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How to ask for help

The irony is not lost on me that as I write this blog I’m simultaneously thinking about:

  • My daughters swimming kit for school

  • Birthday presents and cards I need to buy, write and send this month

  • End of term teacher presents and cards

  • The washing I put in the machine this morning

  • Which clients need what when this week

  • Diary management over the summer

  • Summer holiday planning, buying and packing

If you’re a working parent, I’m sure you’ll recognise this list and that this is the short version!

We find that it’s common amongst women who have been on maternity leave to have picked up a lot of the household chores during this time. Then, when it comes to returning to work, it’s really difficult to re-adjust.

Why it’s so hard to ask for help

Asking for help comes up in coaching sessions with working parents regularly. We know we would benefit from help but something stops us. Here are a few ideas, see if you relate to any.

  • You might have an underlying belief that working hard is the only way to operate.

  • Before you can ask for help, you first need to identify what you need help with and that becomes one more thing on the to do list.

  • You’re surrounded by people who seem to be able to do it all (I blame social media for this one!) and that comparison can feed into the high expectations you hold yourself to.

  • You have high standards and no-one else can do it the way you do.

What happens when we don’t ask for help?

Some outcomes of not asking for help can look like:

  • Resentment towards other people, (team members, family members)

  • Breakdown in relationships

  • Burnout

  • You might also be depriving someone from doing something to show that they care you about you

If you recognise your situation in any of the above, here are some ideas to support you in identifying what help you might benefit from and taking the first step towards asking for it.

What help do you need?

  • As highlighted previously, some of the tasks we have on our to do list have landed there as matter of habit. With this in mind, set a timer for 10 minutes and write down what you would do differently if you were able to start from scratch.

  • Write down everything you need to get done in whatever timeframe suits you (a day / week) then consider what a ‘good enough list’ would look like.

  • Talk with a trusted friend (or professional if this isn’t possible) about what kind of help would benefit you the most. Brainstorm with them what this help might look like – is it a cleaner at home, is it a conversation with your partner or line manager?

How to ask for help

  • If you find it really painful to ask for help, start with noticing how others ask for help. Either from you, or from other people. How do they phrase it? How does it come across? What could you beg, borrow or steal from their approach?

  • Practice what sounds reasonable to you. E.g. I would really appreciate some help with X, It would help me hugely if you could X… try not to apologise for asking!

  • Remember how good it feels to help someone else? That is how other people feel about you too!

  • Start a weekly meeting at home to go through all the things that need to be done and don’t assume who is going to do it, decide together taking into account skills, time etc..

As with anything, there are varying degrees of difficulty with this area. These ideas are shared as intended light touch tips and advice. If you’re really struggling with this, please consider seeking professional support from a therapist or a coach to build a tailor made solution with you.

If you’d like to explore this area on your own, I recommend reading ‘Fair Play’ By Eve Rodsky.

My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you or your organisation would like to understand more about how to support your employees as they take parental leave, please get in touch.

This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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