As a mum, it's hard to ask for help. And that needs to change

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 Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday was a bad day for me. I started feeling ill a couple of days ago but battled on, as us mums do.

I thought the feeling would pass and relied on pain relief washed down with strong cups of tea. I continued to fight the morning battles, packing lunch boxes and offering homework bribes.

But this approach did little other than temporarily numb the pain. Yesterday the sickness hit me for six. I was bed ridden, had no energy and felt like my head would explode.

The thought of getting up and battling my way through another day felt akin to climbing Everest.

So I did the thing that mums rarely do: I asked for help. I asked my husband to come home from work.

In the space of six years of parenting, I can recall only having done this once before.

Of course there have been days when I've sent a desperately tapped out email or text demanding him not to be home late - the days when the crying or whining had become too much, or simply the days when I felt broken by one too many trips to the park.

But actually asking him to come home because I'm ill just doesn't happen.

As a mum and woman it's ingrained in us to just carry on. We don't have the luxury of time to be sick, and if we are, we just suck it up. We carry on with everything we need to do and suffer a lingering guilt if we so much as let any ball drop.

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We put pressure on ourselves to always do everything to our best ability, and we never cut ourselves any slack. We put everyone first and always ourselves last.

If our children are sick we give them love, rest and compassion. Yet if we're sick ourselves we're lucky to get five minutes rest.

In asking for help I realised two things. Firstly, it wasn't that hard and putting myself first for a change was a really good feeling – if not ironic, given how I physically felt.

Being able to sign off and just put myself to bed felt good. Being ill around my children was of no benefit at all as I was unable to function and was cranky as a result.

Secondly, I realised that my family didn't fall apart without me for that time. Everyone still got fed and watered. They were all clothed and washed and in the meantime I could totally relinquish control.

And for me I think that is part of the problem.

I feel like no one can do my job as well as me. Yet the high standards I uphold are often unrealistic. I've brought into the belief that my control and perfectionism within the household and family reflects on my abilities as a mum.

If I ask for help it's like I've failed somehow, even when I feel like death warmed up.

Yet after this recent illness I've reassessed my thinking, and realised that this attitude is silly. We all need help from time to time and there's no shame in asking for it.

Sometimes life throws us curveballs that we simply can't dodge. Try as we might to tick every box it's just not always possible. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, and nor is it a sign of failure.

As an analogy, us mums are guilty of overloading our plates, but never take the time to actually enjoy a meal.

So next time I'm struggling and need help, I'm going to ask. I'm not going to be a hero and I'm not going to battle on. I will put my hand up and admit defeat.

Who knows, doing it more may make it easier and less scary.