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Marianne Grier

Asking for Help: Lessons from Toddlerhood

Work from Home Parent

My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter has been asking for help since the day she was born. She first expressed herself, as babies do, with simple cries that left much to interpretation. Her expressions progressed from “Help!” to “Mama, please could you help me with ___.” While she clearly values doing certain things by herself, she has never been ashamed to ask for help.

Work from Home Parent
Evgenii Naumov ©

After our most recent holiday break, our little household struggled to settle back in to our normal daily routine. My daughter was especially thrown off, and had rollercoaster mood swings. My husband and I despaired as our formerly sunny, giggly girl battled against anything other than eating popsicles and watching Peppa Pig.

So I did something I’d watched her do countless times, something that no longer comes naturally to me. I asked for help. I did my usual internet research (as I’ve confessed before). But I also reached out to parent connections near and far, including some I didn’t know very well. I spoke with a counsellor, an infant development consultant, a childcare coordinator, and our pediatrician. The resounding, overarching opinion: it sounds like she’s a two-year-old, and it can be really hard on everyone.

What surprised me most when I started my help-seeking mission was that many others had gone or were going through this, and no one was talking about it. I felt like we were the only ones until I opened up and asked questions. The experience made me reflect on how I often approach my work with a similar reluctance to ask for help. I’ll usually ask others if I’m absolutely stumped or can’t find what I’m looking for after exhausting the internet. For those of us who edit in home offices, work can be lonely. If you can’t see your peers, it’s easy to forget that they might be in the same boat as you. By connecting with others in our circles and expanding our networks, we often make deep connections even if we don’t get the answer we’re looking for.  

Over a month after the holiday break, we’re still working daily on our transition. But I feel armed with more information and some allies to turn to if I need them. I also hope that being vulnerable with others will encourage them to ask me for help if they ever need a hand. Whether it’s at work or in another aspect of life, we all have something to learn from the toddler’s unabashed willingness to ask for support when they need it. I will leave you with a song we’ve been singing around here (sung to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”):

It’s OKAY to Ask for Help

I can do a lot of things myself,

But sometimes I must ask for help.

Whether you’re a grown-up

Or just turned three,

It’s okay to say, “Please help me.”*

*Amadee Ricketts, Gentle Hands and Other Sing-Along Songs for Social-Emotional Learning (Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, 2018), 8.   


Previous post from Marianne Grier: Editing and the Art of Ikea Furniture Building

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3 Comments on “Asking for Help: Lessons from Toddlerhood”

  • Frances Peck


    I bet a lot of readers can relate to this post, especially the lone freelancers. I know I can. Especially before I joined my partnership, West Coast Editorial Associates, I almost never asked for help. The idea of saying « I’m not sure what to do here » felt like an admission of weakness or ignorance. I might as well wear a gigantic « Imposter » sign on my back.

    Then I joined WCEA. I started getting occasional harried emails from partners: « I know there’s something wrong with this sentence, but what? » or « This client is giving me trouble. Help! » These were veteran editors, every one of them excellent at what they did. But still they needed help, and they weren’t afraid to ask for it.

    It’s so liberating to realize that asking for help is not only okay, it’s a sign of strength. The most together, confident people out there do it all the time. Thanks, Marianne, for your reassurance and, as always, your beautifully written post.

  • Anita Jenkins


    Brilliant post. I recognize the syndrome well, and have two significant stories that illustrate it. Once, in the English teachers’ work room, I said, « I am so stressed that I have to take Valium, » and a bunch of others who had said nothing were suddenly crying, « Me too. » Things were better for all of us when we started talking about it. The second occurrence was during the oil bust of the early 1980s in Alberta. At the office where I worked, I said, « My husband has been unemployed for two years and he can’t find a job. » The same response from several others who had been remaining silent.

    Don’t be afraid to admit that you are struggling or don’t know something. You will find that others are in the same boat, and you can help each other.

    The « imposter syndrome » that Frances Peck mentions is a definite factor, in editing and in other roles. Don’t let it stop you from reaching out.

  • Doris Gillis


    Thanks Marianne for this post. It is more relevant today than when you first posted it a couple of weeks ago. We all need to be courageous enough to reach out for help as we face challenges in both our work and family contexts these days. Timely reminder!

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