Letting Go of My To-Do List Made Me A Better Mother


January 24, 2019

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Shortly after I snapped a photo of my beautiful, happy baby, she fell asleep peacefully in my arms. After twenty minutes, I knew she was fast asleep and I could put her in her cot.  But I didn’t. I let her sleep in my arms for almost two hours.

My phone was not in reach, so it was just she and I. I reflected on our day so far: we had sung songs, read a dozen books, had tummy time and mirror play, played in her sea activity gym, went for a walk, and had good solid cuddles and kisses.

While she was sleeping on me, I went over my to do list in my head: laundry needed to be put away, dinner needed to be prepped, the dishwasher needed to be emptied, her toys and books needed to be straightened up, trash and recycling needed to be taken out and I should respond to some texts and emails from friends.

My husband is always telling me I can leave some of my to do list and he can help cross off tasks when he gets home from work, after some quality daddy-daughter time.

The thing is, I’m not very good at accepting help.

I try to do it all myself.  I don’t know what that proves. Even in the hardest of times, I wasn’t good at it, so it definitely isn’t something I do well when things are comparatively easy.

When our daughter was just six days old, my husband was admitted to the hospital for one full week. I was at home, alone, with a very fresh newborn. I had no family support as my family lives on a different continent and my husband’s family lives six hours away. Friends offered to help, but I was reluctant. I wanted to do everything myself.

Eventually, I did begin to accept help from friends that week, and it was the best thing I could have done. Since they were there to help with cooking and cleaning up, taking out the trash, bringing essentials to my husband in the hospital, and dropping by to bring a sandwich to me for lunch, it meant I could focus on nourishing and loving our newborn, recovering from birth, and praying her daddy would get released soon.

I realized it’s human nature that people want to help — it makes you feel good. And I know that’s true because I like to be there and help people too. Before kids, I used to volunteer a lot. As a student I would organize Thanksgiving baskets for the less fortunate, or assist at Saturday morning arts and crafts sessions with young children, and I felt like I was making a difference. Even when I was working full time, I always volunteered to facilitate training sessions for our new college hires and I absolutely loved doing this.  Seeing them learn and grow brought joy to my corporate life.

Whether you help someone directly or indirectly, you build a connection with them.  Through this connection, you realize that you’ve made them happy, which makes you a happier person too.  I hope to teach my daughter the value in this one day.

So, while my daughter was sleeping on me today, I promised myself I would gracefully accept help when it is offered. Her foot is only going to be the length of my index finger for a little while longer and I want to cherish all her little features and moments we have together.

And I’ve realized that when I accept help, I’m a stronger mother for it. Instead of being stressed about trying to fit everything in and cross everything off my list, I am calmer and more present. This mental state can only be beneficial to her development.

So if my husband offers to put the laundry away while I give her her last feed of the night, I will not object.  I will be thankful for the help and for the extra few minutes to be fully present and memorize the tiny fingers, toes and nose of my three month old. I’m excited about the possibility of accepting help so I can continue to enjoy doing all the things I did with my daughter today without having the pressure of that to do list entirely on my shoulders.

If you find yourself refusing help, ask yourself why. From my experience, helping others doesn’t only help the receiver, it also helps the giver: when you graciously accept help, you are helping someone else find purpose and happiness in their own life too.

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