I’m so glad that this regular reader of my blog has asked this question, partially because she ACTUALLY asked and partially because it’s brilliant.
How DO you ask for help, when you’ve been self-sufficient and looking after yourself for 60yrs?
But at the same time helping others and helping your community?
Here is her full question:
I have a subject you might want to write about, it’s how to ask for and to receive help. You are the first person I am asking for help. My husband will go home from the hospital tomorrow. As you know he will need my close attention for several weeks as he recovers from 7 broken ribs and a broken wrist and we need to avoid pneumonia by walking and getting him to breath as deeply as possible. I am not working so I am available 24/7. Still it is a lot to cook, clean, care for him around the clock and try not to worry about money.
I have a couple of communities of people that he and I are involved in, but not many close friends. I have always been self sufficient and since I am a person who has devoted myself to my family and I recharge by being alone, I have not had to ask for help much. I do enjoy cooperation and I do help other people when ever I can, but again I am not a really social person.
So now I will need help and I want to receive it. I feel fear about it. I fear being viewed as thoughtless, inconsiderate or something else undesirable because I ask for something wrong or make an assumption somehow, or put someone out and they feel uncomfortable. I can’t be responsible for other people’s responses, but I am not perfect either and may make mistakes.
I don’t know what is okay to ask for. Food seems okay, but there are four people in my house (my husband and I, my 32 yr old son and my 11 year old granddaughter). Should I just suggest a pot of soup? Not everyone knows there are four people to feed, do I have to say it or just be grateful for whatever they bring to share? How do I handle this when they volunteer to bring food or when I want to ask for them to cook something?
What work should I do and leave for others to do while I sit with and care for my husband; mow the lawn, watering my flower pots and garden, cook, clean the bathroom, do the dishes? I feel caring for him myself is my top work priority. Seems icky to ask someone else to clean the bathroom. Yes, my son will do some of the housework, but his idea of keeping house is a lot different than mine. I am thinking of asking my son to take on keeping track of the meds and doing most of the walking with him (my husband cannot fall with his ribs broken). My husband is walking fairly well, but we must be careful.
I get embarrassed if my house is dirty and cluttered when people come, and it is not an easy house to keep clean because it is over crowded, cluttered and needs new paint and flooring in the kitchen and bath so it looks dirty easily. I feel the state of the house reflects on me. How can I get myself not to feel ashamed or embarrassed?
Could you please give me some advice? Maybe your advice could help others as well and maybe even you your self.
The Gift Of Asking
Lovely, lovely J, from your posts, and questions I know that you help out the community a lot. But you have not been giving your community the gift of a chance to help you! This is not fair to them.
Think about it this way, by helping you they get:
- A guilt free chance of asking you for help in future.
- Or asking someone else in the world of ‘what comes around goes around’.
- The satisfaction of knowing that they have a purpose and did something useful.
- The opportunity to get closer to you
Not Being Really Social
Don’t be daft – you built up a friendship with me over the internet having not even met me! We are all social, in our own ways.
I know a lovely mummy blogger who believes she is not social (in fact several will now be wondering if I’m talking about them, as there are so many!). But she is ‘social’. Maybe she doesn’t go out lots, but has an active community online. Maybe she is nervous and shy, but nervous and shy people make good friends.
In fact the other day I purposely called my ‘not social’ brother, because he is just that – quiet, reflective and a listener. I’m not sure that he actually said much, but do you know what; talking is very over-rated!
Being Judged For Asking
People who are nervous of asking for help will probably judge you. In fact 50% of the world will always be judging you negatively.
Focus on the ones who wont be upset about it, and who will be chuffed by it – look at me, despite being up to my eyeballs, I’m so chuffed you asked, that I have written a blog post immediately for you.
The people who would judge you are frankly pants (hmm I think pants are trousers in american – I mean knickers!). Smack your hand every time your worry about them, because they are not worth it!
It is not something to be proud of that you are capable of doing everything! It’s not good for you!
Yes, there are people who I feel ask too much. It’s when they ask, and then don’t make any changes to their lives that I get tired of it. Or when they moan, but don’t want to do anything about it. This is not what you are doing; you have a specific reason, specific problem, and need specific help. It’s not like you are intending on throwing him off the roof once he is better so that you can do it all again!
Who To Ask and What To Ask For
Keep an open mind on who to ask for help. And regularly journal how you are feeling so that you can work out what the problem actually is.
For example, asking me is a perfect way to ask for help over the internet. Keep doing that – we might not be able to offer practical assistance, but if we can reduce your emotional burden it will all go a lot more easily. Plus you can ask for healing and prayers, which have been proved to help massively.
YOUR SON – it’s not helping him to let him get away with not understanding what you mean about housework. He is a grown man. So sit down and have a think about it and write very specific lists. When things are specific about what to do and what the end result should be, he should be able to get it. Yes, it is ideal to work to his strengths, but don’t let him get away with that male excuse of ‘oh but I’m not really any good at it’! If you think that he will absolutely keep your husband from falling, especially as he is stronger than you, then this is a good job for him. However, the role of carer and the forethought required is difficult; if he doesn’t have that skill then he will have to do the practical things.
Your grand daughter – I ran a whole household (3 brothers 20yrs older than me) when I was 10yrs old and cared for my sick mum; this was too much, but do not underestimate the self-esteem and experience she can gain from doing really helpful things around the house. She can cook, she can tidy, she can clean, and she can help your husband keep his spirits up.
Your community: I would ask for rest bite – times when people come to watch over your husband for an hour every week so that you get some time to YOURSELF. Otherwise you will only make matters worse by getting sick yourself! It is also wise to find new friends at any time of life, in fact it’s something I’ve been focussing on for the last 6 months and I can tell you it’s been a wonderful boon to me.
Food – a great idea. All you need to say is that if anyone could possible help in the next few weeks, you could really do with some soups, casseroles, stews, pies etc for ‘My family and myself’ – at that point they should realise that they are making for more than 2 people and give you a bit more. Weren’t you involved in a local food community? Is there a chance that there are people growing lovely vegetables and fruit that they could bring round for your son and grand daughter to cook?
Yes, you will have to reduce your requirements of what gets done and how often. Again see the ‘pants’ comment above for anyone who would dare to judge your house whilst you are nursing your husband.
Here is a list to give you an idea:
Bathrooms – once per week.
Kitchen worktops – every day. Rest of kitchen – once per week.
Hoovering – if you don’t have animals like mine, I bet you can just hoover half the house every other week.
Dust – seriously, dust just comes back! It doesn’t need doing every week.
Bedrooms – definitely can get away with once a month at a pinch.
But you do have the right to space. You do have the right to ask your son and grand-daughter to keep their stuff in their space. For example, you could ask that the main ‘visiting’ areas are on a daily basis cleared of ‘stuff’; the hallway and kitchen perhaps?
Tackle the decluttering later – I can help you with that too!
Just so you know you are not the only one, I have written about asking for help before. These posts might help:
Be careful the types of people you ask for help, they aren’t all ‘ideal’.
A time when I needed a mate to help brainstorm a problem and reduce my stress.
A time when I had to ask for help from in-laws and strangers
A time when I felt guilty about asking for help
I’m so glad and touched you asked! Give other people that chance to help you and get close to you. Remember:
No man is an island! (Or woman for that matter!).
To my readers: do you have any tips or similar experiences that you can share with J?