Monday, 21 July 2014

A Helping Hand

Yesterday, I read this post by the wonderful Janelle at Renegade Mothering. I'll give you the gist...

She just had her fourth baby 5 weeks ago. It's 3pm, and she has to cook for a little dinner party for her mother in law's birthday, so she has to take all 4 kids food shopping, despite the fact that everyone is in the tired, cranky afternoon phase and her toddler turns into a squirrel on crack in Costco.
Anyway, she makes it to the checkout unscathed (just), only to find the person in front of her having a long, in depth conversation with the checkout guy. The baby is starting to fuss and cry, the older kids are bored and tired and the toddler is getting squirmy in the trolley seat.
Still, the checkout guy and the customer in front continue their chat. (don't you hate it when that happens?)
The baby reaches the hysterical, screaming blue murder stage, and Janelle has to unclip him from his car seat and try to comfort him. He is desperately trying to nurse and has a wet nappy. She considers coming out of the queue, but is next in line with a long line behind her, so decides that the quicker this ordeal is over, the better.
At that exact moment, a voice behind her shouts, and she turns to see her 3 year old standing up in the seat of the trolley. So, just while she's trying to comfort a screaming newborn and clip a crazy toddler back into the trolley seat, the checkout guy decides that he must serve her RIGHT NOW, and is impatiently asking her for her Costco card and telling her to start loading her shopping onto the conveyor belt.
Who helps her? No-one. Not one person. Not the checkout guy, not the other people in line. Everyone just stands and stares at her as she struggles, tutting and huffing that she's holding them up.
Now, the ultimate outcome is that she did eventually get out of there, albeit hot, sweaty and very very stressed, but why did nobody help? Why did they treat her like she was just a pain in the arse who was slowing them down?

Is it, because, as Janelle says, "People are dicks"?
Well, I'm sure some of those people were probably thinking "Well, it was her choice to have so many kids, and take them all shopping. Maybe she should have fed/changed the baby first/come out earlier/shopped online".
Well, excuse me, but sometimes, parents have to get things done, despite the time of day or number of kids in tow.

Here's a fact for you....the priciple of taking kids out is the same as the principle of having said kids in the first place....there's never an ideal time.
Even if you only have one kid, I guarantee they will poop/vomit/have an epic, universe ending meltdown right at the moment you need to get something done. In fact, the scale of the poop/vomit/epic, universe ending meltdown will be directly proportional to the urgency of your task.
Add more than one kid into the mix, and you'll feel as if you deserve a Nobel Prize just for being able to make a phone call with them in the background.

I'm sure we've all had a time when we've needed help and nobody has offered it. I've had plenty of times when I've been juggling all three kids in the supermarket, or all three kids and the dog in the park, and all I've heard from passers by is "Oh ho! You've got your hands full!"
Well, no shit Sherlock, how about giving me a hand?

So...why do people generally hesitate to help when they see someone struggling?
I'd like to think that the majority of us (at least 90%) are, in fact, not dicks. If they do see someone struggling and think "Tough titty, it must suck to be them", then yes, they are dicks.
What about the rest of us?

Maybe we're so absorbed in our own thing, staring at our phones, minding our own business, that we're genuinely oblivious to the struggles of others.

Maybe we're scared to help, because the person struggling might say no, or look at us like we're trying to steal their kids or rob them.

Speaking of saying no, why do people do that? I'm guilty of it myself, if I'm in the supermarket and the checkout person asks if I want a hand to pack, I generally say no thanks, and then struggle to keep up as they throw every item at me at top speed, while I struggle to get them into bags while juggling a baby on my hip.
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I took Amelie to McDonalds (I know, shameful chav mother, what would the Daily Mail say?), and was struggling to push the buggy while holding my tray with one hand. The girl in the queue behind me offered to help carry my tray to a table and I said no thanks. She looked a bit hurt, and I felt especially bad because I really could have used the help, and accepted it when someone who worked there offered a hand seconds later.

Are we so proud that we can't accept a wee hand every now and then? We're taught from an early age the importance of standing on your own two feet, being independent, not relying on anyone for anything.

Is it an admission of failure to accept a bit of help, or, gasp! ask for it in the first place?
I know myself, depending on my hormonal state, that if I'm struggling with the kids and someone offers a hand, what I actually hear is "You clearly can't cope with all those kids, let someone who knows better take over", which is probably why I automatically say no, because I have to prove that I can cope at all times.
Thing is, it's not about coping or not coping, it's just about sharing the load. If someone is wiling to help, why not give them a chance to be nice?

Maybe that's why people don't help more often, they've been knocked back so many times, they just mind their own business now.

Reading that post made me realise that we do need to get more of a village mentality back into society, where we automatically help each other out, and accept that help without suspicion or embarrassment.
I'm certainly going to make an effort to offer help to people more often, whether they look like they need it or not. I'll make an effort to accept help as well, whether I need it or not.

The kids and I are trying to do good deeds every day, not for the kudos, but just because it makes a tiny part of the world a better place.
The other day, we were at a big park and a group of kids thought it was funny to shred up a discarded newspaper and throw it all over the park, then run away.
I got the kids to help me pick it all up and put it in the bin. Why? Because we're not dicks. I want my kids to have a tidy park to play in, so even though it shouldn't be my job, I do it because it needs done.
Maybe we should all stop thinking "Well, that's not my problem" and realise that we all live in the same town/country/planet and should be helping each other out as standard.

That's my new mantra for life...Offer help, accept help, and try not to be a dick.
So far, I think it's working.

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