Thursday, April 16, 2009

The price of indepenence

I'm a fiercely independent person. Partly, I think I was born into it. I'm an Aries. But I also think I grew into it. My Dad died when I was eleven years old. Cancer sucks. My Mom was working as a nurse, so she was able to work to support our family. My sister and I grew up in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood. Not going to college was never an option for me. I remember my Mom telling me many times how fortunate we all were that she had a career. I witnessed firsthand how important my Mom's independence was to our family.

I've always taken pride in the fact that I can take care of myself. I love helping people, and I never hesitate to offer help when I see people in need. However, I have a really hard time asking for, or accepting help from others.

I've realized that independence has a price.

I get really frustrated at times at home when I make dinner, give the kids a bath, get them in their jammies, read them stories, put them in bed, clean the dishes, make the lunches, prepare meals for the next day, fold the laundry, log on to the computer to work...all without my husband ever asking if I need help. To his credit, I'd probably say no anyway. What I really want is for him to just help, without asking if I need it. Because for some reason, to me, admitting that I need help is like admitting that I can't do it all myself.

I was thinking back recently to the times when I was in the hospital after my babies were born. I had to have a c-section with both of their births. My husband didn't spend the night at the hospital with me. I knew he'd be more comfortable at home, and besides, I could do this. I even kept my babies with me in my hospital room, instead of in the nursery, because I could do this. And I did. When they'd wake every hour or two at night, I'd struggle to pull myself up, painfully reach over into their little bassinet and figure out the least painful position to try to nurse them. I didn't even like asking the nurses for help, but one of them gave it anyway. She would take Seesa to the nursery for a couple hours in the middle of the night, insisting that she needed her time at the "beauty parlor". She'd wash her, change her, feed her...while I slept. Then she'd bring her back smelling so good and I be a little rested. That first night at home with Seesa, I recall waking up over and over throughout the night, trying to breastfeed her. She wasn't getting even close to enough milk to satisfy her and she'd wake up screaming within less than an hour. By the wee hours of the morning, she wouldn't even latch on anymore and just cried in my arms while I held her, helpless and exhausted. I finally broke down crying myself, and called for my husband to help me. He took her, fed her a bottle and I collapsed in bed. Defeated.

It's probably having kids that has really shown me the price I pay for my independence. I do need help. I need people for so many reasons. I look back on those very early days of Motherhood. When I was desperately hanging onto my independence. I wish that I had asked for help. I wish that I had asked my husband to stay in the hospital with me. If only so that I could share the experience and have the memories of it reside somewhere other than just in my own mind.

I actually wrote this post months ago, but remembered it tonight, and felt inspired to post it. Sometimes, life just gets overwhelming. I'm usually the one who always finds the silver lining, no matter what is going on. The one who refuses to let things get me down, never gives up faith and tries to hold everyone else up. But sometimes... I want someone to hold me up. Just for a while.


For Myself said...

This was so tender and beautiful. I related to every single word, and I know how deeply that price leaves us in debt. I look around and notice others asking for help so willingly and I wonder why, in my wildest dreams, I wouldn't dare.

becomingkate said...

I am overwhelmed constantly, although I never used to be. My husband died 6 years ago, and I did so much alone that when I remarried, I was better at asking for help.
My hubby makes dinner, cleans, does laundry, yardwork...I do the other parts, as well as working FT.
This helped me from my manager days:

A Junior manager does everything herself. An experienced, Senior manager delegates to be more efficient.

I go back to that a lot as a working mother!
Have a nice Thursday.

Rose said...

I am so much like you it's scary, but I learned something this past year which has helped me.
I learned that asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. That tiny shift in my perception has freed me up to reach out to others. And you'll never guess what! They're all thankful that I asked.
Oh and also, asking my husband to help has opened his eyes to what needs to be done. Now dinner/bath/bed is no longer about me working my butt off feeling resentful that he's resting, it's about us working as a team getting the kids into bed and it's brought us closer than ever. Clearly a win win for all!
It takes practice, but learning to ask for help really does make you stronger, not weaker. It allows you to focus on the important stuff instead of feeling drained all the time.

Anonymous said...

You totally said it. I wish sometimes the help just came instead of asking. If you want to help, help. I'd love it. If you have to ask, then nevermind.

I actually had someone break up with me once because I was too independent, so I understand where you're coming from.

My first baby had horrible reflux. I still remember his first bottle feeding...sitting in the middle of our bed, watching my husband feed him, and sobbing--absolutely sobbing--because I couldn't do it.

You're definitely not alone on this one.

Christy said...

Oh this made me cry! I think we all need people to hold us up occasionally. Hopefully you're getting support now when you need it. Big hug, Christy

Julia@SometimesLucid said...

You, very eloquently, said what most of us feel at one time or another.

Kim said...

It's a really good thing that you know it's okay to ask for help - in fact it's good for you. You sound like a phenomenal wife and mother so you could stand to ease up and just be super once in a while:)

septembermom said...

Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. I can so relate to your feelings. Your memories of struggling with your newborn in the hospital is very moving. It must have been so tough for you. I'm terrible at asking for help. Moms do need help. We have so much on our plate. Why do we think we need to be handling everything all the time?

bernthis said...

as a single mother, I cannot tell you how much I have had to grow up and it was the best thing that could have happened to me but boy there are many times where I would give to have someone in this house to help me, to hold me but I would never trade all that has happened to me in exchange for being with my ex. The price I paid was totally worth it

Issas Crazy World said...

I think as women, as mothers, this is a very common problem. I am like you, fiercely independent. But dam it, I want help too. Of course my husband's mind reading abilities leave a little to be desired.

Hey when is your birthday, or when was it? Mine is Monday, so I'm on the cusp. Technically a Taurus...but with Aries tendencies.

Heather said...

I think many women go through this. The need to be the hub of the family and hold it together. I am fortunate when my husband is here he really helps out - especially when I hear what some of my friends husbands are like. Even though he is here there are days when I am still overwhelmed and I very rarely ask ANYONE to help me. I never want to bother anyone and those days when I am going crazy, I try to put my life in perspective and think of all the army wives who have their husbands oversees for months on end. I really wish I was better at asking for help.

Marinka said...

I've always been great at asking for help, demanding it, even, but it's a skill that I've honed over the years. But it does take a village to raise a child and one person can't do it on her own.

It's great that you can ask for help without feeling bad about it.

Devoted Mom To B... said...

I've always admired your independent streak, Kari and to be honest, I wish I had some of it myself. Being a single mom is hard, no doubt, but I also don't have to manage the daily commute, child care logistics, and very consuming career demands. Don't undermine all that you is a LOT. Hang in there...if I lived near you, I'd be there in an instant to take your girls for a playdate and let you get a pedicure!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I've always wondered why it is that when both parents work - and have always worked - the mother still takes on the full time caretaker role after work.

When I have to come home later, I find a disater area with half dressed children (okay - that's nothing new - but EXTRA disheveled), dishes piled in the sink, and a frantic husband. Yet when he goes away on business for a week, I don't find that there's all that much more work for me to do. In fact - it's easier since I don't have him making HIS messes everywhere.

And I wonder why this is. Is it just a gender role? Is it the natural progression after "maternity leave." Or is it that some of us just don't think to ASK for help? For me - it's probably a little of everything.

Zip n Tizzy said...

Looks like were all in good company.
It's taken having kids for me to realize that not only is it important for me to ask for help, but that it's absolutely necessary.
It's a hard thing to learn.

anymommy said...

I always find these feelings (that we all have, I think) so interesting (when I'm being objective). Motherhood is so hard, one of the hardest things I've done, and yet it's the only thing where asking for help feels like defeat.

I hope someone is holding you up right now - or we are, just a little.

Anonymous said...

I'm nearly two weeks late to the party, but I just want to say: I totally feel you on this.

I've gotten better about asking for help with the kids occasionally, but I still haven't managed to ask for help with anything else, even when I'm completely overwhelmed. I guess I don't want to burden anyone else with things I feel are my responsibility. But, when it comes down to it, most of the things SHOULD be a joint responsibility.

I'm giving you a HUGE virtual squeeze!


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