Growing up, I remember how important manners were in our home. Around the dinner table, Mom and Dad taught us to say please, thank you and excuse me. If we were old enough to answer the telephone we had to say, “Macek residence, this is ______, speaking. How can I help you?”
Dad never tolerated any one of us saying or doing anything disrespectful toward Mom. He also stressed that we should never wait to be told what to do, but rather to be vigilant about seeing what needed to be done and then doing it without being told.
These were all good lessons to learn, but one thing was missing, “What about me?”
I honestly cannot remember ever voicing a personal need to any one of my family members except for perhaps when around the dinner table I’d ask, “Can you please pass the potatoes?”
But, as a result of Dad and Mom teaching us to consider others, they neglected to teach us how to consider ourselves. As a result, I grew up assuming that asking for anyone’s help was the same as committing a venial sin.
I assumed that everyone grew up like I did with the same philosophy; you do not ask anyone for assistance because we’d all been trained to automatically tune into the needs of another. Then I got married and woke up to reality.
My husband, of course, was not raised in the same way as me. His mother did not teach him to see a need before responding. His mother simply and plainly told him what to do. But, our differences did not dawn on me right away. Instead, it took a few rounds of me feeling resentment toward him before our distinct upbringing became clear to me.
Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and angry rose up inside of me quite often when raising our family. Our three sons taxed my energy and wore my patience thin. But I never asked my husband to help me; I only expected him to help. Of course I was disappointed more times than I could count.
Then it finally dawned on me, I need to voice my needs. When I asked him to lend a hand, he was actually a little surprised. He’d thought I didn’t want his help, that he’d only be interfering, or stepping on toes.
Oh, if I’d only known that sooner, I would have saved myself from wasting so much energy on being furious.
Why bother voicing our needs? It is not a venial sin to let someone know what we need. It is not a sign of weakness to acknowledge that we cannot bear up under our load alone. Asking instead of expecting help is simply a step toward having a more honest relationship.