Stop Asking What You Can Do To Help

mom delivering box of food to friend

Recently, my infant son required urgent surgery.

We’d been searching for a diagnosis for over a month and finally, after begging for an appointment with the specialist I believed would have some answers, a diagnosis was given. Less than a week later, he underwent surgery.

Moments like these happen to all of us, crisis. Time passes at a different clip, survival mode kicks in, and if you’re lucky, for a moment you feel superhuman at how you’re still keeping tiny humans alive and everyone fed and the house moderately clean instead of climbing under the covers until it’s over. These moments are hard, but dang was I blessed with people who care.

I do not ask for help. It’s my fatal flaw. I am the helper. At least, I thought I was. It took being in this particular situation though to realize just how bad I was doing at being the helper.

I’m the queen of offering the phrase “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” when I see someone struggling. I mean it, 1000%. I want that person to reach out if there is any way I can ease their burden, and I will do whatever I can.

It wasn’t until I was in the trenches though that I realized that this phrase can feel like a burden itself. I don’t mean this to naysay anyone who offered help — the offers poured in, and I am eternally grateful. It’s always nice to know people care and should I step as far out of my comfort zone as possible and ask, it’s nice to know who I should turn to. This is merely a self audit of a phrase I genuinely offer, but had no idea what it felt like to receive during a time of need. The trouble was, while we were in the thick of it, I had no idea what I needed. I was surviving. 

What I didn’t realize was the immeasurable relief, gratitude, and love felt when someone just stepped in and helped in whatever way they knew how. A Door Dash gift card, a meal delivered, the most impressive bag of goodies to keep my toddler entertained while we tended to little brother — these things brought me to my knees. I had no idea that I needed to not think about what was for dinner, I was managing, but I was offered the gift of not having to even think about it. Brain space to process life in real time.

The mental load of life’s toughest moments is a force to be reckoned with, and I had no idea that “let me know how I can help” would twist me in knots the way it did. I’d stare at the offers and think, “I’d love help… but with what?!” I didn’t know the relief a meal or distraction delivered to my doorstep could provide when given no chance  to sheepishly turn down the help for fear of burden sharing. I love being the helper, and to realize what it can feel like to be on the receiving end of one of my most frequent ways of helping (really, just offering help) makes me want to do better.

As they say though, “when you know better, you can do better.”

Kara Montgomery
Kara is a coffee loving, pregnant, stay at home toddler and dog mom. Kara and her wife have been doing life together for 11 years and married for 6. They are raising their kids in a rural suburb just outside Kansas City and navigating raising kiddos that don’t know life outside of a global pandemic. Home improvement projects, playing in nature, and time with family are what keep them sane. A current focus in her personal life is remembering and relearning the joy in all things she enjoyed before they became her “job” or the “grown up thing” to do, like cooking, cleaning, and exercising; and always working towards growth and balance.