“You need help.” Those were the words that a stranger with kind eyes said to me as she gestured for me to hand her my 5 month-old baby so that I could take off my shoes and go through the security checkpoint at the airport. So I did something that felt completely counter to just about every bit of programming within me. I handed her my baby.
As a second-time mom, I knew that flying with a baby would be challenging. So I prepped, I planned, I packed efficiently, and I gave myself ample time to navigate through the difficulty. I did everything in my control to manage this situation. And then there was the one thing that I just could not do.
The stranger was right. I needed help. And I was grateful for her appearance in my time of need. She didn’t stop there, either. She helped me reassemble my carry-ons and stroller. She walked me to my gate and cuddled my child as if he were her own. And she told me stories of her own children, now grown and far away.
I never caught her name. We were only together for about 7 minutes. But it was long enough for me to learn a valuable lesson. Asking for and accepting help is not a bad thing. Being a martyr is not a badge of honor. Suffering in silence will not earn me points in life.
But before I could fully embrace this new awareness, I needed a new way to look at help. So often in my life, I would look at a problem or situation as a whole, complicated thing that I just needed to figure out on my own. Usually, given enough time, energy and focus, I COULD figure out things on my own. I took pride in that.
But having a second child took a lot of time, energy,and focus from me in ways that I did not expect. New problems require new solutions. I needed help, but I didn’t know exactly what I needed to do in order to get it.
So I made up a new acronym, a mantra of sorts:
HELP = 1 Question + 1 Reminder + 2 Mandates
H – How can I break this into parts?
E – Every part does not have to be done by me
L – Leverage my resources, peers and leaders
P – Plan for early and frequent check-ins
H – As I stated before, I was used to looking at situations as these whole things that I needed to conquer. But breaking them into parts gave me the freedom to not only pace my way through a solution alone, but also to parse out pieces to others so that I could focus on the highest and best use of my own time, focus and energy.
E – By reminding myself that I do not have to control every part of the process of solving a problem, I allowed myself to proactively look for support from others. Once I shifted my focus, I realized that there are so many people around me who are not just willing, but happy to take on a piece and contribute to my problem-solving.
L – If I can give up some of the control over a situation, and place my trust in others, often I can achieve results that even surpass my own expectations. That doesn’t mean dumping work on others and expecting them to shine. It means proactively identifying things that others shine in and are willing to do and fostering them doing exactly that.
P – Sometimes, other peoples’ ways of doing things are the same as my own, but sometimes they’re not. That’s ok as long as the communication lines are open and we are honest with one another about what we need to produce the intended outcome. By checking in early and often, I’m able to guide the process if I need to or gain comfort with a different approach.
Coming up with this new perspective on HELP has been life-changing for me. I have become excited and intentional about asking for HELP in so many aspects of my life. I have applied it in my professional life and my personal life, and as a result, I have become so much more effective and so much less stressed. This new life mantra lends the capacity to seek help, and also an awareness to help to others, as well. As a mom, allow yourself to ask for HELP, too.