Why are parents reluctant to ask for help when they need it?

WATCH ABOVE: Parenting today is different than it was generations ago. Despite the saying that "it takes a village," many moms and dads feel like they're doing it alone. So why are parents so reluctant to ask for help? Kim Smith explains.

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Trent Wilkie is stay-at-home-dad of two kids, aged four and two, in Edmonton. His wife works full-time and Wilkie chose to stay home after their first child was born.

He’s accustomed to parenting solo, but when his wife was out of town for six days, he hit a breaking point.

“It’s been a consistent chaos with great highs and many lows, but last night was the lowest,” Wilkie said in an interview earlier this month.

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Wilkie said his lowest moment occurred on day five, when both kids crawled into bed with him around 2 a.m. and it took until 4 a.m. to get them back to sleep.

“I just started crying,” he said.

“I feel like all these little tiny things, when you look at them, they’re just a tiny thing. But when you put them all together, it becomes a difficult thread to get through.”

Even after his lowest point, Wilkie said he still struggled to ask friends for help. He said he knows he’s lucky to have the support of his wife, a roof over their heads, and two healthy children, so considering asking for help made him feel guilty.

“I know there would be a lot of people there to help me, but I just feel like I’m wasting their time, I feel like I would be selfish.”

When asked what the most difficult part of the week had been, Wilkie said that it was ensuring his wife wasn’t worried: “Her talking to me online and me being calm and pretending that I have it all together.”

“I do have it all together. The kids are alive and fed and they’re happy, but you start to realize how much you need that other person.”

Why do parents struggle to ask for help?

Dr. Alex Russell is a clinical psychologist based in Toronto. He said parents today feel responsible for the success of their kids.

“We really feel like we’re on the hook for how they do in the world. When they screw up… it feel likes it’s a sign of parental incompetence. Most parents aren’t aware that they believe that, but most parents today do believe that,” Russell said via Skype.

“When kids aren’t doing what they’re suppose to be doing, then we feel like we’re failing.”

Russell explained that asking for help might feel like failure.

“We’re suppose to have this together. We’re suppose to have this down. This was our holy duty,” he said. “You can see why that would really get in the way of asking for help.”

His advice is for parents to learn to let go of some of the responsibility. Instead of parenting in isolation, transfer some of the responsibility to teachers, caregivers and coaches, for example.

“We want to help parents get back to that place where they can really enjoy their kids and not be so overly invested in how they turn out,” he said.

“It’s actually funner that way and it’s better for kids. Kids can find their own unique voice and identity that way. Then the parents’ job is to recognize, confirm and validate that emerging human being.”

As for Wilkie, he said the next time he’s alone for an extended period of time, he will put aside his pride.

“If I could do these days over, I would have a friend come over for a bit just so I could take a shower,” he said. “It’s a perspective balancer. Can I do this again? Yes and I’ll do it better.”


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