“Have you heard about the woman who confronted a mother about her tantruming child in a line at a California department store and was clocked by the mother?”
I’ve heard some version of this questions asked a gazillion times over the past few days. The media has glommed on to the issue of whether or not it’s okay to ask a parent to quiet their child in a public place (albeit politely), and I’ve heard commentators say that while they don’t condone violence, in their minds they gave the mom a high-five for punching the woman, as it gave them a sense of satisfaction.
I get it. I, like you, have been the recipient of nasty looks and snide remarks as my child pounded his fists on the floor in a grocery store or wherever. And I have felt rage in that moment. But underneath, what I was really feeling was helpless, embarrassed, and alone.
Which brings me to my point. Which is that we’re missing the point. What we should be asking is what kind of support we, both as individuals and as societies, could be giving parents so that we don’t break under pressure. What needs to change such that when a customer in line sees a parent struggling, she can reach towards her with kind works? And that a parent, overwhelmed with a child and a shopping cart can ask for help – or at least accept it when offered?
There are lots of ways we must work to improve our society so that it values parents and parenthood, but I’ll get to those in another post.
For now, I’d like to focus on one small thing you can do to make life better for all us parents. Ask for help!
We parents need to realize that NOT doing everything ourselves is the better way to go. Contrary to popular belief, asking for help doesn’t make us look weak. It helps us grow stronger. Here’s how:
1) We juggle more than is humanly possible – or at least more than should be expected of any one human. I’ll spare you the reminder of your to-do list, but I’m sure yours looks similar to mine. Delegating some of our duties, be they work, home, or family-related relieves us of much of that feeling of overwhelm that can paralyze us as our to-do list just keeps growing. Try saying no to an extra work project or a volunteer “opportunity” or to the pile of dishes in the sink…Great parents know when and how to say “no”.
2) Asking for help increases our interactions with others. It builds community. The more we do it, the more we notice that we’re actually not alone in our parenting struggles. As we realize we’re not alone, our sense of safety within our community increases, and we find ourselves cutting out the pretense in favor of sharing how we are really feeling. That’s where things start getting juicy! Opening up about our feelings allows us to regain access to our thinking brain, and then we can get back to some good reasoning and planning, which always come in handy in parenting and other important human endeavors ;).
3) A third reason that it’s really important for parents to ask for help is that it forces us to abandon the victim role, and take responsibility for our own happiness. We need to ask for what we want, whether it’s a night off from bedtime duties, or a daily appreciation for keeping the family fed. Those of us who sit around waiting for our partner or friend or teacher to figure out what we need and then deliver have no one but ourselves to blame for our misery. Most people don’t read minds...
Our brains have their default setting on the negative, and we often assume others are judging us even when they’re not. As we build community by asking for help and supporting one another, we are training our brains to assume the positive. If I’ve asked several people for help, or offered help to others, it is much easier for me to override my reptilian fight or flight brain when I’m feeling threatened and emotions are running high, and remember that we are all vulnerable sometimes. From this place, I’m much more likely to decide to breathe deeply, let the person know that I’m doing the best I can, and maybe even ask them for help!
There are lots of ways we can support other parents as we move through our lives with our kids. Have you been able to reach out to a struggling parent, or have you had someone reach out to you? There are actually lots of people taking good care of themselves, thinking well and acting in inspiring ways. Will you share your story? Please comment below. I always love to hear.