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Relying on Friends and Family for Help

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 16 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Relying On Friends And Family For Help

We all get by with a little help from our friends – and family. Or we should. While it can be difficult to ask for help, as a single mum you often have no choice – unless you're a multi-millionaire with a live-in nanny, gardener, chauffeur and cook! However, asking for help is not always as straightforward as it may sound...

Striving to be Perfect

Single mums, especially those who work, often find it incredibly tempting to go it alone, thinking that asking for help is a sign of weakness and even failure. Often they feel guilty, as though the situation is of their own making, so it's up to them to navigate their way out of it.

Try to define why you may resist asking for help. Is it because you worry that you will be judged by your peers/parents/other two-parent families? Is it because you don't want to owe anything to anyone, not even your mum or best mate?

People who strive to do everything by themselves are not necessarily the strongest. In fact, they are often the ones who burn out the quickest. Realise that you can get help because your friends and family WANT to help you. So take a risk, and get asking!

Defining Your Needs

Once you have got over your fear of looking needy, think about what you need the most. Do you need someone to pick up little Isabella from ballet every Friday and give her tea? Do you need help Wednesday evenings when you often have a late-night meeting? Decide what you need the most, what will give you the greatest peace of mind, then go for it.

Friends and family will no doubt appreciate knowing in advance that they will pick up Charlie every Monday and entertain him for three hours, than being called up several times a week for various childcare tasks. Having a timetable will make things easier for you, your children, and the people taking their time to help you out.

Top Five Tips

To get the assistance and support you want, follow these top five rules:

  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Don't expect to get all the help you need, so expect to make sacrifices.
  • Be gracious and say thank you.
  • Offer to do someone else a favour.
  • Think of yourself as well as the kids.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Don't pretend that you can be entirely self-sufficient. You can't. Even mothers in two-parent families need to rely on friends and family from time to time for last-minute childcare and other favours. If you try to be Super Woman it will only backfire, making you even more exhausted than you already are.
  • Don't expect to get all the help you need, so expect to make sacrifices. It's great when you get some help from friends and family, but remember that they have their own lives as well. Sometimes you might have to forego an evening with friends or a night at the cinema if you can't get the childcare you want. Oh well.
  • Be gracious and say thank you. It can be easy to take people for granted, especially family members. If your mum often babysits for you, pay her back by buying her a bunch of flowers, taking her out for a meal or simply telling her how much you appreciate her.
  • Offer to do someone else a favour. When friends do the school run for you or look after the kids, pay them back by offering to do something for them. That can mean having their kids over for a sleepover so they can go out, doing their taxes if you're an accountant, cooking them a meal if you're a dab hand in the kitchen. Whatever works for you – and for them.
  • Think of yourself as well as the kids. You may need someone to look after the kids when you go out with friends, spend a night away to recharge your batteries or have a meal in a nice restaurant You deserve it – so don't be afraid to get it. Your children will suffer if you have no time for yourself, so give yourself a break from time to time and get some childcare.

Relying on friends and family for help may sound like a piece of cake, but it's a bit trickier than simply paying someone to provide childcare for you. Tread carefully so as not to offend, be polite and gracious, and show them how much they appreciate what they do for you. After all, what goes around comes around.

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