Asking for Help During the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving- a time for a great feast spent with loved ones. As Americans, we build up ALL year to this one particular day where we indulge and enjoy annual traditions, is it any surprise that the pressure for Thanksgiving to be perfect is so high?

Growing up, we went to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving in East Texas. My aunt loved to cook and entertain. I didn’t realize when I was little, but the Thanksgiving preparation would take weeks in advance to fully execute. My aunt had it down to a science complete with a spreadsheet of which grocery store to hit and when for the best sales and the right products. She would also start the prep fourteen days out with homemade piecrusts and fudge.

As I got older, I was able to comprehend the amount of work that went into making the day ‘perfect.’ The 6am wake-up call on actual Thanksgiving would kick off a full day of cooking and then the day would finish with about two hours of dishes and clean up. It was exhausting and overwhelming. I became incredibly grateful for the work and love that my aunt put into making the day so special. When I got married I knew my Aunt was ready for the torch to be passed.  Since I was the only granddaughter of five boys, I stepped up to host my first ever Thanksgiving.

At the time, I was excited, but soon learned that the work was all encompassing. I had to entertain for almost the whole week as family flew in from all over. I wanted more than anything to make my entire family proud. I worked with spreadsheets, shopped all over town, and painted pumpkins at night for personalized table decorations. I was determined to make a memorable Thanksgiving feast. I catered to a vegetarian gravy request, a request for no onions in the dressing, a dressing with onions, a request for a sweet potato casserole without nuts, and one with nuts..... I tried to make everyone happy.

The result?

Thanksgiving was a feast and quite impressive, if I say so myself, I really outdid myself.  So much, in fact, that the next morning, I woke up with almost 101 fever and had to go to Urgent Care.  I had worked so hard that I literally made myself sick.

I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself. I did not want to admit that I needed help, and wanted to show everyone that I could handle it.

Granted Thanksgiving is only ONE day a year, and this example is an exaggerated version of not asking for help; however, on a daily basis, many working mothers are not asking for help and are on the verge of overwhelm and burnout.

All too often, we, as women and mothers, want to take care of everything! We are nurturers, caregivers, and we want everyone to be happy. But, somehow we have convinced ourselves that asking for help is admitting failure!

There are many reasons people fear requesting assistance, primary among them not wanting to seem weak, needy or incompetent. As working mothers, many of us feel, the pressure to achieve and ultimately risk compromising our health.

Recent studies on human happiness show that women’s happiness has declined both absolutely and relative to that of men. Author Katrina Alcorn of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, writes “How is this possible? We have more money that our mothers did. We have more independence. We’re healthier and better educated, too. It doesn’t make sense, right? There has been much speculation about the cause of this disheartening trend: Maybe women feel too much pressure to achieve.”

She also writes that “Our lives have dramatically changed since the ‘60s, but the institutions around us- government, workplace, and marriage have not kept up. Mothers today are on the front lines of a deep dysfunction in society, trying to make up for the fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that is now expected of us.”

If we continue to sacrifice our needs and overdo then this unhappiness epidemic will endure. We are humans. We can only take so much before there is an explosion.

In Diapers to Desk, we teach women ways to effectively communicate needs. A couple of things to consider, how do you typically communicate your needs now? Are you pouting, crying, and sulking? Or are you yelling, bullying your partner, and angry? These are examples of passive and aggressive behaviors, which are not effective or healthy ways to get individual needs met. A more effective way is to strive for assertive communication which is healthier behaviors like, willing to discuss the issue, explaining your own perspective, and the ability to listen to others.

Fortunately, assertive communication is a learned behavior and skills can be built to be more effective. Some top communication tips are:

1.     Create an environment where “agreeing to disagree” is acceptable. You don’t have to agree on everything, but you can always find middle ground in anything.

2.     Don’t dredge up the past. Anything from more than two weeks ago, should have already been addressed. And, if it keeps coming up then fully resolve it before moving on.

3.     Don’t interrupt your partner when they are stating their point. This can create further emotional distance and resentment.

4.     Avoid inflammatory language, (you never/you always, blame, or accuse.)

5.     Watch body language and tone. The goal is a conversation, NOT a confrontation. Tone and body language can quickly add heat and emotionally charge a discussion. This can turn defensive and when people are defensive communication shuts down.

6.     Respond, don’t react! If you’re too emotional, cool down first, so you can control how you respond. You will only regret later how you reacted in anger or frustration.

7.     Don’t assume the worst, give benefit of doubt, and seek solutions.

8.     Focus on the problem, NOT the person.

9.     Listen. Repeat back, clarify for understanding, ask questions, put away the phone, and make eye contact.

Ultimately, we must recognize that we can’t do everything ALL by ourselves, we need help. In an attempt to get our individual needs met, we must stand up for ourselves, and the choice to ask for help is ours and ours alone.

Want to learn more about our programs for working mothers, head on over to our website here to learn more.

Cheers to a successful and HAPPY THANKSGIVING where everyone brings a dish and you use paper plates!

Amy Landry