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Challenge: Open Discussion

The Four Letter Word

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It starts with H

Nope, it’s not what you think.

It’s not H..E..double hockey sticks, but it's close.

It’s a four letter word that makes all the mothers out there uncomfortable, especially when they have to say it out loud.

It's a four letter word that makes us feel like we can’t do it all or even worse, it makes us feel like we’ve failed.

It's a four letter word that elicits intense shame.

The four letter word that I’m talking about is….help. There I said it. HELP, and you know what? I need it. (insert shudder)

I’m not so naïve as to believe that I can do it all, but I am having a hard time with the fact that asking for help elicits something in me that insinuates the contrary. I’m not entirely sure what I have to prove or why asking for is so hard. I mean, we can’t expect that we can do it all ourselves, right? Or do we? Gosh dang, it sure as hell seems like everyone else can do it all. (Please excuse my language. Other four letter words are much easier for me to say.)

What an interesting experience we have as women, as mothers, navigating this intense world of professional and personal obligations. A world that is ripe with double standards and toxic shame. A world where asking for help is likened to admitting some sense of failure.

I know that historically, this idea of unhealthy stoicism has been mostly attributed to men. However, I call your masculine stoicism and I raise you, to a working mother with numerous littles, taking them to the grocery store and preparing meals, hauling them to and from activities, surviving only on coffee and the occasional snack found in the console of the SUV or minivan….And you know what else, do it all with a warm smile and some lipstick, because heaven forbid you look like, how you feel.

I’ve tried to determine for myself, where does this insistence of self sufficiency come from? Where do we learn, or better yet, assume that it is all up to us, even in the presence of partners that are fundamentally good and willing to help. Is doing it ourselves a way for us to preserve our self worth and as a byproduct, we can have a sense of unattested control? Or, is it that by nature, we don’t want to put anyone else out. We don’t want anyone else to have to take care of us or our responsibilities.

Whatever it is, I challenge myself and many other mothers out there, to understand that families and communities thrive on their willingness to not only help others, but to be empathic towards self and to accept help when needed. To know that there are times in life when you are more able to help and there are times in your life when you need it….and that’s whole heartedly okay.

I assure you, there are other four letter words that are way (expletive) worse than help.

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