Asking for help has always been a problem for me. Even when I knew I didn’t really know how to do something, I never wanted people to think I didn’t know something. I know I am not perfect but to let others see it was one of my worst fears.
Before I moved to Nigeria, I tried to be one of those super moms. My children were 3 and 15 months, and I felt like I could do it all: grocery shopping, house cleaning, taking care of our dogs, cooking, play time, mother, sister, wife, friend. And, I could do all of those things, but I was exhausted all the time. At the end of each day, I could barely read one page of a great book because my eyes just would not stay open no matter how much I willed them to do so!
When my husband told me about the possibility of moving to Nigeria, a flood of anxiety and fear swept over me: What would the medical care be like over there? What was the time difference? Would it be safe? Where would my son go to school? Would we die of malaria? It never occurred to me that there would be such a pleasant surprise in store for me amid all the negativity and fears I had of going there.
There is a Nigerian proverb which is very popular. It wasn’t until I moved to Nigeria that I learned its value — and I didn’t even know it was from Nigeria! It says,
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
I had heard that before and thought that is a great thought, but it didn’t fit anywhere into my life.
It is very typical in Nigeria (and in Lagos, especially) to hire a stewardess to help with the cooking and cleaning, nanny-ing and just about anything else you may need her to do. My husband told me it would be great to have someone to help me out, but all I could think was “How in the world am I ever going to live in a flat with someone else there?”, all day long.
I think it hit me a few days after we were in our flat, and my 15 month old daughter was freaking out about something. I don’t remember what happened, I just remember her screaming and I didn’t know what to do to calm her down. Happiness (my stewardess), walked over and picked her up and and spoke so softly to her. I would have thought I would have felt threatened by this, but I didn’t.
A wave of relief swept over me. At that moment, I realized that it was okay to have help. I think I was able to stand up a little taller when that huge weight of “I can do everything on my own” was lifted from me.
Living there, I learned that Nigerians involve both extended family and good friends in the raising of the children. If I hadn’t opened myself up to that idea, my children would have missed so much of the culture around them. They learned phrases in Akwa Ibom from my stewardess, and Yoruba from my driver. I was able to volunteer for a local school charity and volunteer at school for my children. Ultimately, I was able to find out a lot about myself by just opening the door to asking for help.
This summer, we have moved back to the U.S. after living in Lagos, Nigeria for three years, and I have to say, I do miss it there. It had its ups and downs, but the one lesson I learned above all others is that we, as mothers, cannot do our jobs alone and those of us who believe we can are running ourselves ragged.
Being back in the U.S. has been a huge adjustment for me for many different reasons. I miss having the help I had there so readily available. Of course, it was wonderful for the house help, but it was fantastic to have some of the pressure of trying to be that super mom lifted. I feel since I have moved back to the U.S., that, at times, I slip back into that mode of thinking I can do everything on my own. Sometimes, I lay awake at night and wonder if the life I had in Nigeria really happened. But, then I look at the picture of my children’s smiling faces with Happiness and I know it was real. I learned how to ask for help and accept it. I learned that in asking for help I became a better mom.
I realize that not everyone can have a housekeeper or nanny, but we can all take a step back and spot check ourselves. If we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to ask a friend, spouse, or parent for help even if it is just to talk. After all, we are not on this planet forever, and it doesn’t make any sense to spend the short time we are here stressed out and unhappy. Embrace your help in whatever form it may come.
Have you ever struggled to ask for help with anything? How did you finally ask for help?
This is an original post by Meredith for World Mom’s Blog. Meredith has since moved to Houston, Texas, but you can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria on her blog We Found Happiness.
Photo credited to the author.
I am lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents living locally and I *now* ask them to help out when I am feeling overwhelmed. I know so many Mums that think they have to do it all themselves – the internal pressures we put on ourselves are enormous and unrealistic. Great post. 🙂
Thanks Karyn. I know it is so true that we as moms pressure ourselves to be the best at everything. CEO’s have staff, country leaders have staff, and yet we as moms think we have to do it all on our own.:)
We live in Malawi and I feel so lucky to have help. It was a big adjustment for me at first as it is not something I grew up with. I was uncomfortable giving up some of my responsibilities and asking for help in the beginning but the woman who is currently working in our home started when my youngest was three weeks old and has become a part of the family. We have come to rely on each other I will miss her terribly whenever we move on or whenever she moves on.
I decided to get a babysitter to help for 4 hours a week. I realized I couldn’t do everything on my own, and having her there, so I can catch up on stuff or run an errand was very much needed! But, it took me over 5 years of being a mom to reach out, so I totally understand!
I am lucky to have my mother help me out tremendously 3 days a week while I work outside of the house, but still feel as if I can use the help! It seems as if there is always so much more that I can do. I do envy people living in other countries where it is affordable (and expected) to have such amazing help 🙂
Loved this post Meredith. I learned that it was okay to ask for help once I had my second (almost 4 years after becoming a mom!). My mom helped me SO much 🙂 You’re so right, no point in wasting the time we have on this earth being stressed out and unhappy!
Sounds like Nigeria was a pretty special experience with Happiness. Hope the adjustment back to the U.S. is getting easier every day.
This so resonates with me! I was averse bordering on terrified of having house help, for much of the reasons you mentioned. But living in Kenya it’s incredibly common and since we don’t have as many machines to do the work (washing machines, dish washers) it became more of a necessity for us. Anyway, now I wonder how I ever managed alone. And almost all Kenyan women have some sort of help – whether extended family or hired help. They are baffled by how we do it alone and don’t think it’s entirely possible. Neither do I. If you can’t get through a page of a book at the end of the night you are definitely running yourself ragged and probably not as good of a mom. I know I became a better mom once I had more help (and sleep!). Anyway, great post!!