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"I Hate Asking for Help"

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Excuse #5 “I Was Raised to Be Self-Sufficient”

When her husband went away on a five-day business trip last September, Isadora Fox, 39, of Austin, couldn’t bring herself to call on a neighbor — even just to watch her 4-year-old daughter, Sasha, for 90 minutes while she prepared for two big exams. Fox, who works part-time as a writer while she studies to become a nurse-practitioner, also had three major deadlines and sole responsibility for driving Sasha to preschool, swimming, gymnastics, and a birthday party. To get everything done, she stayed up until 2 every night, even though she was five months pregnant. “I chose to be a mother, go back to school, and work part time,” Fox says, “so I thought I should suck it up and handle everything myself, because this is what I signed up for.” Instead, she collapsed with a nasty sinus infection.

Subduing an independent-to-a-fault streak takes soul-searching. Try to shift your focus from self-reliance to self-care, understanding that doing what’s best for you will give you strength to care for others. Edit your mental self-talk about independence by telling yourself it’s nothing but a self-imposed, self-limiting mantra.

That strategy worked for Fox. “I started thinking about how I do favors for other people,” she says. “I don’t think worse of them for needing some assistance, and I’m sure that none of my friends and neighbors would mind helping me.” A few months later, when her husband was away during her final exams, Fox asked a friend to babysit for three hours one night while she studied. “I still won’t call someone for help because I’m just tired,” Fox says. “But I will in an emergency — and being eight months pregnant and in the throes of finals counts!”

And what of Kathleen Hornstein? Today, she usually doesn’t hesitate to request the assistance she needs either, whether it’s sending her husband grocery shopping, tapping her daughter to fold laundry, or asking a neighbor to babysit her 4-year-old twins. The result: She’s more relaxed and less frazzled. Better yet, Hornstein says, is seeing the positive impact her requests have had. “My kids are learning responsibility and getting a feeling of accomplishment when they do small chores. And from carpooling, I’ve gotten to know other moms and deepened some existing friendships. I had to learn to ask for help, but now, I can’t imagine living my life any other way.”

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