I mentioned in the previous blog post that motherhood made me feel like my identity had been erased. Though I did not realize it at the time, it gave me the opportunity to remake myself completely. I learned to listen and see differently, as well as be open to other perspectives around asking for help.
After the initial shock of living life in three-hour increments, I slowly began to see that my experience was not unique. At a lunch with a group of new mothers, one wisecracked about how put-upon she felt on a daily basis. Other women at the table sniggered knowingly and chimed in with candid comments. I was stunned. I am not the only one who feels that my life is not solely defined by motherhood? It was a revelation, but not enough to connect the dots.
Much like that smart-alecky woman, I was fond of making fresh remarks and indulging in bitter complaints. One day I shared how annoyed I was that my baby was often surprisingly alert at 9 p.m. In response, a dear friend offered one of the most life-changing pieces of advice about sleep training. The theory was that children ought to go to sleep earlier than we might think, and that we need to actively train them to do so. My friend recommended that I change the baby’s bedtime to 6:30 p.m. Her confidence in the method gave me the courage to give it a try, but I was certain that my son would wake up super early. I was wrong.
This episode stands out because I became acutely aware that I don’t have all of the answers and that I should rely on help more often. Still, I routinely fail to acknowledge this amidst my overburdened schedule. My daily life is plagued by overextension, and each incremental transgression amounts to a feeling of constant failure. I have been guilty of showing up at appointments a week early or a week late. I have even outright forgotten to go to a birthday party and did not realize that I was a no-show until the following day.
Asking for help is an ongoing challenge, though it is much improved. The paradigm unexpectedly shifted when I started to earnestly help other people. I changed my beliefs around receiving through the lens of giving. The dots became connected after I immersed myself in the wisdom of parenting books. I learned seemingly everything about early childhood development, giving me the confidence to reflexively and eagerly parrot my new knowledge. My initial blind enthusiasm made me an insufferable bore, but I gradually learned to discern when to nod in agreement, offer a morsel of insight, or present a whole buffet. Similarly, overcoming my reluctance to ask for help was accomplished slowly through trial and error.
The idea of being beholden with a karmic debt to anybody makes me feel less than someone who might have better access to a given resource. However, the act of giving makes room for receiving in turn. I can abandon the sense of being at the mercy of a beneficent power because I recognize that it is healthy to share goodwill and compassion. I feel empowered to ask more freely for what I need. It is getting easier each day.
Mila Atmos is a columnist whose work has been featured by The Huffington Post, Quartz, and Medium.
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