Unless I need to open a jar of pickles or lift something heavy, I don't like to ask for help. I like to be in control, to do things on my own. I don't like admitting defeat.
(Incidentally, we haven't eaten pickles since my husband's deployment began.)
But one thing I've learned through Matt's deployment is that it's OK to ask for help. I've realized it's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. I can’t do this on my own. I don’t have to. So why try?
My boys have been facing some emotional issues lately. I used to spend time on my hands and knees, begging them to talk to me about how they were feeling — to no avail. I decided to reach out to their school counselors instead. They now have a place to talk things over with someone else, and I can't begin to tell you how much that has helped. It has allowed me to just be their mom — not their therapist.
When my husband left, lots of friends offered babysitting help. I never intended to take them up it. They're just being nice, I thought. No one really wants to watch my kids. That attitude is silly! Of course they do — they offered! And if they don't, that's what they get for offering! I now owe quite a few friends for their babysitting services, but they won't accept any payment. I guess they meant it after all.
There are many free area events and services available to military families. I have often thought, No, we won’t take advantage of that. We don’t need it. Again with the silliness! Once I let my pride take the backseat, doors opened to so many fun and supportive opportunities. We attended a free military ski day at Stowe, received a grant to use for extracurricular activities and even signed up for a discounted weekend away at a resort in New York. What amazing things we would have missed out on had I refused to ask.
Recently, I bought one of our boys a new bed. I thought, Oh, I'll just put it together myself. I could practically hear my husband laughing at me from across the ocean. Who was I kidding? I can't even open a jar of pickles. It was the perfect chance to take one of our male friends up on his offer to handle the "man" stuff around the house. What would have taken me three weeks took this friend three hours.
Good call, Tasha. Good call.
Tasha Lehman is a mother of three boys living in Vermont. Her husband, Matt, is a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard who recently headed overseas for his first deployment. The “Home Front: Diaries from a Vermont military family” series chronicles their journey. Read more about their story in February’s “Use Your Words” essay.
This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.