The summer cold is upon me.
First, it was upon Ziggy and then, like dominoes, we all fell.
And I know, I know - it's just a cold. No big deal. I'll get over it. But the thing about having three kids at home (which I did yesterday) is that running on empty does not make for good parenting. And being that running on empty is kind of the fallback position of most mothers (and fathers) I know, even the common cold is enough to push you into negative numbers. I would describe yesterday as perhaps a minus ten. Which is not so bad but not nearly enough to run a tight ship. Or even a really loose one.
At about eleven in the morning, when I realised that I was napping on the kids' beds instead of making them, I threw everyone in the car for an emergency trip to the pharmacy. I joked to Brendon that I bought one of everything while there but that's not strictly true because a/ breastfeeding mums can't take any cold remedy that has a 'drying up' action and b/ I have no use for haemorrhoid cream or nits shampoo. Knock.on.wood.
Existing on paracetamol and love alone, all I could think about was crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head. That and drinking a gallon of ice cold Coke.
Needless to say, I survived. I lived to tell the mediocre story – without the help of an afternoon nap or a fizz hit.
The temptation to call Bren and beg him to come home was strong. And if it had been more than a cold, I would have called him. Absolutely. I am not afraid to ask for help when I need it.
Or am I?
I was chatting with a friend about this very thing. We talked about how we offer and are offered hypothetical help by friends – "If you ever want to drop the kids off for a few hours, just let me know" – that kind of thing. But then my friend wondered, "But would you? Do you ask for help when you need it?" I immediately replied, "Yeah, definitely!" and then stopped to think.
I realised that I am only comfortable asking Bren or my mum. Other friends and family have made offers of help over the years, genuine and thoughtful, but when it comes time to redeem my voucher, I feel awkward.
"Hi, how are you? Just wondering if that babysitting offer you made four months ago still stands?"
I can't see how that wouldn't be weird.
Even when friends specifically say, "Hey, why don't I do this for you tomorrow?" – a concrete offer with an immediate timeframe, I am all, "Are you sure?" and "It's not too much trouble?" I will take the help and pay it forward whenever I can but it's not easy for me to accept it.
As I type this, Ziggy is being minded by my lovely friend, Gin. Our boys go to preschool together and she offered to pick them both up after this morning's session. Zig's been hanging there all afternoon and even though Gin and I have an agreement that she will call me if it all gets too much, there is a constant, low-level unease at the thought that I am taking advantage of her and her kindness.
Recently, a woman told me that she sent a text out to her Mother's Group friends saying, "Okay, I am exhausted and really need to nap this afternoon. Who wants to mind little Peggy Sue for a few hours?" She was heavily pregnant with her third child and needed a break. So she asked for it. I remember thinking, "Wow! That's….pushy." This was my honest first reaction. Which, on reflection, disappoints me. Because I absolutely want my friends to reach out when they need help. I have asked friends for a hand. We all understand the pressures of juggling time and commitments and kids. There should be no judgment involved. I think perhaps it was this woman's forthright manner in asking for what she needed that was so confronting because so very few of us do it. It's a quality to be admired.
Here on the blog and often in chatting with other mums, I am the first to admit that I struggle with the demands of motherhood. I'm not super-organised, the house is chaotic more often than not and I do not parent from a place of zen. But even while I'm confessing this to you, I'm hoping like hell that I appear to be holding it together from the outside.
Self-preservation is a powerful thing, particularly the myths we like to uphold about ourselves. I wish I was person who did not need help.
But I am. We all are.