In the last lesson, you set a self-care SMART goal. While this is a critical first step, because of the nature of families, it’s going to be difficult or even impossible to reach your goals without your family’s active support and participation. For many women, this step is daunting. We all have needs, but sometimes it can be difficult to convey them to our families. Without knowing how to communicate our needs, the possibility of misunderstanding or the fear family may deny your support request may prevent you from reaching out.
You have a right to ask for what you need in your familial relationships. You have a responsibility to yourself, your partner, and your children to be clear about your needs. You are the expert on yourself. No one else can read your mind and know what support you need.
So if articulating your needs isn’t something you’ve felt comfortable doing, how do you start going about it? And how do you do so in a way that doesn’t create defensiveness, guilt, or anger? What will give you the best chance of your family being willing to listen and support your needs?
You place unrealistic expectations on your family if you don’t give them information on how you need to be cared for. When we don’t ask for support, the answer is always ‘no,’ which leaves us feeling unheard and unimportant. Sturdy relationships cannot be built upon best guesses and hurt feelings.
The ability to ask for what we need is an essential skill that enables familial buy-in. It eliminates assumptions while promoting clear communication. Asking for support isn’t about getting your way; it’s about growing relationships rooted in respect. Additionally, it has been shown that receiving help from others plays a vital role in reaching goals, especially when that support enhances feelings of autonomy (Koestner, 2008). In other words, you are more likely to be successful (particularly in self-care supporting goals) when your loved ones are helpful and encouraging.
If you have been following the lessons and completing the assignments, you should already know what you need. If you haven’t or feel unsure, go back to lesson 2.7 – Identifying your Needs to help you gain clarity. Identifying exactly what you need will help you figure out what changes to make in reaching your goals.
For many people, asking for help can be difficult. This difficulty can come from a myriad of reasons. Not only do we fear appearing needy (especially when it’s our role to care for others), but we’re also opening ourselves to potential rejection. It can be intimidating reaching out, even to those we love.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but strength. It shows your family that you value yourself and, in turn, they should love and take care of themselves, too. Recognizing this is an opportunity for yourself and your family will make asking for support easier.
Depending on your current family dynamics and the goals you set for yourself, you’ll need different support. For example, if your family is notorious for interrupting any semblance of “me-time” and your goal is to read for 30-minutes a day, you’re likely set for frustration if things don’t change. In this case, you could ask for support by respecting your time and space during those 30 minutes, interrupting only in true emergencies. Consider these ten ways your family can support you:
Invite them to learn why this is so important to you and how it will make a difference. While you will be going over this while asking for support, you can give a more detailed explanation another time to help your family understand. They can continue to learn about your goal as you go along and learn more yourself.
Have your family send you supportive text messages, stories, or memes throughout the day. If your goal is to meditate or journal during nap time, ask your partner to send you something encouraging as motivation and a reminder they are in your corner.
Invite your family to participate with you. While some self-care items will require time alone, some can be done with others. Have your kids join you in your morning yoga routine, or invite your partner to learn something new with you for date nights. Doing things together not only adds accountability but also makes things more fun.
If you would rather work on your goal in solitude, or if it requires you to be alone, ask your family to respect this time. This may mean instituting signs or signals as reminders, like a piece of paper on your bedroom door, letting them know it’s your private time. Or, try setting a timer, so your family knows exactly when you’ll be available again.
Moms have a lot on their plate, and sometimes we’ll need to ask for help in other areas to make room for our new goals and habits. Asking someone to take on an extra chore or two will give you more time and teach your family the importance of hard work and taking ownership of the home. You’re not the only one taking up space and resources in the house, so you shouldn’t be the only one managing it either.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to see where we can give and take. As moms, we often feel like it’s our job to do it all, and it can be hard to figure out what is most needed. Asking for your family’s perspective on what is essential might help you realize you’re prioritizing something that doesn’t truly matter. It may also help you recognize just how important your family thinks you are.
Have your family keep you accountable by setting up a specific time to check in with you. This can be particularly important if you’re notorious for putting things off or not completing tasks. Knowing someone will be asking about your progress may be the extra motivation you need to get things done. Depending on your needs, you may ask them to check in every night at dinner or just once a week. Either way, make sure they know to ask about your progress rather than relying on you to give the update.
Instituting change is hard! It can quickly feel like it’s not worth it, especially if we feel like we’ve already failed. Ask your family to remind you why this was so important to you. Remembering why we started can help give us the boost we need to keep going. Bonus points if they also remind you why it’s important to them. Hint: it probably has something to do with how much they love you and want to see you happy.
Other times, having someone remind us why we started is less helpful and more annoying. If you tend to feel this often, maybe asking your family to listen when things get hard is what you need. For some people, venting to someone else helps re-gain clarity and motivation.
This one should be part of everyone’s list. Celebrating accomplishments (yes, even the small ones) is vital! While you can do this yourself, it’s more fun to celebrate with others. Whether it be as small as having a dance party in your kitchen after you go for a run or doing a special activity once you’ve mastered your new skill, finding ways to celebrate your wins is integral to your overall success.
Knowing when to strike up a conversation is just as important as how to start it. Timing truly can be everything. Bringing up these needs when tensions are high or feelings are already hurt isn’t likely to get the positive response you’re hoping for. Plan to ask for help when things are going well and people aren’t busy with other tasks. If the entire family is involved (which we highly suggest), dinner could be a great time to make your request. Everyone is already together with focused attention, but generally, people are happier with full bellies. If you’re asking your partner, it may be helpful to broach the subject after the kids are in bed or out on a date. Choosing a time when you’re less likely to have distractions and can talk together is key.
If this is new to you or feels intimidating, that’s okay. To start this kind of conversation, follow this four-step process that doesn’t attack or place blame and allows you to speak from your heart.
Explain what the situation looks like from your point of view. For example, “I’ve noticed I haven’t been taking care of my needs, and that’s affecting the way I function as a wife and mother.” You’re simply stating an observation from your point of view, not blaming anybody. John Gottman refers to this as a “soft start-up” (Lisitsa, 2020).
Let your family know how you are feeling. For example, “I’ve been feeling depleted, worn-out, and ornery.” Using “I” statements is key to avoiding blame and guilt and keeping tensions down.
If you’ve been following the lessons and completing the assignments, you should know your exact needs and how you would like to address them. Let your family know what you’ve come up with. That may sound like, “I’ve been taking a course to help me figure out how to feel like myself again, and I discovered that I need to focus on my physical self-care. I want to do that by walking for at least 30-minutes every evening after dinner.”
Here’s where you tell your family what they can do. Be straightforward and make a suggestion that meets the support you need. For example, “For me to do this, I’m going to need your support. It would help me if you could clear the table, sweep, and clean the dishes after dinner so I have time to walk before we start our bedtime routine. Will you help me do that?”
While asking for help can be intimidating, it’s an integral part of setting successful goals. This is particularly true in setting your self-care goals as a mom since you’ll likely be instituting changes that affect other family members. These changes will help you achieve what you’ve set out to do and help strengthen your family, so garnering support early on will be worth it (Thomas et al., 2017). You, and your family, are worth it.
Now that we’ve identified how to attain buy-in by setting SMART goals and asking for support, we’ll discuss the fourth phase of pursuing the REAL you: leaning in.