why moms are overwhelmed but won’t ask for help

what is vulnerability“Give me a key to your house. I’m going to take care of things while you’re gone.”

The thought horrified me. But I was too weary and overwhelmed to argue.

Our son had just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. We had only a few hours to pack and leave to go to a pediatric hospital more than an hour away.

We had no idea how long we’d be there.

My house was a train wreck. The weeks leading up to Micah’s diagnosis were a whirlwind of doctor and therapy appointments. Trips to the pharmacy. While also taking care of his four-year-old sister.

I’m not a home organizing wizard in the best of circumstances.

And here comes my sweet friend. My sweet, very organized friend with the floors you can eat off of. Who alphabetizes her cleaning products.

And she wants to come into my house and clean it. Gulp.

I thought about my messy bedroom. About Micah’s nursery which was still functioning as my office. Picture a junk room with a crib in the middle of it.

And I felt shame.

What would she think of me? Even though we were very close, I didn’t want her to see “Melinda uncensored.” She knew I struggled with organization, but I would be laid bare. No time to clean anything up and put a good face on it. All areas would be exposed.

When I came home from the hospital nearly I week later, my house looked beautiful. I called to thank her. And I got … not even a hint of judgment. Nope. I was just overwhelmed by the tender heart of a dear friend who was extremely grateful to be able to help during a time of extreme need.

Shame. Embarrassment. It’s one of the major reasons we don’t ask for help, Mom. We’re terrified to expose the dark places, areas of weakness or struggle.

We remain alone and isolated. Unable to experience the beauty of authentic relationship — where we are known and loved just as we are.

We rob others of the opportunity to experience the joy of serving and the chance to use their gifts.

Pride is another barrier. We don’t want to admit we need help. There’s a competitive spirit that exists among women — especially moms. And we miss out what we can learn from each other.

I attended a Leadership Conference last week, and one of the speakers, Brene Brown, addressed the issue of vulnerability. She said something that really got my attention: “When you self-judge when you ask for help, you are also judging others when you’re offering help.” In other words, when we look down on ourselves for needing help, we look down on others who need help, too. This makes us less likely to ask for help — and to offer it.

When we feel overwhelmed, it can be hard to even know where to begin. At times, I’ve wanted to just say to someone, “Will you help me figure out how to fix my incredibly messy life?”

That can be a wee bit intimidating to the person at the other end of that question.

So, I challenge you to start with one. One area that you feel like you need help with. And ask someone you know who has a strength in that area. It can be as simple as, “You are so talented at time management. Would you share with me how you do it?”

Who doesn’t like a little sincere flattery? You’d be surprised how willing most people are to share their tips and gifts.

I’m a lot better at asking for help than I used to be. God helped me to finally break free from the idea that I had to do it all alone. That if I was a good mom I wouldn’t need to ask for help. Just today, I asked for help with my household management. It still makes me wince a little. But as I accepted that help, I literally felt my stress level decreasing.

Overwhelmed Mom, don’t despair. Help is available. I promise. We just have to ask. 

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  • Oh did I ever need to hear this. Two of my friends have been offering to help me clean my office and I have been putting them off. Clearly I need the help. It’s a terrible mess and it’s been that way for years. I just need to let them come help me. I know they aren’t going to judge me, but I am ashamed all the same.

    • {Melinda} Do it, Michelle! I have had friends offer numerous times. And once I get over my initial embarrassment, I am so glad I let them use their gifts to help me.

  • I wish more moms would break down and ask for that help. When you have a seriously ill child, in my mind, you get a free pass for ANYTHING. I do some organizing work as well, and it’s surprising how joyful it can be to take the chaos and turn it into something lovely. I’m sure it’s like a good hair dresser or a wardrobe consultant. That’s a neat feeling to be able to help someone like that.

    • {Melinda} I am so thankful for people like you who have the gift of organizing. You have no idea what a Godsend you are to those of us who struggle — especially in times that we are very needy! 🙂

  • I must say it has been so hard for me to ask for help too! Great post! I am stopping by from the SITs Girls Saturday Blogfest! I look forward to your visit soon at homemaker-mom.com

    • {Melinda} I think all moms struggle with it, Susie! Thanks so much for stopping by. I will definitely return the favor. 🙂

  • Oh my gosh… Thank you for this! I am an exhausted momma with health adventures and so often I am too shy to ask for help. I do wish we could all put away our pride, extend a hand, and lift each other up without judgement. 😉

    • {Melinda} Do it, Tahnie! You’ll be so glad you did. And it will be easier to ask the next time. I promise. 🙂

  • What a great post. Such words of truth and wisdom. I am learning this lesson. I hope your son is doing well.

    • {Melinda} Thank you, Laurie … My son is doing well! He is relatively healthy and able to function as a pretty much normal 13-year-old boy. A boy who does regular therapy treatments and a ton of meds to stay that way, but I’m just so thankful for how well he is doing. God has given him and us what we need time and time again.

  • I love this story and I love this message! So true so TRUE!!! I always say to others I want to help, “It would bless ME to help you!”. We all need to understand that God uses all of us to and blesses us in the giving.

    • {Melinda} When I cringe at the thought of asking for help, I remember how I feel when others ask me for help. I’m GLAD to do it! HONORED they thought of me and felt comfortable enough to ask my help! Why would I want to rob someone else of that?!

  • I do not know why more moms won’t ask for help. I wish they would. We are all the same and yet I think we like to believe we can do it all…great post!-Ashley

    • {Melinda} Thanks, Ashley! I think most of the time it’s fear, embarrassment and pride. If we can get past that, we almost always find other moms who are more than willing to share their secrets and tips and help in any way they are able. 🙂

  • I LOVE this Melinda! Wow, goosebumps.
    thankyou for sharing this beautiful blog post with us.
    Yesterday I “hit the wall” so to speak. My husband is away in the UK for three weeks, leaving me with the three kids. Not easy at the best of times, but in the middle of everything my daughter broke her arm (her WRITING ARM). This made it uncomforatble for her to sleep, so she hopped in my bed. And kept me awake. Then the next morning she refused to go to school. It was the final straw and I broke.
    In that moment of weakness (tears like a waterfall, feeling sooo lonely and sorry for myself) I wrote a sad and desperate FaceBook Status. then took it down almost immediately.
    I didn’t want to be one of those people who hangs out their dirty laundry in order to get sympathy. And I lacked the courage to actually ask for help, for all the reasons you’ve listed here.
    I wasn’t quick enough with my deleting. Some friends spotted it during the 20 seconds it was up. All of a sudden I was barraged with txt messages, offers of help; a friend turned up with daffodils and a care package. Another friend offered to take my kids on the weekend.
    I was overwhelmed with kindness.

    It’s a lesson I will take to heart: ask for help. People want to help. Friends CARE.
    So next time, no sad FB posts, just courageous requests for support.

    • {Melinda} Simone, I am so sorry …. I would have been at the breaking point, too. I’m so glad that God saw to it that your friends saw your indirect plea for help and rallied the troops! You have awesome friends. So many of us do. We just don’t give them the chance sometimes to show us how awesome they really are. 🙂 Praying right now for stamina for you and a quick recovery for your little one. <3

  • This is such a great reminder that we all need help from time to time in our lives. It is such a great blessing to have friends who are willing to do it through our time of need. I was blessed with two friends who helped me keep my house clean while I was pregnant with my daughter because I was on total bed rest. I will NEVER be able to express my gratitude to those ladies who helped me.

    • {Melinda} I am so grateful, too, for these people that God has put in my life. And it is what inspires me to reach out to other mamas. 🙂

  • Asking for help is very hard for me. Every time I’ve done it, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how readily help was given. And how much I felt better. It is crucial, I think.

    • {Melinda} I think once we can get past the barrier of asking (which is very hard), we see the benefits and how glad others are to help and it makes it easier the next time.

  • Your point about judgement is very well taken. We certainly don’t want others judging us for weakness, or our dirty house, etc, so we need to offer help with a big dollop of grace!

    Asking for help is good. It allows others to serve as we desire to serve.

    I finally learned to ask for help after a car crash left me barely able to walk for several weeks. Talk about being brought to your knees! I am much better now, but still struggle with the pride issue. “I should be able to, be good enough, strong enough, etc.” 🙁

    • {Melinda} I so get that, Kim! It used to take a crisis to get me to ask anyone for anything. I thought I “should” be able to do it all. Whew. I’m so glad I’m over that — well, maybe not completely OVER it, but at least I’m a lot better about not getting stuck in that thought process.

      So sorry about your car crash! So scary.

  • I know how hard it is for me to ask for help, because I feel I can do everything on my own…but this is where stress comes in and those overwhelming feelings multiply. We are only one person taking on the responsibilities of many. Asking for help and getting assistance is crucial to saving our sanity. 😉

    • {Melinda} Yes, Jenny, that emotional feeling of being overwhelmed can just paralyze us! And then things just get worse. Taking the time to ask for help when we’re not in crisis is key!

  • Lovely post and so perfect for me! I have a very hard time asking for help, and when I do, I often semi-take it back by saying, “No, no…That was a good try, but I always do it this way…” Yah, that will kill things and the spirit in a flash. I find that if I truly want the help, I have to give over the reigns and walk away. I can’t look until it is done.

    Some things do need to be done a certain way (like the temp something is cooked at or adding sugar and not salt when that’s what the recipe calls for and using the proper cleaning tools), but most things it doesn’t matter. What does it matter if the towels are folded this way or that as long as they are folded neatly and put away? What does it matter if my son wants to wash the dishes a little slower and stack them a little different as long as he is being responsible? What does it matter if they don’t vacuum like me or sweep like me or make their beds like me as long as it gets done? I can offer tips if needed (like moving the chairs to get all the crumbs), but I certainly should be praising a whole lot more than I am criticizing.

    Help is a wonderful thing…We should not let our pride rob us of that blessing and the blessing that it gives the one offering the help. We rob ourselves of the blessings when we let pride rule. I know I am learning, slowly, with Fibromyalgia that I need a lot more help than I used to. It’s rough, but I am finding the more I allow people to help, the more I am blessed and the more they are blessed and the more I feel happy and like I can do something for someone else. It’s such an amazing domino effect. 🙂 We need more of those in this world for sure!

    • {Melinda} Even asking our kids for help can be hard, can’t it? We want it done a certain way and it stresses us when they don’t do it “our” way. As my kids got older, I realized I just have to let that go. Better to be done imperfectly than not done. And when we do it all for them, they learn to be entitled instead of having a servant heart. Kids really do like to serve — it makes them feel good and takes the focus off themselves. And they want to do it more. Domino effect, indeed!

      • I find that I have to hold them back from helping sometimes for chores they just aren’t quite ready for (like my kids wanted to wash the breakable dishes at 3 years old!). More often than not, kids want to help, if we let them. It’s all about our approach to it. If we say, “No you can’t because…” one too many times, then they stop offering or feel they can never do it right. I find that if I can’t allow that 3 year old to help with dishes, I give them something they can do…Like dusting. It helps them know that they are capable of helping and makes us all feel good. 🙂

        I think the real reason we can’t ask for help sometimes is simply because we were never allowed to help so we have to prove that we actually can do it ourselves. We figure that once we arrive at such an age or station in our lives that we suddenly must do it alone because our parents did or our sister or brother did, etc. Definitely a domino effect of epic proportions!

  • This is just SO true!! I finally learned to ask for help when my twins were born! There was just NO way my husband and I could do it alone. We needed at least one other person (if not two!) in the house for the first three months. After that experience (which was wonderful!!) I started asking for help a lot more. I realized that everyone needs help at some point and it doesn’t make me less of a mom…in fact, it makes me a better one b/c my babies were better cared for. This post is a gift so thank you!!

    • {Melinda} Oh my, Allie … two babies at the same time would definitely get you over that “I don’t need any help” thing — quick. 🙂 Double blessing, but double the things to do. You’re so right — it doesn’t make us less of a mom! Actually, it improves our mothering because we feel less stressed and supported!

  • this is so true…we are afraid of what others will think. Instead of just letting go and accepting help. I also believe that the people who want to help are good friends and would NEVER judge you., They feel better when they can help and you have a house similar to them…no way near perfect, because who is.

    • {Melinda} Great point, Karen …. usually by being vulnerable, we free others to be vulnerable, too! And that creates community! And what a blessing that is! 😉


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i’m melinda


I’m a woman who was radically changed when the God I thought I knew since childhood opened my eyes to the overwhelming depth of His love for me. I love speaking, writing, and pointing women to the Father so they can experience for themselves the healing power of His incredible, captivating love.

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