Mental Health

3 Reasons Why Mothers Struggle to Accept Help

written by ALBIONA M. RAKIPI
Source: ColorJoy Stock
Source: ColorJoy Stock

For mothers, accepting help is much easier said than done. When we consider that we might need help, the idealized version of the mother we’re supposed to be tugs at us and says, “don’t.” Asking for help symbolizes that you’re falling short. Unfortunately, we’re our own worst enemies here, immediately launching self-criticisms and judgments toward ourselves.

As a mother myself, I’ve often considered: Why is it so hard for a mother to accept help—or, even worse, ask for help? What gets in the way? From personal experience and nearly 20 years working with young children and families, here are a few reasons women have trouble accepting help, even when they know they need it. 

 

1. Cultural Norms

Historically, women have not been granted the opportunity to complain or express feelings of overwhelm, particularly when it comes to motherhood. As women, we subscribe to this idea that we can do it all. The notion that we can be outstanding in our jobs, run a home seamlessly, and be the perfect mother puts us on a constant quest to become the do-it-all mom. Anything that falls short of this version of the ideal mother leaves us vulnerable to thinking we’re not enough. 

When we recognize that this belief of the ideal mother has been fed to us generation after generation, we can walk away from these unrealistic expectations and set our own—set expectations that ask, what do I need? Observe your internal dialogue and notice what unconscious beliefs you’re subscribing to. Are you chasing a version of motherhood that constantly feels unattainable? 

 

mom and baby

Source: Paul Hanaoka | Unsplash

 

2. Approval and Comparisons

When we compare ourselves to others, we decide that our self-worth is relative—it’s contingent on how others perform. It prevents us from hearing our own needs because we’re too worried about falling short or how we’ll appear to others. In an effort to keep up, we abandon our own needs to meet the expectations of the mother we’re supposed to be. 

Instead, consider being truthful and honest with yourself. You’ll refrain from comparing and no longer seek the approval of others. You’re also able to support other mothers without judgment. 

In Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed, she describes a moment when she asks her teenage son and his friends if they’re hungry. Each of them quickly answers “yes” with conviction and certainty, no second thoughts or wavering. When her daughter and her friends were asked the same question—“Are you hungry?”—they stopped and looked at each other before answering. This perfectly illustrates how pervasive this need for approval is among women. We lose the ability to hear ourselves. We ask, “What would other moms do?” rather than asking, “What do I need to do?”

Recognize this in your own journey and find ways where you can undo this thinking. 

 

3. Relinquishing Control

When I reflect on my own parenting journey, the term “it takes a village” has certainly applied to raising my children. I can say with certainty that the support and help I received from family made me a better mom. But more than that, it allowed me to feel less overwhelmed and take a reset when needed. 

I was beyond fortunate and lucky to have the support. Being part of a large and loving family, my kids were blessed with hands-on grandparents and an endless number of aunts and uncles who couldn’t wait to see them.

At first, it was difficult to say “yes” when people—like these loving friends and family—offered to help. In part, it’s because I assumed no one would handle my kids the way I would. They might not adhere to the feeding schedule I preferred or the napping and bedtime schedules laid out. What if they didn’t know how to attend to my kids’ needs the way I did? 

 

mom and baby

Source: Larry Crayton | Unsplash

 

When I accepted help, I had to let go of the idea that they will do it just like me

As mothers, we assume and trust that we know our children best—and we likely do. This doesn’t mean that a different way of tending to our kids can’t be beneficial. When we decide we’re the only ones who can meet our children’s needs, feelings of guilt and shame will take over when we seek help. Also, this thinking is problematic because you deny your children the opportunity to trust and bond with others. 

Exposing children to different caretakers allows them to adapt and become more flexible. They will bond with different people and gain rich experiences through these relationships. But above all, they will know they are loved.

 

Exposing children to different caretakers allows them to adapt and become more flexible. They will bond with different people and gain rich experiences through these relationships.

 

There’s a reason a schoolteacher changes each year. Kids benefit from being taught by a variety of voices who have different teaching styles. In sports, coaches change too. This benefits the player for the same reasons. Hearing different voices is important and necessary. What if we heard one message stated the same way by the same person every time? It might not resonate the same way with everyone. What speaks to one person might not to another.

Resist the notion that only you know what to do. Instead, consider what others could add to your child’s life.

My fear of someone else making a mistake with my kids had to be quelled because in the end, I knew I would be robbing my kids of unique experiences with different caretakers. 

 

Resist the notion that only you know what to do. Instead, consider what others could add to your child’s life.

 

It didn’t matter if they missed a feeding time by a few minutes or if the nap went later than I would’ve allowed. Maybe they said yes to treats that I would have said no to. It was OK because my children gained so much more from these relationships. 

So the next time rigidity or control gets in the way of accepting help, think about what you’re saying no to. A missed nap, ice cream for dinner, and a late bedtime aren’t strong enough reasons to miss out on the magic of being loved by many. 

 


 

This idea of doing it all and having it all is a fallacy. It keeps us small and prevents us from seeing a bigger picture. When we deny help or support, we’re saying no to so much more: our voice, our needs, and the chance to reset. We’re also denying our children the experience of having rich relationships with others. Next time you’re offered help or you recognize that you need help, observe what comes up for you. Notice it, breathe, and then say “yes.” 

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