Thursday, March 24, 2016


From a young age, my daughter has insisted: I want to do it myself.

My son, somewhat less adept at expressing himself, despite impressive verbal skills, also demonstrates stubborn self-reliance.

I've encouraged this independence; it's in our best interest to raise children to be self-sufficient, to be people who can make themselves a meal, put clothes in the laundry, wash dishes, eventually go to work take care of themselves, making a contribution to the world.

But I worry, sometimes, about tempering the message.  About teaching them about accepting help, or even better, seeking it out on their own terms, making help part of what it means to be independent.

In case it's not obvious, I am terrible at asking for help.  I like doing things my way, having control. I have a plan, and I carry it out.  It took me months before I finally called a therapist to get help for what, by that point, was crushing depression and anxiety.

The irony, of course, is that this is what I do all day long: connect students with help, get them to consider help, help them to accept help.  Hypocrisy at its best.

S. has been traveling again, and the child care situation is, as usual, challenging.  While I pay for care from 6:30 (for I.) or 7:30 (for N.) until 6:00 (for N.) or 6:30 (for I.), it's simply not enough when I need to drive from work to get them, not really great to leave early four days in a row during one of the busiest times of the year.

I have called people to help me pick up the kids quite a bit over the past two years now.  It doesn't get easier.  Sometimes I start with my mother, who sometimes says things like "it will be difficult because I'm supposed to get the bagels for book group" (which drives me bananas; I'd rather she tell me she just doesn't want to do it).  Sometimes I start with a stay at home dad friend who I am convinced is a superhero in disguise.  Sometimes I ask our friend down the block, who tells me how much she likes helping us, though she has two small children of her own and a traveling husband to contend with, too.

The other day, my colleague (whom I like a lot, and who I find generally quite kind and considerate) commented to me that he raised a child without the help of any grandparents.  I felt embarrassed at my neediness, at first, and then a little upset: how could he compare his situation with mine?  Good for him for not needing help.  Did he spend $40K/year in child care, which still didn't cover enough hours in the week?  Did his colleagues encourage him to take flex time, but then also send the message that presence after hours was actually important after all? Did his spouse travel for days at a time each month?  The answer to all of these questions, of course, is no.

I worry, when we move, that I'll lose this village, that I won't know how to make friends again, that they won't want to be friends, that I'll forget how to ask for help, a skill and a grace that has taken me so long to learn.

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  1. Cookies. The answer to friendship is cookies. Bake and share them and all will be well.

    I know change is hard, so very hard, and terrifying. But you can do hard things. You've shown it over and over again.

  2. Nodding along with all of this because we are in the thick of it too. Childcare is challenging to juggle. Especially when you're flying solo. (And I wonder what the other half of the parent partnership of this man would have to say following his comment.) We're still trying to figure it all out and know that it's only likely to get better as they get older.

    In addition, I struggle a lot of asking for and accepting help. I'm fiercely independent and am self critical about shouldering others with my burdens. The thing is, I'm also one who connects with others through providing help and support. It's a big part of my love language. So I struggle with this hypocrisy.

    Thinking of you during this week. May your village of support grow and bloom.

  3. I know it may not convince you, or even comfort you, but I'm betting that you will build a new village of people willing and eager to help. Why do I think this? Because you ARE this, and you cannot help but attract this. You may be uncomfortable asking for help, but you are oh-so-generous when it comes to helping others.

    Check back with me next spring and we'll see if I'm right ;-)

  4. I bet you find a new village. ;)

    I'm the traveling parent, and S never asks for help. He's so stubborn!


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