Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ask for help

Just thinking a bit more about preschoolers and cleaning up.

Probably the physically hardest time in my parenting years (there have been many) was when our fourth child was born. It had been my third prolonged-bedrested pregnancy, so by the time the baby came (Annie, now 7), the house was disorganized, the children were desperately wanting "Mommy time," and I was completely overwhelmed with life.

My parents had driven 12 hours to be with us, and got there the day I came home from the hospital. I was swelled up like a balloon from retained water, exhausted from a middle-of-the-night delivery, and just wanting to sleep. The "big three" kids (7, 6 and 3) were bouncing all over the walls, interrupting like crazy, wanting to hold the baby, play "horsey" with Grandpa, and show me all the pictures they'd drawn for the baby while I was in the hospital.

Meanwhile, my mom had made a quilt for Baby Annie and was wanting to show it to me. Her mother (the kids' great grandmother) had made one for the other three. Now that she was gone, my mom wanted to carry on the tradition. Mom does not consider herself crafty, so this was a Big Deal for her to make a whole quilt. For the life of me, I wanted to be polite and admire all the detail she'd put so lovingly into it.

But I couldn't think straight. I was trying to make the big kids be more quiet, hold a fussy newborn, make my parents feel at home, listen to my mom, admire children's artwork. All the while sweating profusely (hormones gone crazy), looking at my disordered house, mentally calculating all that I needed to get done now that I was home. Everything needed a little piece of me, even that overflowing laundry basket sitting there. I just knew I was never going to get it folded.

Suddenly I burst into tears.

I didn't even have to say anything. Mom just knew (perhaps it all the insanity around her that gave her that big fat clue?). She simply said, "What can I do to help you?"

The thing that was priority (in my fogged thinking) was getting that laundry folded. I felt so stupid asking. Surely there was something more pressing. But we stopped everything, I nursed the baby (tears streaming down my hormone-laden face), Dennis took the kids out somewhere, and Mom folded my laundry for me. Right then, right there, after they'd been in the car 12 hours. It wasn't polite, but it was what I needed. (Thank you, Mom!)

I tell that story because I am SO BAD at asking for help. Good thing my mom was so perceptive. But there are times - some more prolonged than others - when no one is going to "guess" what you need (while you suffer the martyr's death), and you just have come out and ask someone to step in and do what you can not.

My husband began to understand my overwhelmed-ness during that pregnancy, and for the next few years, he made sure we had room in the budget for housecleaning help on a fairly regular basis (He knew it was either that, or he was going to have to send me to the psychiatrist, and this was definitely cheaper!). He was already doing virtually all the grocery shopping for the family - something he continued to do for nine years straight. I'm so dumb, I even had to learn how to ask my husband for help in specific areas. Sheesh.

All that to say...having little ones in the house is tough, and just keeping up with their stuff is a huge job. For a few years in there, it helped me mentally when I knew all I had to do was keep up with the daily stuff, and could "delegate" the job of actually cleaning to someone else sometimes.

I admire those who seem to "do it all" - but for the rest of us, it's okay to compromise, especially during particularly busy times.

If you don't want to pay someone, maybe you have a friend who loves to clean and organize. You can swap for child care, or offer her a service that she considers difficult but that comes easily to you. Or you can trade off kids so you and a friend or neighbor can each do some work uninterrupted.

There are ways to do it besides just outright paying, but we have to get creative, and we have to learn to ask.


Qtpies7 said...

NOt really on topic with the cleaning, but Gary Chapman has a new book out that extends his Love Languages books into making love a way of life. And helping others and ASKING for help are included in those ways of loving others.

Tammi said...

Asking for help is a big problem for me. I am one of those "super moms" and admitting I'm anything less is really hard for me. But now that I have 3 kids, I HAVE to. I've been getting better at assigning jobs to my husband and the kids do help out a lot. Still asking is pretty hard.

Anonymous said...

I know when I had number 4 and 5 my Mom came to help, and the first things that she did were to tackle the laundry!!! I guess Mom's just know the right things to do--even when their babies are moms too!!


Queen to my 3 Boys said...

You have no idea how good that feels to hear someone else say that having many little ones is hard! I have only 3, but it is tough work keeping up on everything.

I have a hard time asking for help. My husband is good at sensing when I need it. He helps out sooooo much and when he can't, he makes sure that I try to get someone to come in.

4 Pillar Academy said...

I just wanted to let you know that I have been reading your past posts on your public school decision. I could have written that post! I have 5 children ages 13, 12, 9, 4 and almost 2(will be 2 in oct.).

I am tired, cranky, depressed, and just feel like I cannot spin those plates anymore.

However, I feel like I am would be just handing my kids over to Satan if I put them in Public School!! Well, at least that is what most of the homeschoolers think around here. SIGH.. I don't even fit in with them! We are conservative Christians, BUT we don't "hide them in a closet"... I KNOW you know what I mean.

So here I am, my chest feels like a ton of bricks are on me, trying to make the best decision. I dream about the break from planning and carrying the homeschooling out... and just letting them go to school. I also feel like I have short changed my 4 and almost 2yo! My 4yo is whiny and is constantly hanging on me. I just realized it was because I push her away too much because I am tooooooooooooo busy trying to either educate my older children, plan their education, or getting caught up with housework! She needs me so bad.

AAARRRGGG!!! I just don't know what to do. I fear that everyone will think I have backslidden and will never talk to me again. CRY!!

Back to dream land.... I would drop the older ones off at school, go workout at the gym (my passion, which has not happened lately... so I now have 30 pounds of excess baggage!!) ha ha... Then, run any errands that need to be ran. Come home and PLAY and READ and SNUGGLE and PAY ATTENTION to my littles. Is that sooo bad??

Ok.. Sorry, I just feel like I have no one to "talk" to about this, so you are stuck listening. LOL!!

Julie said...

Good point about asking your husband to help. Sometimes it's the obvious things that I miss! It's definitely hard for me to ask for help, even from him...because I want to be able to do it all by myself, but I just can't. And I only have 1 kid!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Good thoughts. With little ones around, it really does take most of our time and energy to just do the essentials for daily living! I'm there! Thankfully I have a cleaning service coming next week (thanks to a gift cert.) just for one time, to get us back to a "clean" slate before school. Halelujah!

Anonymous said...

Asking for help is something we've learned to do the hard way! We lost a baby at 12 days old. You can't survive that without help from family and friends. When a person is in crisis the best thing is to ask for specific help! Whether that "crisis" is good or bad - having a new baby or losing one.

I'm pregnant with our 6th baby. I can't do it all! I have a wonderful dh who helps out when he can and I have a wonderful church family full of teens who love my children almost as much as I do and are willing to help without pay if need be!

Having a plan is half the battle, though. At least that's what I've found. If I know what I want, no matter how weird or hormonal it may be, it is easier for people to help. Some people are not as intuitive as our mothers can be.

Joyfulness said...

That's totally my problem - not asking. Too much pride sometimes!

But my hubby does let me hire a housecleaner and that is a HUGE help, but we just moved and haven't found one at the new (bigger!) place yet.

I was hoping that now that our fourth is 1 year old that I would have time for cleaning, but, goodness, does she just make the biggest messes everywhere she goes. What a cute little stinker!

Our two oldest are beginning to be more helpful, but still, it's just a lot to do. And our third one is trying to potty train so that's even more to do.

So, yes, I need to work on asking for more help. That's very hard for me!

Brenda said...

I feel stupid asking for help because I "only" have two kids. SURELY I should be able to handle more kids, right? And I feel like I can't say "it's so hard" b/c then I'll never talk my husband into having more. Silly can be hard, even with only one, and the Lord can change my husband's mind if He so chooses.

Thanks for this encouragement!