Supermom Syndrome: Why We Don’t Ask For Help, Even When We Need It


October 8, 2018

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I am a mother of triplets. This means a lot of things. One thing is that there is a short list of places that I can go by myself with all three babies. Logistically, there are certain limits on whether my baby transportation device fits through the door, and whether excessive child noise is frowned upon, among other issues.

There is a longer list of places that my husband and I, together, can manage with all three.

There is another list, longer still, where 3:3 is really a better ratio.

Going to church on Sunday is on that last list. Usually, friends of ours meet us there to help. But one Sunday a few months ago, they were out of town, and in a moment of confidence I declared we would attempt this alone.

So that’s why, on this particular Sunday, we had all three boys dressed to the nines in matching, clean-ish collared onesies, and found ourselves sitting at the very back of church: two adults and three babies.

About 45 seconds in, the boys started playing their favorite game, which is to yell as loudly as possible because the echo in church is ideal for noise amplification. I quickly whisked the two biggest instigators of this game to the very back (“cry room” area) to let them crawl around. At least they were in good moods.

Thankfully, our church has huge glass doors and you can see everything that’s going on through the windows, and also a great sound system, so I didn’t even feel too far removed. The third baby was being so good that my husband could stay inside the church with him, at least for a little while.

There was another mom in the back with a very active little boy, probably around 18 months old. He was fast. Really fast. Whenever anyone opened a door to the church, or outside, he would sprint there and try to bolt. We exchanged a few knowing smiles between wrestling moves before he took off down a side hallway with the speed of a cheetah.

And then. I won’t name any names, but one of my children threw up all over my foot.

And that someone also immediately wanted to touch it and play with it, as did my other child. (Do other kids do this or just mine?) Both boys were closing in and I couldn’t move my foot. It was sitting in a pile of regurgitated Cheerios that would ooze, squelch, and spread with every move.

You might be thinking to yourself that I should call to the other mom for help. She probably has wet wipes or something, somewhere. But she had her hands full too with Speedy Gonzales, and I am staunchly independent and creative. I could definitely figure this out on my own.

So I went through my options as I fended the boys off my foot:

If I walked to the bathroom to get some paper towels, I would leave a guilty trail of vomity footprints the whole way there. Also, how would I get there? Pick up both babies and bring them with me? How much spit up would get on my clothes and the babies’ clothes during the transaction of picking them up, and how would I turn the door knob on the bathroom door (old church problems) with both arms occupied ? Should I just leave the boys and run for the paper towels? Besides being a probably-bad idea to leave 2 one-year-olds alone right by the door to the street, I was positive I would come back to find them sitting/splashing around in IT (why, boys).

Plus, that still didn’t solve the issue of the vomit trail unless I hopped on one foot or something.

I could see my husband inside the church but he was facing the front (obviously) and he had no idea what was happening. The diaper bag was sitting in there too, full of the oh-so-distant wet wipes and burp cloths.

Then, around the corner at breakneck speed came our little friend and his mom.

For the foreseeable future, I was stuck with this stuff on my foot and two unsteady children climbing on my dress. We still had another 30+ minutes left to go. Independence and creativity, my foot (see what I did there).

I don’t even know how she heard me through the noise of our collective kids, but I blurted out, “he just threw up all over my foot!”

She immediately picked up her son and said something angelic along the lines of “oh, here, I’ll go get you some paper towels.” It took her about 10 seconds and when she got back we laughed as I cleaned it up.

Minor issue, really. Easily resolved with her help. She even grabbed her whole container of wet wipes and set it on the table next to me in case it happened again.

Here’s the thing, though–it’s not always this easy to ask for help.

I think we all might rather picture ourselves as the one who comes to the rescue.

Supermom. The one who has her hands full but still manages to save another, heroically and quickly, with a smile.

Not the one with vomit on her foot, stranded far from paper towels.

I have been on that side of the fence a lot this year. I’ve needed help more times than I can count–in stickier situations than this one, believe it or not. It’s a huge blessing when someone offers help, but sometimes it’s really hard to say yes when you know you can’t pay someone back, or when they’ve already helped you a lot, or when you don’t want them to see that you don’t have everything (or anything) under control, or a million other reasons.

But I’ve learned something this year: when I’ve taken the plunge and asked for help, that can be an opportunity to grow.

When I have accepted help, I have seen the kinds of friends that I have, and I’m in awe. I’m full of gratitude, but more than that, I know the kind of person that I want to be when this season of life passes and it’s my turn to help someone else.

When I’ve accepted help, I’ve been given an opportunity to connect with people differently. If I hadn’t asked that mom at church for help, we would have just gone our separate ways. Now that she’s helped me, we’ve bonded over that and I feel like we’re kindred spirits.

When I’ve accepted help, I have recognized and felt the power of kindness so clearly.

What I’ve learned this year is that no matter how good we think are at life, we’ll need help at some point because we’re human. At that time, pride will get in the way of asking for help, because asking for help requires vulnerability, which is often the top tier number one least desirable thing.

I guess what I’m saying is: when you’re inevitably there one day and you have vomit on your foot or an even larger problem and someone is offering to help, take it.

Ask for help and accept help. Besides growing in humility and courage, in that moment, you might feel the strongest kindness, discover the purest generosity, and learn from the best examples and friends.

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