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Wanted: Help Wanted

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine was
suffering from an obviously painful headache that had been going on
for weeks. We met up at one of Maddie’s classes, and
afterwards I asked how I could help her for the rest of the day.
“Other than taking my kid?” she jokingly replied. I
answered that taking her kid was exactly the sort of thing I had in
mind! She demurred, saying she didn’t want to impose.
“Why not let me take your child for a few hours to play with
Maddie while you rest?” “Oh, I couldn’t do that
to you – you’ve got two kids yourself!”

“Ok, how about if I take your child for lunch?”
“No, no, it’s ok. I just need to hit the drugstore on
the way home and we’ll be in for the day.”

Knowing my friend’s car had been having trouble starting that
day, I said, “Alright, how about this. What if I follow you
to the parking lot, and you leave the car running while you dash
in? I’ll park next to you and stand outside your car so you
don’t have to do the in-and-out-of-the-carseat thing, and
you’ll make sure your car stays running.” Again, she
politely demurred.

Frustrated, I said, “You see, this
is why I miss New York!”

“Why, because you don’t have to rely on your car
there?” she asked.

“No,” I answered, “Because New York is such a
freakin’ hard city to live in that we freely admit we
can’t do it on our own, so we let other people help

I called her later that day to check on her, and we chatted about
her reluctance to “bother” me; she seriously
didn’t want to impose.

And that, my friends, is crap.

I’ve got news for you, moms: you cannot do this by yourself.
One of my other friends here had a second baby last fall, and
politely rebuffed all efforts to help. I called from the grocery
store numerous times, offering to pick up milk; I called in the
morning, offering to take the older child or come over and clean
the house while the kids played; I tried to do her laundry while
she recovered from a c-section! In frustration, I said to a mutual
friend, “What would happen if I just showed up at her door
and ran through the house picking up dirty underwear?? She
can’t catch me- she just had surgery! And even if she did
catch me, I can take her – she’s weak right now!”

A few months later, I was telling this mom how hard it was for me
to not be allowed to help her, and how I kept waiting for her to
let others in and stop being so $#@% polite. She laughed and said,
“Yeah, that pride thing ended right around three months
– I just got tired and realized I couldn’t do it all! I
have no pride now, no shame, at all.”

I’ve got several more of those stories from the past year,
but you get the gist. I’m having a hard time getting my
friends to open up and allow me to step in and share some authentic
community with them. This, in turn, is making it hard for me to
feel as if I truly belong here, as if I’ve really put down

I freely acknowledge that part of this is my problem: acts of
service is a big love language for me, and having my offers
continuously rebuffed makes it difficult to show people how I
treasure their friendship and want to go deeper with them. I know
not to take it personally; that polite southern “Oh, I
couldn’t possibly impose” runs deep here, and
it’s instinctive to say no. I also understand that we are
moms, meant to be Super Moms, and feel as if we have to prove that
we’re worthy of the title. We’re the Mommy; the buck
stops with us, and we should be able to keep all those balls in the
air at once. It’s what we do, right?

But let me tell you something – I can’t do it all. I
openly acknowledge me shortcomings, and my need for authentic
community here. I cherish having a relationship where I can call
someone at the last minute and say, “I’m stuck at home
with two sick kids. Can you run to the drugstore for me?”
When I first moved here, I assumed I would fall into these
relationships easily, and asked people for help freely. The longer
I’ve lived here, though, the more withdrawn I’ve gotten
in that area.

And here’s why: if you don’t let me help you, I
don’t feel as if I can ask for help. This same girlfriend who
wouldn’t let me follow her car to the drugstore – a
trip that would have cost me about seven minutes of my life –
has, without hesitation, awakened her child early from a nap (!) to
pick up my husband at the train station when I was down with a
migraine. She’s also willingly schlepped to the grocery store
for balloon pickup for a party, fed my kids numerous lunches
– the list is endless. And each time she rebuffs my effort to
help, I feel worse about asking her to pitch in when I need it. The
relationship becomes lopsided and I feel indebted, rather than in
an easy, effortless give-and-take relationship.

One of my friends has described me as fiercely loyal. This is the
same friend who, though we’ve lived in separate states for
years, booked a flight to be with me during a difficult family time
the moment I hung up from telling her about it. I know she’s
there when I need her, though we go months without squeezing in a
phone call, and she has absolute faith in her ability to pick up
the phone and have me there in a minute. I’ve got a small
handful of girlfriends I treasure in this way – they’ve
listened to me cry on the phone at 4 a.m. when Brian was in the
middle of his unemployment and I was two weeks post-partum, or when
I was in the midst of a hellish family Christmas. They’ve
entertained my kids while I packed to move, and mailed me emergency
boxes full of chocolate babke from New York. They’ve shown up
at my doorstep to surprise me from three thousand miles away, just
because I’ve had a bad month.

I honestly can’t think of any big acts of friendship
I’ve done for them, but am guessing they could catalog the
gestures they treasured rather easily. And I cherish their
friendships, I do. But I need to build some of those here in my
hometown: I crave that deep friendship, that no-words-needed
communication that comes with time and trust, that ability to call
for an emergency babysitter and get it, no questions asked. And in
return, I really want to be able to serve others this way as well.
It brings me deep satisfaction, to be a support net for the ones
who support the rest of the world. Heck, it’s the whole
reason I started this website – to let you know you’re
not alone, to lend what wisdom I’ve got to new moms, to
confess my big mistakes and hear from you that I’m not the
worst mom in the world.

So mommies, please – let me help you. You’d be doing me
a big favor.


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