When I look around I think I’ve got a village.
My neighbourhood is open and friendly. We all know each other. We stop and talk on the street. Our kids walk to school together and play on the streets on weekends.
There is a community, a sense of connectedness.
In the park, as we push our kids on the swings, we chat to each other and watch our children kick balls on grass.
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I’m lucky. I know others don’t have that. Others whose communities are closed doors and drawn down blinds. Where kids are ferried along in cars their eyes glued to iPads.
But even with this, even with this friendliness why is it so damn hard to ask for help?
Why are we all still sitting in our homes surrounded by crayons and half cut out egg cartons and unfolded piles of washing listening to ABC Kids rather than calling on the network of other women nearby for conversation, for advice, for good old fashioned gossip – for help.
Why are we searching through babysitter ads on Gumtree rather than asking the other stay at home mum next door?
Why are we such silos?
A school mum pointed this out to me last week. There we all were sitting on the sidelines watching our children’s soccer training.
12 parents for each of the 12 kids …and lots of little siblings.
Nearly every single child had a parent or nanny there, waiting, checking their phone, mentally calculating up their schedule. What was next? Who. What. Where.
Look at us all she said. We all troop out every week and stand here. I don’t now why we don’t co-ordinate it better and car pool. One of us looks after the little ones and another comes here. Take it in turns.
It seemed a simple solution. So why don’t we do it?
I don’t now why we don’t co-orinate it better and car pool. Via IStock.
Why don’t we share child care and school pick-ups? Why don’t we call on friends to look after our children when we need to do some unavoidable work or for a last minute date night?
Why don’t we ask the neighbour's husband to mow our nature strip while he is out there and ask the teenager next door if she would walk your dog for you when you get sick?
Why don’t we cry out over the back fence to the retired lady if she can walk your baby around the block while you get the pasta cooking?
Why don’t we ask more for help? Why do women in particular have such a problem with admitting they need back up?
“I don’t like burdening someone else with my responsibilities,” said one mother.
“My son is the one who wants to play soccer I’m the one who has to deal with it and get him here, it wasn’t any one else’s choice,” said another.
I might have a village but I'm still alone. Via IStock.
Their child. They should be the one to deal with it.
“I don’t want people to think I am a failure.”
“I don’t want people to realise I can’t cope.”
“I don’t want to put other people out and have them resent me.”
I don't want people to think I can't cope. Via IStock.
Nora Klaver, author of “MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need” says that often people don’t ask for help because of a fear of what someone is going to ask in return.
“What’s the price? What’s it going to cost me?” Ms. Klaver told The New York Times.
“No one likes to feel indebted, and asking someone else to come to your aid can shift a relationship’s power balance. Most of us prefer that the situation be reciprocal. I will pick up your child from school; can you have mine over for a play date next week?”
But she says that mainly we don’t ask for help because of fear.
“Fear of surrender, fear of separation and fear of shame. These fears are like deceptive riptides that pull us away from the help that is waiting on shore. … They seduce us by telling us they only intend to keep us safe, yet following them can leave us alone and floundering. Exploring and understanding these dangerous currents will lessen their power over us and make our mayday calls substantially more effective."
What we all need to remember is that sometimes helping out can be equally rewarding for the person on the other end. It can make them feel a part of a community too.
Until we can get past this fear of asking for help we are never going to get the village we desire, we will never get out of our silos.
I’m willing to give it a go, to step into the unknown and ask for help.
Are you willing to give it?