One of the things that new mothers are often told is “ask for help if you need it.” But it’s not always that easy. It can feel really hard, and kind of awkward, to ask for help, even if you really need it. Or maybe you’ve had the experience where you did ask for help, and you thought you were pretty clear, but you got nothing back.
So I want to tell you about a little formula you can use that will not only get you the help that you need, but also feels pretty comfortable, and hopefully won’t feel so awkward.
The formula is:
- be direct
- be specific
- be finite (which sounds kind of funny, but we’ll get to that)
So be direct means actually ask for what you need. So rather than saying, “oh, I’m really struggling with sleep deprivation,” for example – you might think you’re asking for help, but they’re just hearing that you’re struggling. They’re not hearing a request for help.
So you might meet someone quite savvy, who says, “oh, yeah, that sounds really hard, what can I do to help?” And that’s great.
But you might also get someone who goes, “oh yeah, that sounds really hard…you’re so wonderful for doing this.” And that’s not very helpful. So rather than saying, “I’m really struggling” with whatever it is, say: “Could you help me get some more sleep?”
It’s a direct question, they have to answer!
The second thing is be specific. So, “Could you help me get some more sleep? Could you please come over and hold the baby, while I take a nap.” Very specific; they cannot possibly misunderstand that.
Third thing: be finite. That’s just putting a time – so you’re telling them how long you want them to do it for. So you might say, “Could you come over for two hours, and hold the baby while I take a nap? And could you do that every Tuesday afternoon, from 3 to 5, for the next month?”
It’s really, really important to make your request for help finite, so that people know exactly what they’re getting in for, and so that they can actually put it in their calendar. And then it’s something that it’s going to happen, it’s not just this sort of abstract ambiguous thing.
Put it into practice
So have a little try of doing that. Next time you really need some help, maybe think about what’s the thing that’s causing you the most trouble at the moment. Is it sleep, is it juggling your toddler’s needs, is it getting the peace and quiet that you need, is it getting enough meals?
Think about the thing that you need the most help with, and think about how you could frame that request in a way that feels comfortable for you, and is direct, specific, and finite.
And hopefully you will get a lot more yeses, you will actually get the help that you need. And you’ll get a lot more practice asking for help, and it will start to feel really really comfortable for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Let me know if you’ve tried asking for help. How did it go for you?
And if we haven’t met yet, I’d love to see you at one of my events, which you can learn more about at peacefulpostnatal.com.au.
When women are nourished and nurtured after giving birth, they feel calm, connected and confident. My passion is to provide this high level of postnatal support to women in Canberra and worldwide. I guide expectant parents to create a vision for life with baby, and give them the practical tools to make their vision a reality.