Accept Help and Reject Guilt

Two weeks into January, I finally decided on a resolution for the New Year. My parents were on their way to Wichita for a weekend visit, and the status of my home was somewhere between toddler circus and pig pen. It had been one of those weeks. Lots of evening obligations. A teething child. A large work project that was consuming my time and mental energy.

I was relieved Grandma and Grandpa were coming to the rescue and, simultaneously, mortified at the idea of having house guests. When I received a text that they were an hour way, I looked around my house in a panic. Our sink was full of dirty dishes, toys and laundry were haplessly thrown about our house, and our refrigerator was in desperate need of being restocked. Most overwhelming for me, I had no idea what to serve for dinner. My husband, equally drained from the week, was out of ideas, too.

Though family has never pressured us to serve as perfect hosts (far from it), I dream about having my home spotlessly clean and serving well-thought-out meals for our guests. Sometimes I can pull it off. But this particular week, I had failed. As we quickly put clean sheets on the guest bed, I shamed myself for what I labeled as my disorganization. I just don’t have it together, and it shows.

When my parents arrived, my apologies began immediately. I’m sorry I haven’t made it to the grocery store yet. I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to pick up her toys yet. My parents, though, didn’t skip a beat. That’s why we’re here! Let’s go to the store! Where’s some laundry that needs to be done?

We accepted their help but my feelings of guilt persisted. Then later, as my mom was folding a fifth basket of our laundry, she observed that her mother had often done laundry for her when my brothers and I were little. My mom said that she felt guilty about it at the time, feeling that it reflected poorly on her housekeeping that she hadn’t already gotten in done. But now, my mom said, she realized that guilt was misplaced. There was none of that in it, she said. She was just helping me.

The light bulb went off for me, too. Our family is part of our Village, there to help without apology or explanation needed. In a perfect world, our laundry would always be done, our meals always planned, and our house always tidy. In the real world, my husband and I are both doing our best to build our family and our careers. This stage of life, while fulfilling, is exhausting. Sometimes (most of the time), we need help to keep the little parts of life moving. Our Village gets it and wants to be there.

That weekend, I resolved to take it easier on myself this year. To recognize that I am one person trying to succeed in multiple aspects of life right now. Allowing someone else to fold my laundry doesn’t reflect poorly on my capabilities as a parent. A sink full of dirty dishes doesn’t mean I don’t have it together. And accepting help is nothing to feel guilty about.

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