Inspiration Lab member Parker Wilson is an entrepreneur, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce board member, wife, and mother of three kids (including infant twins!). In other words, she is B-U-S-Y. As the founder of Sparked Consulting, she guides small businesses on branding, operations, and growth. While she’s usually helping others, below Parker shares what it was like learning to accept help for herself this year.
I like doing a lot at once. I love building from scratch, leading teams, and rallying around a common cause. And at the end of the day, I love people.
And for a while, I did those things decently well. Then I became a mom.
Over time (a lot of time) and with the support of other women, I found my footing.
Then I became a mom again. Of twins. In a global pandemic.
Navigating the grit and glory of three kids alongside the ebbs and flows of my career and life layered in between a global pandemic felt like a really bad roller coaster that switched directions halfway through and ended with a detached boxcar on the opposite side of the fairground. And I knew I wasn’t the only one.
Dear friends were seeing their businesses close. Loved ones were concerned for the health of their family members. How could I process next steps when the world around me seemed to be spiraling out of control?
A disclaimer before I offer my advice: I don’t enjoy asking for help. While a total people-obsessed extrovert, I get a kick out of being relied upon. And like many of my raised-in-the-South counterparts, I struggle with good ol’ martyrdom syndrome.
But when I had my first major pregnancy scare at 31 weeks, I knew help was going to be both a gift and a necessity.
I remember calling my magical, incredible neighbor friend on the way to the hospital. She cut me off mid-sentence. “What do you need me to do? Do you want me to come sit with you?”
I fumbled all the words after that. Thankfully, she’s a cut-through-the-BS type of person and, within minutes, was by my side so my husband could be with our daughter.
I would have multiple hospital visits after that day, including a scary stint in pediatrics with my second twin and a couple more surgeries for yours truly. All of it was overwhelming and yes… super-humbling.
In these last few months of postpartum, I went from playing hero (or at least attempting to) to asking for help – consistently, frequently, and boldly. And I won’t be going back to my old (and admittedly stubbornly independent) ways.
Here are three tips on how I started asking for help:
When I didn’t know what I needed, I said so. Plenty of times, while wrapped up in tiny humans or family drama or just on a plain, no-good day, I wasn’t sure how to unravel the challenge in front of me. If a friend said, “What can I do to help?”, I honestly felt overwhelmed by the question. I figured out quickly that vocalizing the sh*tstorm and ending it with an “I don’t know, but something” was perfectly sufficient. The person on the other end of the phone was at least aware things were less than ideal, and she took on the task of figuring out what might help most. At first, this felt super-uncomfortable. But I quickly learned that my close crew would never judge me/abandon me/think less of me when I found myself in the craze. Having a friend who just knew things were messy was a gift in and of itself.
I practiced saying “yes.” Personally, with every offer of help, I felt I was incurring a debt I could never repay. Little secret? That’s not how true friendships work. Some of the best advice I received early on from a dear friend: If someone offers specific help, trust the offer. When my neighbor called to ask if I needed her to pick up prescriptions for me after my surgery, I said yes. When my friend asked if dinner one night would be helpful, I said yes. When my fellow twin-mom friend asked if she could fold towels, I felt so awkward saying yes, I almost turned into a full blown tomato... but I got the words out – yes! I believe my village will only show up when they have the capacity to do so and as such, I will gladly accept the help.
I tried to find the need before it consumed me. Sure, this can be a difficult one to tackle. If you’re anything like me, you may be knee-deep in the you-know-what before you realize you need a helping hand out of it. But practice (mostly) makes perfect. When I feel my heart rate increase or my chest tighten, I know I’m in a bind. I pause, assess the most pressing challenge, and identify what might provide relief in the moment or prevent further chaos from developing. I mentally scan my “best in the world at x-y-z list” and phone a friend. (One thing at a time, of course. If you see a whole slew of “wait — this requires help” situations heading your way, start with what fills your cup or gives you peace. Is it people? Do a phone date. Is it order and organization? Ask for laundry help. Is it sleep? Hire a sitter.)
When my friend was sitting with me in labor and delivery, she asked the doctor 15 questions I didn’t even think of. She could move beyond the fear and get into the critical information that would help me navigate the following weeks. At that moment, there was nothing I could do to help her — as a person who had climbed far more mountainous roads toward motherhood than I could imagine, she just knew what to do. And see, that’s the thing about help: Sometimes we’re in a position to receive it. Down the road, we will be in a place to offer it. Rarely do we sit in a season of both.
If you find yourself in a season to offer support, here’s my “don’t” list.
Don’t overthink the help. As women, we’re pretty good at reading between the lines. If you see a post online or get a text from a friend that just feels… off … show up. With my first daughter, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. On one of my darkest days, I received a text from a friend down the road. “I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m supposed to be at your house right now.” She showed up with dinner and held my screaming daughter. She was unflappable — patient, intentional, calming. And she saved my life that day. Showing up is a big deal, y’all.
Don’t wait for the request. A small gesture goes a long way. One of the biggest turning points after having my twin boys came from an ice cream drop-off. A close friend showed up at 8:30 PM with my favorite vegan ice cream because she knows what’s up. She sat far away from me on my front porch and listened… for an hour. She listened to me cry about my doubts and normalized the crazy in which I found myself. Without question, she was in her own space of intense juggling. Yet she had the ability to connect, empathize, and love. She didn’t wait — she showed up.
Don’t make it about you. I still struggle with this one. As a serious empath, I often listen and immediately “try to relate.” I find a commonality; a similar story or reference point I think may be helpful. What I’ve learned is that when someone is in the throes of hard things, listening first is our biggest gift — and our biggest opportunity. Sit down with a friend and hear her out. Ask intentional questions, offer help when it is timely and possible, and follow up.
When I was in the thick of it, asking for and/or receiving any amount of help gave me pangs of guilt as I peered out of my “I should be able to do this” glasses. But here’s the truth: When I survey my life, the very best parts of it are a direct result of my community. Every road, whether paved with gold bricks or fraught with challenge, was traveled with someone by my side.
We are not meant to live in isolation. We are human beings built for connection. While the world may feel upended, community is still relevant. Community cannot be canceled.
If anything, it is the most critical component to our emotional wellbeing.
Today, you either find yourself in a season of plenty or a season of want. Around you stand women in the opposite place. Consider vocalizing where you are. Ask for help. Give help.
Because together is better.