I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I hate asking for help.

But…living away from family and the familiar, I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s a necessity. And while my natural inclination is to come close to killing myself trying to do 600 things by myself, I have gotten much better at asking for help when and where I need it.

Example: Like many Americans, I learned to drive in an automatic car… and that’s all I’ve ever driven. (This is stupid, by the way. Americans should learn to drive, like the rest of the civilized world, with a stick shift). After three and half years in Denmark with nothing but bikes, we finally got a car. Guess what? It’s a stick. There are a hundred reasons why I didn’t learn to drive it, none of worth going into here, but only a few involve my fear of careening into a Danish cyclist while I am busy trying to figure out what gear to be in.

Anyway, my kids go to this amazing brand new school out in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by water. It’s great. It’s also a complete and utter pain in the ass to get to. If my husband drops them in the morning in the car, our transport options home are limited.

Pro tip: biking home in sideways wind and sleet is environmentally friendly. It is also not fun.

So sometimes (ok, often), I shuffle over to a friend and if they’re headed my way, ask for a ride. Like a teenager looking for a lift home. I suck up my pride (or embarrassment at the notion of being a 47 y/o woman who doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift, a la Driving Miss Dina) and ask for a ride. Sometimes people say yes, sometimes no. And that’s cool. But they always say “just ask”

So I do.

And you know what? It makes my life so much easier to get a ride home. So I ask.

I need a little help, so I ask.

Almost every woman I know will literally run herself ragged because she doesn’t want to ask for help. I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s fear of appearing weak or incapable. It’s the same reason that women get pissed off if their partner suggests getting someone to ‘help’ them clean the house.

Pro-tip: If you say “maybe we should get a cleaner because it looks like you could use some help,” a woman is going to hear “you think the house is a mess and I’m incapable of keeping it clean.”

Pro tip: Just do it. Just hire the damn cleaner, don’t outline the reasons why you think your partner needs ‘help’.

I think it’s a byproduct of having to do everything twice as hard and three times as well to get a foot in the door. I think it’s fear of giving anyone a window into a vulnerability or a weakness that can be used against you. Fear of not living up to expectations, or perhaps a fear of proving someone’s negative expectations right.

Pro tip: Everyone else is lying about what they can do as well as they say they can all by themselves, and if they’re not lying, they’re probably miserable, over-tired, or sex-starved.

This is….not me. Not even in my head.

(Note: I’d be interested to hear if stay at home males–more and more common on the expat circuit–are averse to ‘help’, and/or internalize the suggestion as a failure to keep up….or, if, as I suspect, they are smart enough to take the damn help and free up their day for other things.)

There are only so many hours in the day and you only have so many hands and there are only so many directions you can stretch in at once, even if you’re Elasta-Girl.

Sometimes you need to ask for help.

The most successful people are successful because they don’t try to do everything by themselves. They hire other people to do the stuff they aren’t good at or don’t have the time for or just can’t do. But so many of the smart, successful women I know insist on doing everything, driving themselves into the ground. When I ask them why they don’t reach out, they always say “I hate asking for help.”

The twist? These are usually the very same women who will bend over backward to help someone else in a pinch, who will take on extra kids and extra volunteer hours to help out another woman who can’t, who will stay up until midnight cooking enough spaghetti Bolognese for seventy-two Boy Scouts. (You know who you are…)

Here’s the thing: asking for help, far from being weak, should be a sign of strength. We all know what we’re capable of. Smart people recognize when and what and where their boundaries are and don’t try to do it all. CEOs are not writing checks and answering phones and setting up meetings for the designer who’s going to re-do the conference room. They pay other people to do that stuff. It’s all important stuff that needs to get done…but it doesn’t all have to get done by one person.

What women do, what mothers do, what stay at home partners do is important, but even when presented with the evidence of a hacked up lung, so many won’t ask for help.

Pro-tip: Ask for help when you need it. I’m not talking about asking an acquaintance to loan you fifteen thousand bucks. I’m talking about help here and there as you need it. A ride home, an unscheduled playdate, a sleep-over. And trust that if it’s too much, the other person will say no.

Pro-tip: If someone asks you for help and it’s going to throw not just a wrench, but the whole toolbox into your plans, say no. Help is a two-way street. The person asking must abide by the answer, and the person being asked, must manage their own answer.

I hate asking for help.

Nah, scratch that. I used to hate it, but you know what?  I have accepted I can’t do everything. Nor do I want to do everything. Like bike home in the Danish wind, which blows in every direction at once.

I get by with a little help from my friends.

 

 

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I Just Sat Down! (And Other Examples of Parent’s Law)

george-marks-tired-woman-at-kitchen-sink-b-w-elevated-viewOn any given day, I spend what feels like ten hours a day in the kitchen. Washing, chopping, buttering, wiping, stirring and attempting not to burn myself with the torn oven mitt I keep meaning to replace. Organizing, folding, standing in front of the refrigerator trying to remember what it was I came to get. Whatever the grand total, it amounts to a lot of time on my feet. Despite this, I can pretty much guarantee that the moment I sit down, the precise second that my no longer small and perky ass hits the chair, someone will ask me for something.

It’s the mother of all Laws of Parenting.

Call it Murphy’s Law or Sod’s Law. Call it bad timing or bad luck. Call it what you will, every parent out there knows it’s true. Those universal parenting truisms that leave you shaking your head, pulling out your hair or just plain crying into your coffee.

I realized this the other day as I was changing bed sheets. As I contorted my middle-aged body to cram a fitted sheet onto the back corner of the bottom bunk, I sighed. Because it goes without saying that as soon as I change the sheets, there will be an accident. If they happen to be white sheets, it will be a nosebleed.

In my house nosebleeds are not a gentle trickle or mild spotting. In my house it more often resembles a murder scene. I would only be half surprised to see a chalk outline on the floor and a team of CSI agents mapping out splatter patterns. I can’t tell you how many crime scenes I have cleaned up the morning after I’ve changed the sheet. 

Parent’s Law.

If you mop, take a good, long sniff of your pine-fresh floors, because you can rest assured there will be a downpour on the way home from school. I’m not sure about Daniel Day Lewis showing up, but I can tell you, There Will be Mud. 

Parent’s Law means you can count on your children rising with the roosters on the morning after you’ve had too many glasses of that smooth Pinot Noir. Even if you normally have to drag them out of bed. It’s a corollary of the law that states they will keep farmer hours on the weekends and holidays despite needing a military reveille to rouse them on school days.

Parent’s law states that someone will get a fever while on vacation on the one trip you decided not to pack the Tylenol. Alternatively both children will get sick the day that school resumes after a three-week break.

mop

Parenting law means that if one child is going through an easy patch, throwing his arms around you and remembering to chew with his mouth closed, you can assume another one will start channeling some sort of childhood demon resulting in behavior usually reserved for horror movies.

Parenting law means that regardless of 73 reminders, someone will need to pee five miles into a car trip or as the bus is approaching.

Parent’s Law states that if you’ve factored in four extra birthday party goodie bags, a fifth sibling will tag along.

Parent’s Law states that if you donate a toy they haven’t touched in five years, if you throw away the broken pieces of a Happy Meal prize, they will immediately ask for it. Even if they have never played with it before. 

Parent’s Law states that there will always be one Lego piece that you can’t find. ALWAYS.

Parent’s Law states you can do 15 loads of laundry on a Saturday and come Monday morning, no one has clean underwear.

Parent’s Law means that if you’ve done meticulous research so that your flight times coincide with naps or bed time, your flight will be delayed.

Parent’s Law states that as soon as you remember to stock up on a favorite cereal because it was on sale your children will unilaterally declare they hate it.

Parent’s Law states that they will only play in the sandbox on the days that you vacuum.

Parent’s Law states it will take you four times as long to set up and clean up for an activity that takes five minutes.

Parent’s Law states that out of 33 possibilities, the one thing they ask for will be the one thing you’ve just run out of.

Parent’s Law states they are only hungry for a snack fifteen minutes before dinner.

Parent’s Law states that your children will have a growth spurt as soon as the sale has finished.

Parent’s Law states that if you buy a size bigger size off-season that it will sit, unused, until you pull it out a year later to find it a size too small.

sittingParent’s Law states that no one needs to pee until you’ve sat down on the toilet.

Parents’s Law stats that the one time you forget your phone at home, the school will call you to come and pick up your sick child….the day before you leave on vacation…..

Maybe it’s just my family, though I don’t think so. Because that is the sneakiest Parent’s Law of all–making us all think our kids are the only freakish, weird, nose-spurting devil children in the world.

Don’t worry, they’re not. I don’t mind sharing with you, as long as you don’t ask me for anything.

I’ve just sat down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine and Cheese (Definitions): Vacation Edition

airport securityAirport Security (noun): Making sure that you have all possible necessities when traveling with small children including extra clothes, snacks, entertainment, fully charged electronics, first aid, Tylenol. And wine. As in: Remember that time Johnny threw up all over us right before take off?

Beating the Clock (verb):  The exasperating habit of males to make good time and beat the estimated time of arrival stated by the GPS, often at the expense of stopping for restroom breaks, car sickness or any non-catastrophic event which requires stopping the car. As in: Can’t you just wait until we get there? I’m making good time.

Bedphoria (noun): The immense sense of pleasure derived from sleeping in one’s own bed after a long absence. As in: I woke this morning with a sense of bedphoria. Bedphoria is usually immediately followed by Vacation Hangover

Excess Baggage Allowance (noun): The justification of the inevitable five to ten pounds you gain while on vacation. As in: These American portions are going to lead to a lot of excess baggage. See also Excess Baggage Fees (noun): the increased exercise and decreased caloric intake necessary to counteract excess baggage allowance. As in: These excess baggage fees are going to kill me. 

Gearing Up (verb):  The act of packing your running shoes, resistance bands and work-out gear though everyone knows you have no intention of really using them. As in: I’m gearing up to make sure I don’t have to pay any excess baggage fees this vacation.

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GPS (Great Parental Shout-Down) (noun): When one parent screams at the other for failing to read the map correctly, talking over important navigational device directions or using unclear voice or hand directions before an upcoming exit usually resulting in a 15-20 minute delay in arriving at destination. As in: WTF? Can’t you say “go left” instead of pointing??”

Jet Lag (noun): The unaccountable habit of children on vacation waking prior to 5 am regardless of direction of travel. As in: How come I have to wake my kids up on school days but on vacation they are up before the sun?

Keeping Up Appearances (verb): The art of only posting select, highly edited photos from your vacation. As in: Everyone else has so much fun on vacation, I’ve got to keep up appearances.

Pay off (noun): The realization that your children are old enough that you can once again read a book at the beach. As in: It’s about time.

Sand/which (noun): The piles of unidentifiable dirt and detritus which pool at the bottom of bags, pockets and socks. Also, beach sand with parasitic properties. As in, the sand which is everywhere.

Travel Visa (verb) : The act of paying off your credit card in full so that you can max it out on vacation. As in: I’m off to Target with my travel visa. Not to be confused with Visa Waiver

laundry woman

Vacation Hangover (noun): The pounding headache which accompanies the post-holiday realization that the house is dirty, there is no food in the refrigerator and there are seventeen loads of laundry waiting to be done. As in: My head hurts just thinking about all the laundry we’ll have after two weeks away.

Vacation Parenting (verb): The act of reversing all normal rules and regulations while on vacation. Usually goes hand in hand with Buyer’s Remorse which comes when trying to reinforce original rules when back from holiday. As in: What was I thinking?

Visa Waiver (noun): The conscious avoidance of  viewing your post-holiday credit card statement until the last possible moment. As in: Ugh, I don’t even want to know how much I spent at Target. 

Wine and Cheese (Doodles) (noun/plural): The preferred nourishment while on vacation. Instantaneously resulting in extra baggage allowance and often necessitating excess baggage fees. But usually in the end, still worth it.

 

 

 

Mom-agement

typewriter_fingers1To: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Human Relations 

Please note effective immediately the new policy regarding inter familial discourse. Referee, mediator and judicial services are henceforth terminated. For injuries requiring stitches or in cases of extreme blood loss or compound fractures, applications for emergency room transport can be submitted in writing. In instances when the injured party has not yet mastered fine motor skills, verbal requests may be considered.

bordertypingTo: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Laundering Services

Please note new policy regarding laundry services. All items will be laundered in the state in which they are found, including but not limited to: inside out, half in/half out, balled, crumpled, underwear still inside pants. Said items shall remain as such. Only items deposited in provided receptacle will be laundered.

bordertyping 2To: Husband

From: Wife

Re: Transfer Requests

Please note empty coffee cup transferral services are no longer offered at this location. To make this transition as smooth as possible, attached please find a map of the dishwasher in relation to where said empty coffee cup is most often found.

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typewriter_fingers1To: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Sick Leave

Effective immediately, all applications for extended sick leave must be approved by the Mom-agement. Please note that exhaustion due to staying up late, dawdling, or extreme early wakings are not valid excuses for sick day requests. Pre-approved requests include: vomiting, broken limbs, fevers above 100/37.7, and open, oozing sores.

bordertypingTo: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Austerity Measures

Please note that it has been determined that the aggregate worth of currently owned Lego sets is approaching college tuition or down payment levels. All expenditure is hereby suspended until further notice.

bordertyping 2To: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Catering Services

In re: catering services, substitutions are not permitted. Staff takes reasonable measures to insure that meals meet minimum dietary requirements and can no longer be held responsible for personal likes and dislikes.

bordertypewriter_fingers1To: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Hazardous Materials

Please note due to updated health code regulations, the following items now fall under the category of hazardous materials: small pieces of Lego, Nerf weaponry and ammunition, dislocated and decapitated action figure parts, sticks, rocks, sharp pieces of rusty metal collected for unknown reasons. Reasonable effort should be used to  contain said items. Effective immediately, removal of hazardous material will be undertaken by The Mom-agement.  Said materials shall be removed to a centralized location, henceforth referred to as ‘the box’. The Mom-agement retains sole discretion as to if and when items may be retrieved from ‘the box’.

bordertypingTo: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Office Space

Please note due to the current open office plan, it is imperative that reasonable effort is made to maintain clean and comfortable working conditions for all. For these purposes, clean and comfortable shall herein be described as: floors free of clothing, books, and other general tripping hazards; shoes, coats and backpacks placed within the provided areas; consideration of others using the communal bathroom and kitchen facilities. Items which are not claimed by the end of the working day will be removed to ‘the box’. (See: above)

bordertyping 2To: Boys

From: Mom

Re: Contract Negotiations

Please note that all due consideration will be given to reasonable requests. (Please note that The Mom-agement has sole discretion as to what is deemed reasonable.) Requests for upgraded technology (iProducts), changes in working hours (later bedtimes), additional office supplies (Lego) will be taken under advisement.bordertypewriter_fingers1To: Family

From: Mom

Re: Benefit Package

The Mom-agement undertakes responsibility for the following: a (reasonably) maintained working environment, three meals and two snacks per weekday (Mom-agement has discretion to opt for catering on weekends), clean uniforms (see laundry memo above), transportation services, non-emergency medical triage, recital attendance, tutoring, tooth fairy, and Santa Claus. Standard benefit package includes: health insurance, college tuition plan, allowance, vacation days, birthday parties, play dates. Non-standard additional benefits include: counseling services, alternative medicine (hugs, kisses and judicious application of Neosporin), gym membership (the park across the street), hydrotherapy coverage (unlimited bath time), science project oversight in addition to a lifetime guarantee of unconditional love.borderIf you should have any questions or concerns, please take it up with The Mom-agement.  Suggestions can be placed in the receptacle under the sink (herein referred to as ‘the garbage can’).

Thank you,

The Mom-agement