How I Do It: Ask For Help

The question I hear most often is this, “How do you do it? How do you manage five kids, homeschooling, and your writing?”

Lately, I’ve been sharing some of my secrets for how I do it. In one post, I shared about the need to ease into more responsibility (versus jumping in too deep at the start). In the last post, I talked about the importance of living intentionally, but also giving ourselves breathing room.

Today, I’m going to share another trick I have for managing all of my responsibilities. Here it is: I don’t manage everything. At least not by myself.

I have help.

No. I don’t have a live-in nanny. And no, I don’t have a full time maid—although I’d love for someone to bequeath one or the other to me in their will! And actually while they’re bequeathing, I wouldn’t mind a a chauffeur to drive my kids to all of their activities and a full time chef to prepare something besides frozen waffles and boxed mac & cheese.

Alas, I have none of the above. I’m the nanny, maid, chauffeur, and chef all wrapped into one—in addition to being a full time teacher and writer.

The reality is that I can’t do each of the jobs and do them well. I just can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. And I’ve failed.

Although I’m independent and have a difficult time asking for help, over the years I’ve learned that I need support if I’m going to succeed. I’ve also learned that help can come in many different shapes and sizes, but that I can’t be afraid to ask for it.

We need support if we’re going to succeed.

We all need to surround ourselves with people who believe in us and what we’re doing. For example, in the ten years I’ve been homeschooling, I’ve become close to a group of women who are all going through the same challenges that come with home-teaching. Without their support, commiserating, and sharing of ideas, I likely would have quit long ago.
Same with my writing. If I didn’t have family and other writers who encouraged and believed in me, I’d have a difficult time withstanding the pressures and the criticism that come. Because they do come. There will always be people in our lives who don’t understand the things that are important to us, who think we should be doing something different, or who will point out the negatives.

Help comes in different shapes and sizes.

Over the past several years, my help has come in a variety of ways. First, I’ve enlisted the support of my husband. Since I gladly and willingly support him in his work, I only asked that he do the same for me. While it’s taken some time and plenty of conversations, we’re both learning to work together as a team in handling the many responsibilities of running a large family. In other words, he helps clean, runs errands, and even cooks some of the meals, so that the work is more manageable for both of us.

Second, I’ve worked at training my children to pitch in and help. In recent years, my older children (14 & 12) can handle more chores around the house. They do things like mow the lawn, fold & put away laundry, and meal preparation. I’ve even paid them to help watch my younger two children so that I can have more concentrated writing time.

My point is that, we often have more help at our fingertips than we realize. Which brings me to the next point . . .

We can’t be afraid (or ashamed) to ask for help.

We need to have open communication—especially with our families—about our desire for help. Sometimes it takes time for them to understand our passions, dreams, and subsequent needs, and we’ll have to patiently educate them. However, they won’t ever know what our needs are unless we actually have those conversations.

When I’ve opened up with friends about some of my scheduling struggles, they’ve gone out of their way to help me—particularly with the transporting of my kids to various activities. I’ve begun to realize that my friends and family want to help, but that they won’t know what I need unless I ask.

My Summary: So there you have it. Another one of the secrets of how I manage—I enlist the support and help of those around me. The bottom line is that we need each other. We can mutually edify and support one another. And in doing so lighten the burden’s we all have.

How about you? Do you try to handle too much on your own? Is it difficult for you to accept help? Or are you learning to share your needs and gain the support of those around you?

P.S. The winner of this week's signed copy of The Doctor's Lady is Carol Moncado. Congratulations, Carol! Remember, if you didn't win, there will still be LOTS & LOTS of opportunities to win a copy of my book during my blog tour! Check out my News & Events Page for all of the stops!


  1. Thank you Jodi, it's too easy to put other people up on a pedestal and think that we are the only ones who can't do it all.
    So .. thank you for reminding us that we all need help. xx

  2. Encouraging words, Jody!

    Some days I have no idea what I'd do without my older daughter. She helps with my 7 year old so much. Probably why I bought her a ridiculously expensive pair of ugly shoes (imo). :) She deserved them.

    My husband has done lots of cooking after working all day.

    Now, for the housekeeper. Ha!

  3. Jody this reminds me of something my Sunday School teacher says frequently as we talk about how to make "the church" more real and effective in the community. We all have a calling or ministry or job given to us by God. I may not feel called to the same ministry as you but as your friend and sister in Christ, I can find many ways to support you. I think this is what you're talking about. My husband doesn't necessarily want to be an active part of my non-profit nor does he want to edit/polish my books. He DOES post comments about my blog on Facebook, and he DOES cook, start laundry and...the dreaded and much hated emptying of the dishwasher. He's a wonderful support, and so are my parents. I was completely surprised at their excitement when I told them I was writing a book! We are our own worst enemies sometimes, aren't we? Great post. It's so true that people often don't help or support because they don't know what to do. All we need to do is tell them what we need. Isn't it funny that sometimes writers can be the worst communicators? Well maybe not funny...

  4. My husband and I had a long conversation last winter about how much time I was putting into my writing. A few hours later,he offered to cook dinners for me (when his schedule allows it, which is most of the time). This has been a huge help, and I wish I would have asked sooner. He also watches the kids on Saturday so I can go elsewhere and write. I feel like he's the one who deserves to get published and be paid for all his hard work of supporting me.

    He's wonderful, my husband. Just in case you didn't figure that out from the above comments. :-)

  5. Oh how much I love this! Asking for help is SO SO SO hard for me, but I finally realized sometime this past year that I HAVE to. It is still a struggle and a very humbling experience, but I force myself on occasion!

    In the process of trying to "teach" my kiddos how to help more. They've had a year of having Grandma here to do EVERYTHING for them, so it is not a simple thing to reteach. One step at a time though!

  6. I have learned the hard way to ask for help. Even when I was a stay at home mom I would have a eager teenager from the church help me during those crazy hours when I'm trying to get dinner ready and make myself look presentable for my hubby's arrival after a long day.
    I also have help with cleaning the house. I don't feel guilty anymore about these little "pleasures" in my home. The nanny (now that I'm back to work full time) and the housecleaner allow me more precious time to spend with my kids. Thankfully I also have a compulsive hubby who views cleaning as "relaxing". I feel blessed in this area!

  7. All very good advice.

    BTW - just finished The Preacher's Bride. Brava. Loved the way you built sexual tension between them before there was even so much as a touch and then made casual, asexual physical contact so sensual without getting raunchy. All that takes a very talented touch.

  8. I was a stay-at-home mom who did it all for years, so transitioning to a work-at-home mom as a writer was challenging for me. I've gotten much better about asking for help and expecting my kids to pitch in, but I know I still take on too much! I think part of it is that I treat my writing as a full-time job, but when you aren't getting paid for something, it isn't as "real" as a normal job. Or maybe I'm just crazy!

  9. I admit, I am a bit of a control freak, and that combined with a martyr-complex is a deadly combination. But in the last several months I've handed over meal prep to my husband -- he loves to cook, is way better at it than I am, and everyone is happy! Now I'm off the fold 4 loads of laundry!

  10. Jody, I'm still working on enlisting my kids help. They're fighting it like it's the plague!

  11. Jill brings up a good point. We often feel guilty before publication (before we're earning an income) for spending time on our writing and asking our family for help. But I think the earlier we can establish those boundaries the better. Because honestly, for most of us, writing is something that's important to us whether we ever earn a dime or not. And if something is important to us, our family should respect that. :-)

  12. Thanks for sharing your tips! My husband does most of the cooking (he enjoys it) and helps me with the house work when I need it. I try to write while my sons are at school, but their health ailments take a good chunk of my time.

    Sometimes I need my friends to watch one of my sons if the other is seeing a doctor.

  13. Jody, I am just in awe of all you do, especially with homeschooling your kids, too. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I think, "My kids will be in school in a few years and then I'll have more time during the day." Probably a terrible thing to admit...But then I think of you teaching your kids and squeezing writing in between it all...Wow!

    I needed this post today, for sure. I'm in a position where I've needed to ask for help more than usual lately, and it always feels a little awkward or like I'm being clingy. Thankfully my husband is "Super Dad" and pitches in however he can. :)

    Have a great weekend!

  14. Hear hear. We all need help sometimes. My wife can only walk with crutches and has to use a wheelchair to go around outside the house, so I end up doing a lot to help her out. I do often feel guilty about needing time to write, but then she's so supportive of me that she feels guilty if she ever needs to interrupt me for some help.

    I'm glad to help her, though. It's just funny that we both feel bad for accepting each other's support!

  15. Jody, you nailed it when you said others wont know we need help unless we ask! We can spin ourselves into frustration by trying to do it all - but that hurts everyone. Asking for help opens up so many doors. I am lucky to have a supportive husband too. Thanks fore reminding us that we all have the same issues as writers with families and other jobs - whether we are aspiring authors or with many bestsellers!

  16. I'm in the same situation (oh, except for the professional publishing part!). I, too, try to run a household, home-school four children, and write books. I also work one day a week, on Saturday. My husband is supportive and, believe it or not, my children can do chores! I've had mixed help from other home-school moms. Many of the ultra-conservative moms don't believe a woman should have a career and judge me for trying. The other, more libertarian types are as good as gold. I don't ask much of them, though, because they're as busy as I am!

  17. Found this post via twitter, and am so glad I did. I need to ask help with a few things and I've been putting that off.

  18. I agree that we need support if we are going to succeed. We instilled this in our kids as they were growing up. I love when they help one another, us, and others. You have to have teamwork to have success.

    When I was younger and the kids were little, I didn't ask for help, and now I wish I did. I was always burning both ends of the candle. You got to be humble and ask for help if you need it.

    Great post.

  19. Beautifully said. We all need help sometimes and you're right, we shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to ask. As long as we are willing to give as well as receive, that's what matters. Besides, that's what friends and family are for. :)

  20. Great points, Jody - if we don't ask, how will anyone know we need it? Why isbit SOOOO hard for us to ask for and then accept help? I know, that's a whole other blogpost!!

  21. Yes, I've learned to ask for help. Sometimes it's asking other writers for help whey a scene has my stymied. I've also learned my husband is a great brainstormer too.
    Sometimes it's asking others to forgive me when I have to say no. Their understanding is a tremendous help to me as a whittle down my responsibilities so I can focus on writing and editing.
    I've asked my 10 y.o. daughter if she'd liked to be my assistant. She said yes (for pay, of course.) The first thing I'm going to teach her? Filing!

  22. Isn't that weird...I wrote a similar post:

  23. Lucille, must have been the topic of the day! :-)

  24. I enjoy stopping by to see what you are doing next.

    Jody thanks for the information and encouragement you give to other writers!

  25. Hi Jody -

    Thanks for sharing your "secrets."

    The dynamics of my life were different but still required asking for help. Like you, I found people willing and able when they became aware of the need.

    Susan :)

  26. We moms are good at a lot of things, but most of us are not so good as asking for help. But it's SO necessary.

    Great post for writer moms and any kind of moms! I'll be sending some of my reader moms around to see this one!

  27. Love this whole series! With the move I have been a little crazy, but I know now I have to ask and accept help. My sister has me penciled in several times a week to watch my kids so I can write. And my husband and I are trying to figure out ways to help each other more. Now, I just need to find a supportive homeschooling and writing group and I'll feel back on track! Thanks for all the tips:)


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