Say “YES” to help!
I am horrible at accepting help. Even though I know, at an intellectual level, that accepting (or even asking for) help is not a sign of weakness, I still balk at it. I really think I need to do everything myself in order to prove myself to . . . well, someone (or maybe just me).
But nothing makes you learn how to accept help like having a baby. And I’m also learning that nothing makes you remember how to ask for help like having a second baby. The reality is that I am both recovering physically from giving birth and also solely in charge of feeding an infant that is supposed to gain about an ounce a day and triple her weight in a year. Sometimes I need someone to bring me a glass of water while I’m nursing, or help take care of my two-year old while I’m trying to soothe a gassy baby. This week I have been thrust back into “baby” mode, and I’m remembering some of the hard lessons I had to learn the first time around about asking for, and accepting, help. Since I figure I’m not the only one who is resistant to getting assistance, here are some of the things I had to learn the hard way the first time around, and that I’m trying to do right the second time. These tips not only help keep me and my kids happy and healthy, but they have really helped my husband and I as well, since he is usually the one who has to help me, and therefore has faced my resentful wrath for so long when I loathe needing help!
Ask before you get frustrated: This was a big one for me. With my first baby, I usually tried to do everything myself – getting myself food and drink while I was nursing, reply to e-mails while bouncing a baby, or even just carry stuff up and down the stairs while I was still recovering. In the short term this landed me in my bed for two days while the G-man had to do everything (since I was anemic and had pushed myself so hard I couldn’t stand up without getting really dizzy). In the long term this same mentality made me resentful and frustrated when the G-man didn’t read my mind and give me help without me asking. With baby #2 I’m trying to pay attention to what I need help with. I ask people who are around (friends, family, the G-man) to bring me water when I’m sitting with the baby. If there is something I really want to do, that can’t be easily done with a baby or toddler around, I ask the G-man if he can watch the kids for a manageable amount of time while I get it done. I don’t put off taking a shower or eating in the name of “doing it all myself.” Instead, I ask for help, especially when I feel frustration and resentment creeping up.
Think ahead: I have also learned that asking for help often involves thinking ahead to what you need. Rather than waiting until I need some help right now I try to think about what is going on a hour or two at a time so I can give the G-man a heads up. For example, last night I really wanted to take a bath. I told the G-man that I wanted to feed the baby at a certain time, and then have 20 minutes to myself to take a bath and get ready for bed. He was able to get stuff done and help me out without much fuss since we had a plan. Otherwise, he might have been able to watch the baby, but it would have been harder for him to interrupt his own work (which is huge, since he has been keep us all fed, our clothes clean and still caring for the garden!)
Lower your expectations: So, the laundry pile stayed downstairs all day today, even though it was in my way. I really wanted to clean up the playroom and living room, but I needed to take a nap instead. LP is really overdue to get his hair washed. Not only can I not do it all, we (the G-man and I) can’t do it all. With a new baby in the house, priorities have shifted. Eating well, showing LP lots of love and attention and caring for the baby come first. The rest is just noise. When LP was a baby I used to get super annoyed at how messy the house was, or the fact that dishes weren’t done. Now, our house is three times as messy, and I’m working hard at not caring. If we are all happy, healthy and well fed, the rest will work itself out.
Communicate needs and emotions: Postpartum life is filled with hormonal fluctuations and mood swings. Throw in the fact that feeling weak (i.e. asking for help) makes me angry, frustrated and depressed, and you have an emotional recipe for disaster. With baby number one I had a hard time naming these emotions, and an even harder time expressing them. However, after two years of being a parent, I’m a bit older and a little bit wiser. Now, I try and recognize the emotions when I feel them, and tell the G-man, and my awesome friends how I am really feeling. Sometimes I just need to vent, which everyone I know and love is super supportive about. Sometimes I just need to warn the G-man that I’m pissed, so he knows that I what I say in the next hour will be rude, but it’s not really personal. Either way, I have found that naming and expressing these feelings helps me manage them much better, and I’m therefore better able to figure out what I actually need help with, and then articulate that. This makes my life, and the G-man’s life, much more manageable.
So, if you are one of those people who doesn’t like accepting or asking for help, you can come join my club! I don’t think I’m going to get over this resistance anytime soon, but I do think I’m doing better dealing with it the second time around. It is nice to feel like I’ve learned something in the last two years!
Notes from the Year of Family
Today we ate:
- Breakfast: Cream of wheat, bagels with tofu cream cheese and a banana and toast with butter for LP
- LP snacked on peaches quite a lot today – both in the morning and afternoon!
- Lunch: LP had some soup and bread, and Mom had a burrito from Boloco, courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa!
- LP had some milk and crackers after his nap, and Mom munched along with him
- Dinner: Garlic and Greens pasta with dandilion greens from our CSA. Dad has been doing a great job keeping us eating healthy during this busy time! He also made some refried black beans and pesto to store for some easy dinners later this week!
- LP had another peach for dessert. Mom was not so healthy – she had some chocolate coconut ice cream!
Today we didn’t spend anything since Grandma and Grandpa were still here to provide us burritos 😉