I consider myself a strong, independent woman. I like to think of myself as someone who can do it all on my own. I don’t NEED help from anyone. I don’t need a man to support me. There is a great deal of pride in being able to say “I did it on my own and I did well.” I am raising 2 wonderful children as a single mom, and maintaining a household. I am working full time and developing my professional skills every day. I raise my hand to volunteer. I am coming up on an opportunity to travel for work and speak to an audience that will include the CEO of the company I work for. When I’m nominated to sit on a panel or speak to a group, I don’t shy away, even though I consider myself to lean more introverted. As a woman who feels empowered and capable and willing, why should I have to ask for anything when I can just earn it? All I have to do is Lean In, right?
As a mother, I realize that I simply cannot be all things to my children. I can only be their mom. I allow their teachers to teach them. I am thankful for their care providers for caring for them when I am working. Their father will always be their father, and I don’t intend to take that role away from him. Their grandparents, aunts and uncles will always hold a place in their lives. I provide what I can, when I can and hope (as all parents do) that it is enough. As a single mom, I cannot bear all of the burden of household chores. This is where I have to bite my pride and ask for help. I expect and often times have to ask and remind my children to clean up after themselves. Sometimes I have to ask for someone to help care for my kids (usually my mom) when I am attending a work event.
That’s all normal right? Asking for help with personal stuff is how single mothers survive.
I have been doing quite a bit of reading, lately. I’ve read about being a Kickass Single Mom. I read a book called Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want. My current read is Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make. Notice a theme? I am trying to grow professionally and personally. I want my kids to be happy and healthy and I want to thrive in my career. This seems like something that shouldn’t be hard for a woman like myself who is fiercely independent, empowered, and capable. What I continue to learn with time, though, is that I struggle to ask. It has been so ingrained in me that figuring it out myself is the best way, I often times don’t even consider asking for help.
A couple weeks ago, I was struggling with a procedure at work. I found exactly where the problem was coming from, but I didn’t know why it was happening. I thought I would solve the problem a different way. I thought I was going to make the process more clear with my new solution. But I was on a deadline that was very fast approaching. As it became more clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to reinvent the wheel within a week, I talked to my boss about it. After another couple days back and forth, he brought in a bigger group and finally someone was able to look at it with clear eyes and find the root of the problem. I had worked late nights and over the weekend because I told myself I would find the solution myself. I really thought I was going to be able to rewrite a program and process that has over a thousand lines of code and 3 separate mapping tables within a week. I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea at the time, but I really did. When I finally asked for help, I realized how foolish it was to put in all of that time when the solution was just an ask for help away. Lesson learned. For now.
What I’m learning is that one of the things I do, that happens to be common in women, is I tend to overwork. I tend to think my work will speak for itself. I tend to do things for other people and put my own needs aside. Sometimes I think, the harder I work the better off I will be. There is a common phrase many women can relate to that “women work twice as hard for half the recognition” and I sometimes feel like I fall into that category. Perhaps the reason I feel like I have to work twice as hard is because I am too busy working hard and not learning how to promote myself better. So I am working on that. I am reading up on and studying how to attack my professional weaknesses to continue to thrive in my career.
So, why should I, an empowered, capable, professional, independent, successful, single mom of 2, have to ask for anything? The only answer I can come up with is if I don’t ask I won’t get it. If I don’t ask for my kids to clean their rooms, the rooms will be messy. If I don’t ask if I can go on a work trip, and ask for help with the kids while I’m away, I won’t be offered the opportunity to speak in front of the CEO. If I don’t ask for help with problems, I will miss deadlines. If I don’t ask for an opportunity, I won’t get it. This goes beyond not feeling confident enough to try to reach for something that’s available. This is asking for something that doesn’t exist, with a bold confidence that the worst thing that could happen is nothing.
This is so much easier said than done. I am working very diligently on strengthening my skill of asking for what I want and need. Building my confidence has been a very slow journey for me and I intend to continue working towards being the woman in the corner office.