A hand out vs a hand up

I was working at a country club as a front desk attendant when I became pregnant with my second child. I worked evenings, usually from about 2:30pm to 10:30pm. I had no car. My partner at the time had use of our only vehicle during the day. So I would load up my daughter into her little seat on the back on my bike, pedal uphill to the home daycare she attended, drop her off, coast downhill (a complete sweaty mess) all the way home. I’d have enough time to get ready for work, walk 20 minutes to the center of town to catch my first bus. I would ride south into the next town, catch another bus, head to the next town over, and then walk another 20 minutes to work.

Coming home after my shift was a toss up. Sometimes I would have to repeat the same routine, but backwards. Sometimes I was lucky enough to catch a ride with a co-worker directly to the bus terminal. There I would be with the drunks and the panhandlers, desperately trying not to get mixed up in the chaos in and around the terminal so late at night. I’d catch the last bus heading northbound, get dropped off in the middle of town and then walk home. By the time I made it into the house, it would be well after midnight.

When I finally started my maternity leave I was beyond thrilled to simply not have to make that awful treck back and forth between home an work. The days were so long, and I hated being away from my daughter. I was also thankful to not have to fight daily about the rides I was graciously provided by my coworker. I will say however, that when you are visibly pregnant (not just “I ate too many tacos” pregnant) people don’t even bat an eye at you when you take the front seat of the bus. I felt so much safer being close to the driver, and for the most part, they provided some great conversation.

I took a month off before my son was born. A month to spend some time with my daughter, and some time to nest and mentally prepare for being a mom of two. I put my Christmas tree up in the middle of November, I sewed some handmade stockings for us all, and I cleaned and tidied like it was my job.

My maternity leave payments hadn’t started yet, and because I was no longer working, I had no income coming in. My partner was waiting for his snow removal season to start, so his income was also minimal. We fell behind on payments. We awoke one morning to find our vehicle had been repossessed over night. Next, our living room set was repossessed (we had it on payments from Easyhome…) Collection agencies were calling. Bills were beyond late and services were getting cut off.

My son was born and we were thankful to have a roof over our heads at that point.

One day my dad stopped in. He had tried to reach us by phone, but they had been cut off. He walked in, looked around, and asked: “Is everything ok…?”

I fell apart into a sobbing mess.

This was my new low. I was a new mother with a preschooler and a life that was falling apart at the seams. My dad asked why I didn’t reach out for help. I told him I didn’t think I needed it… Then he said to me some words that changed my life forever:

“Melissa, do you need help? It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to ask for hand up, and not a hand out.”

A hand UP and not a hand OUT.

We often withdraw in times of need for fear of being judged. I was so focused of “doing it myself” but the more life added to my plate, the less I could keep up. I pulled away. I became focused on hiding; surviving. The day my dad walked in it felt like I could breathe again. He helped us pay some bills and get caught up. We found some couches on Freecycle. My maternity leave payments came in. Things turned around that day.

I look back on this period of my life and I am so thankful for the lessons it taught me. I planted some firm roots in the foundation of life that day. This experience makes me appreciate all that have so much more. The vehicle I drive, the job that I get to go to everyday, the roof over my head, the hot water I can shower in, the couches I sit on.

I earned them.

Don’t be a superhero all the time. There is a certain level of independence we all need to uphold, but sometimes life gets you down. And you need to ask for help. It’s embarrassing. It’s admitting defeat. But it also makes you human. Maybe it’s not financial distress… maybe you feel overwhelmed as a mom with life’s daily tasks: mothering, working, laundry, dinner making etc and your mind starts to drift. You go to a dark place…

Ask for help.

It’s ok.

We are all in this together and asking for a hand UP; a hand to lift you out of darkness… well, that’s one of the most gracious gifts anyone could give.

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