I listened to Amanda Palmer’s TED talk a little while ago, about asking for help. Hers was in the context of music and asking fans to pay what they thought was fair for the album, more or less on the honor system. Radiohead did something similar (and I thought first) years back with on on-line release. And, to make her point, I bought that Radiohead album for ten bucks.
But we all hear what we want to hear, and what I took away from this talk in my current circumstances is that people essentially WANT to help. It’s in our nature. But we often don’t know how to help, or how best to help. We need direction. We simply need to be asked.
So a couple weeks ago, I started back to work. To give a bit of background, when Bub was born, I remained full-time at my job until my wife went back to work, then went part-time. Then started working from home. Then quit. It was just a lot to juggle. My wife and I literally did the hand-off routine a few nights a week, we never spent any time together, and were generally pretty miserable.
Anyway, HP is reaching an age of moderate independence, which is to say she can sit up. And a job popped up that was part-time, almost tailor-made for our schedules, so I took it. But this time, I knew exactly what we were in for, and how to combat it. We would have to ask for help.
It’s not easy. Nobody likes to ask for help, I believe. Some people loathe it more than others, get all puffed up with pride and stubborn resolve, and end up quietly enduring. I am one of those people. Outside of me, my wife is the same way. So you can see the conundrum.
We’ve asked for babysitting help before, of course. Just for a night out, an anniversary, whatever. Even that wasn’t easy, because we were hitting up friends. With no family in town, it’s either that or pay a babysitter, which can make you second-guess ever going out.
We have some friends I knew were basically game, but babysitting invitations are no different from “let’s grab a drink sometime” offers. Intentions are usually genuine, but it’s up to you to then follow up. They’ve already thrown it out there, and diaper is now in your proverbial Genie.
So I basically just laid it out for a couple of our very dear friends—I was going back to work, my wife and I would need some “us” time or we might go crazy, fight constantly, end up divorced, splitting custody, etc. But no pressure. So, um, how are your Tuesday evenings looking?
Well, ask and you shall receive. Our very gracious friends elected to take alternating Tuesdays as a general rule, and have done much more than that. And so what if we go to a restaurant and have NOTHING TO SAY to each other? We just talk about the kids, mostly. Maybe the food. We eavesdrop some, but mostly just enjoy that unfamiliar sound of silence. But we are forever grateful for the time.
My point is that people can and will help you. But they’re not going to physically come over and push you out the door. Make the first move. Be bold. Just ask. The worst they can say is that your kids are hideous little berserkers that belong in the zoo. But they’ll probably just say yes, and be glad they did. I’m sure you will be, too.