We’ve all heard it or said it at some point in our child-rearing years. My husband and I are lucky and grateful to have our village, with all four of our parents alive, well, invested, and involved in our and our kids’ lives. We both have friends and family who would be at our doorstep at the drop of a hat to help us if and when we needed the extra hands.
But what good is a village if you can’t convince yourself to call on your village for help?
My father’s parents were children of the Depression. My mother’s parents were European immigrants. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII. My parents learned by example – buckle down because life is hard. I have therefore been conditioned since birth to take on the lion’s share of every task, work harder than I probably need to, not complain because my life is blessed, and refrain from asking for help unless absolutely and positively necessary.
Behavior is learned, after all. I have learned to work hard from morning to night and to be able to stand up at the end of the day and declare, with my head held high, “Yes, I have done this all by myself!”
I am a martyr and a victim of my own work ethic and self-reliance.
Last month, on the Monday before my 35th birthday, I woke up very sick. The kind of sick where you can barely sit up, let alone tackle the day as a functioning adult. My son then woke up with a stomach bug. As my son continued to have accidents in his pants all morning long, I hobbled around our house, pretending I would be fine, and let my husband walk out of the door and go to work.
Fast forward a few hours, and I found myself heaving into a trash bag in the front seat of my car while I sat in the pick-up line at my daughter’s school, my son still having accidents in his pants strapped into his car seat behind me.
The proverbial voice in the back of my head spoke up at that moment: You don’t have to be a martyr. Ask for help. Call on your village.
I put down my puke bag and picked up my phone to text my husband. Even if I could hobble my way to the end of the day, barely pulling myself across the finish line, I didn’t have to. I needed help, and I allowed myself to ask for it. And without skipping a beat, he wrapped up his workday and came home to his sick family.
I had spent so many years being a martyr that I had lost any ability to rationalize appropriate times to wave my white flag and ask for help. At that moment, with my puke bag in my hand, I decided that I had lost the forest for the trees. I was done being a martyr.
I am lucky to have a village that I can call on in times of need.
Many people don’t have a village. Or their village lives across the country, or even on the other side of the world. Some people don’t have a partner who can, for the most part, walk out of work at a moment’s notice. Some people don’t have an entire set of grandparents who would be willing to drop whatever they are doing to help us, no questions asked.