January 29, 2013

why is it so hard to ask for help?

Over the weekend, we went to a mountain town to check out the results of an annual international snow carving championship. It was a good excuse to get out of the condo for the day, and of course the baby would nap in the car (he's pretty reliable that way).

We drove up there, walked around the exhibit and snapped a few photos, introduced the boy to snow (he was fascinated), strolled down Main Street, went to lunch, and drove home. Easy peasy.

The only problem was me. My hormones must have been raging. I must have been tired. All I felt like I did was manage my son. Not because he was in a bad mood or anything, and not because DH doesn't do plenty, but rather because a) when I hold him, he generally wants down and that isn't going to happen in a public square, b) he's so excited around big groups of people that he gets bored hanging out in the stroller (hence the holding), and c) I fed him that day in the restaurant which meant constantly managing how much he has in front of him, whether (or when) it's fallen to the floor and he needs more, wiping his mouth often enough to not let him look like a disaster, and giving him a bottle when he's not into solids anymore. Finally, I had the job of changing his diaper - something I really don't mind, especially when the sexist restaurant doesn't bother putting a changing station in the men's room (grr).

So, when we were all done eating (and I kind of slammed a beer so my heart would quit palpitating and I would calm the heck down), I took him to the restroom. Nearing the restroom door, a woman was walking out and - since she didn't notice the changing station (it's in one of the stalls) - she offered to help. She said she has twin 14-month old boys and knows how tough it is when there isn't a changing station. First: How sweet is that? Second: She was at least my age. So I remarked "Wow, you're a hero!" She waved it away, saying "Nah. You just get through it."

A simple remark, but it was enough grace for me to smile and move on. Would I have taken her up on it? Hard to say. Speaking of grace for strangers, I'm often the beneficiary (and try to be the giver) of a door held open, a kind word spoken, a compliment on how cute my son is. At these times, my shoulders un-hunch just a little and my load feels a bit lighter.

And yet, for some odd reason, I had to ruminate for days - days! - before getting around to asking my mother to hang out with my son while he slept so I could sneak away for a bit of quiet time. Ridiculous, right? I mean, I was gone for 1.5 hours. I sat in a coffee shop and forced myself to stare out the window and watch the clouds go by without checking messages or email. Well, for a few minutes anyway. Stupid smartphone makes it way too easy to distract myself from the moment.

My mother has graciously and generously offered to babysit my son pretty much anytime I ask. Her mom once did it for her, so it was one way of paying it forward. Plus, she loves the dickens out the little bub so it's not like she doesn't enjoy it (ensuing exhaustion notwithstanding).

So maybe I'm wary of wearing out that welcome mat, or maybe I'm not used to such open generosity. Or maybe I'm just too busy to take her up on it most of the time and really need to get out more. In fact, she's suggested that we have a standing once-a-month commitment so DH and I can go out on a date. I'm totally taking her up on it, and it gives me something to look forward to. A little breathing space.

At any rate, while I never expect generosity from strangers and really appreciate it, I have a hard time asking for what I need when I need it from the people who are in the best position to help me. I'm not sure it's age-related, as I'm not the only one I know that struggles in this.

Maybe - just maybe - I need to be a little more proactive in making sure someone takes advantage of my generosity too. Just in case they're a little shy.