with your family to see who messed up the most. It’s a tricky thing to recognize the perfection in the imperfection, but it’s more genuine than trying to be some idealized and flawless version of yourself.
Supermom power boost: Practice Receiving
When your life is all about giving and taking care of others, you probably feel needed and purposeful, but also pretty tired. To balance out the giving, one must receive. For some of us this takes deliberate practice. Say yes when someone offers their help. Say thank you when someone compliments you (even if you disagree, try to receive it as a gift rather than deflect it). Ask for, and receive a massage. Indulge in other sensory pleasures like wine tasting, spending time in nature, curling up in front a fire with a book, listening to beautiful music, or indulging in an afternoon nap. Write yourself a thank-you note and give yourself a thank-you gift for doing such an amazing job for your family.
Today’s Quote: “Accepting help is a sign of strength, asking for it is a sign of maturity.” Tal Gur