First things, first: I am not so stubborn that if my arm is about to fall off, I won’t ask for help. I will ask for help…with certain things. Certain things are easier for me to ask than others, but overall, I find it hard to ask for something that I really need from people I care about.
Asking an employer or someone I hired to do something I can do. But asking people within my life and community for help is much harder. For example, there were quite a few times I probably should have gone to the food bank instead of using limited funds for food. Pride kept me from going…and also, I didn’t want people to know in my small town that I was not doing so well. I also felt my ex would be more punitive if he knew.
So, there were logical reasons to resist, but there were also damn good reasons I should have gone to the food bank. Either way, we ate and no one went hungry…but still, I noted my pride.
Applying for state health care was also something I truly abhorred. I felt terrible. How could this happen to me? Well, it did. Life happened. Medical bills. Ex fiascos. Lawyers. Childcare. Caring for my daughter. Unemployment stints.
Life happens. And when it happens to the best of us as it all does, you must know how to ask for help. Period.
Asking for help made me stronger because…
Sitting in county services applying for assistance was a low I wouldn’t ever want to feel again. I was Ivy League educated but poor. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me!
Or was it?
None of us are immune from illness, strife and in many ways, poverty or at the least, tough economic times. I am no better than anyone else. By asking for help it brought me to my knees metaphorically and sometimes, literally, in prayer.
The other day when I told my daughter we would be on a budget for the holidays, she told me that it didn’t matter. “I just want to be with Mommy,” she said.
She watched people help us—donated groceries or clothes. Whatever the case may be, she started to realize that no, Mom didn’t have the money she used to have but that by the grace of loved ones, we are making it by.
This gratitude is not something easily taught and at her age—6, her viewpoint is egocentric like most kids her age. This is a part of development, but with my life experiences, it taught her empathy.
When you’ve got a kid to take care of and can’t necessarily count on the other parent or whomever, you need to be resourceful. You’ve got to take a deep deep look at who you know—who you know well and who you don’t know well, but could help you. It means figuring out a way to approach people to get what you need and knowing how to ask.
Okay, so this was my strong suit to begin with, but by learning how to ask for help, it helped me negotiate everything from work, to finding childcare.
If you cannot speak up for yourself, be prepared for life to walk all over you. Having to ask for help taught me that I need to take the reigns and steer the horse, or I was going to get trampled.
I had to acknowledge that things weren’t going so well.
I had to acknowledge that after building myself up post-divorce financially and emotionally, here I was crumbling financially.
Which meant I couldn’t crumble completely emotionally.
I had to grin and bare it.
I had to run to the bathroom to cry sometimes.
I had to apologize for being emotional.
I had to do things for myself to stay sane and reach out to my network and say, “I need you.”
There are many nights I have cried when my daughter was sleeping and I have learned how to ask someone to listen or hold me when I need it.
Sometimes, being weak allows you to grow so you can become strong. Being humble and resourceful are important to me, especially as a single mother. But most important, is being a strong negotiator. If I don’t fight for what I want, who will fight for my daughter?
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