I do not like to ask for help. I am not good at it, and avoid it at all costs. But for five years of my life, I had to put aside all those emotions and just accept that I needed help. For that season, I could not do life on my own.
Anyone else share my struggle?
It’s not that I am too proud to ask for help, and I’m certainly not the fiercely independent, do-it-myself type. My weakness is that I HATE inconveniencing people. I mean, to an extreme extent. I feel that if I ask for anything from anyone, I am putting them in a terrible position and adding huge burdens to their life. If I do ask for something, my natural inclination is to follow it up with, “I will absolutely pay you for this!” or “If you do this for me, I will do that for you.”
I have this need to always come up even in life. I don’t want to be indebted to anyone. Because if they feel that I am a burden, they won’t like me, won’t want to be around me. I won’t be viewed in a favorable light.
Hello, my name is Charlotte, and I’m here to air all my insecurities today.
Selfless to selfish
All of my life, until a few years ago, I had been the one doing the serving. I volunteered at all the church and school functions, and helped anyone I had the opportunity to serve. I dreamed of being a missionary and spending my life giving to others. This way of life not only gave me joy, but it was my comfort zone. This was familiar territory. Best of all, always giving and loving and serving meant that I was always liked. People appreciated me, called me sweet, gushed about how helpful I was.
In being constantly selfless, I became selfish. In humbling myself, I became proud.
And then, I became a mother. I gave birth to my first son, Rainor, in 2013. Five months later, our second son, Robert, followed through foster care. Not only did we have infant “twins” but our (now adopted) son had serious medical needs that required 24-hour care. This meant that there needed to be two adults in the house at almost all times. On days that my husband worked, we had wonderful nurses who would spend 12-hour shifts sitting in our living room, caring for Robert. If a nurse wasn’t available, we paid a friend of ours to come and help out. Family members babysat Rainor while we took Robert in for countless medical appointments and hospital stays. People from church sent meals during the really rough times.
I went from being the helper to needing almost constant help.
Asking for help
Before our oldest turned 3 years old, we had four children. One more biologically and another through foster care. Because we are treatment foster parents, we are called to take in kids with high level medical needs, which meant that we then had two children who had multiple specialist visits, therapies, surgeries, etc. Sometimes I’m not sure if that was the hard part, or simply the fact that we had FOUR children in diapers and cribs, AT THE SAME TIME.
Needless to say, we needed help. Lots of help.
Over the years, I learned to accept that my need for others to serve me was inevitable. I tried to listen when people would tell me that I was serving by bringing needy children into my home, and I needed to let others serve my family. But I never grew comfortable with asking for help. I could never shake the feeling that I was inconveniencing people. And when, over time, our social lives dwindled away to nearly nothing (because hanging out with a family with four babies isn’t always fun), it was so hard to shake the lies that people didn’t want to be around me because I was too much. Too much work, too much inconvenience. And I gave too little.
Suddenly, my easy ticket to being liked and appreciated was gone, and I had to wrestle with myself. I had to wrestle with the very idea of friendship and service and the church and my own worthiness.
During that season, I learned a lot. I am grateful for those incredibly difficult lessons, and the clarity they brought me. One gemstone I came away with is something I hope to cling to for the rest of my life. I hope it sinks in to your heart as you read this.
A life of balance
There is a time to help. There is a time to ask for help. Live in whatever season you are in right now, and give it your all — whether that means you are giving and serving, or accepting someone else’s service. If it is the former, do it with joy. If the latter, accept with thankfulness and refuse to be ashamed. You are not a burden.
There was a time when the help we desperately needed was scarce. It was no one’s fault, but more of an unfortunate coincidence. Everyone around us seemed busy with their own lives and burdens, we were no longer getting home health nurses for Robert, and we were sort of left on our own for a time. We were surviving, but each day was completely exhausting, and there was no end in sight. My husband, Jordan, and I felt incredibly lonely and overwhelmed.
During those months, I can remember many times, standing in the shower at the end of another long day, just sobbing and begging God to please send me somebody. Someone to help out with the daily tasks, yes, but more so, I needed a mentor or a friend. I needed a person to sit with me and assure me it was going to be okay. Someone to insist I take care of myself. An ear to listen, a heart to understand.
“God,” I would pray, “If You get me through this season, I promise I will do my best to make sure every young mother I know will NEVER feel this way. I will be that older woman who goes over and takes the baby out of the mother’s arms and insists she take a nap. I will fold all her laundry and mop her floors and play with her children. She will know she is not alone.”
It’s been five years since my early, desperate days of parenting. On December 11, 2013, we brought Robert home from the hospital and plunged headfirst into this life. When we walked into our house on that day, two of our good friends were already there, ready to help us settle in. An hour later, a family from church stopped over with dinner. We were entering the days of needing help, and we were surrounded by the kindest of people.
Now, half a decade later, our children are older. And I’m seeing those days come to an end. Sure, we still have four small kids and life is still crazy, and I still have to ask for help sometimes. (No, I’m still not comfortable with it.) But the beauty is that I feel like I’ve been through the fire, and now I know how to guide someone else through it. I see young parents struggling and my heart goes out to them. And often, I am able to offer a bit of help. It’s not always much, but even just sharing a laugh over the chaos as I offer to hold a baby gives me so much joy. Often it comes after the mother says, “I don’t want to bother you…you have four kids!” and I say, “Please, girl, my kids can all walk. Give me your baby.”
Because the days of needing help are fresh in my memory. The days of feeling alone. The memory of standing under a hot shower, tears falling with the water, and vowing to never let someone else feel desperate the way I felt desperate.
I have no doubt that there will be times in my life where I will need help again. My kids are almost guaranteed to have future surgeries and hospital stays, even though God is so merciful, and they are mostly healthy now. There will be moves and changes and upheavals, and I’ll have to rely on those around me to help us get through. But I am also joyfully leaning into the days that we’re living right now — where we’re getting by pretty well on our own most of the time. Where we’re finally able to reach outside our family to help others again. Where the painful aloneness has been replaced with friendships we could not be more grateful for.
So, just in case you struggle with this, too, will you let me speak a little truth into your life?
You, my friend, are worthy of being liked and appreciated because of who you are, not because of how much or how constantly you give. If your friendships disintegrate when you fall on hard times and need help, then they were not true friendships. Wait for those who are comfortable giving to you and receiving from you. Your worth is not the sum of how useful you are. Right now, you need to focus on the tasks before you and let others serve you. Live in that. But right now is not forever, and soon enough you’ll be back to serving others. When that happens, live in it.
Accept the seasons that change. Accept the hands that reach out to give to you. Accept yourself.
* Reprinted with permission from the author’s blog *
Children’s Wisconsin Community Services recruits, trains and provides support services for foster families. The need for foster parents in Wisconsin is great. Contact us to receive information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, or visit our website to learn more.