I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I’m a daughter-in-law. I’m a granddaughter. I’m a sister. I’m Anna. In all of my roles, I’m happy to help. I drop everything if I hear my child cry, running to aid them. I volunteer to help my son’s preschool and manage an art project here and there in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom. As my husband is rushing out the door, I’m happy to grab the lunch he nearly left behind. I'm also happy to assist his squadron when the need arises. Although I’m far away, I provide emotional support, and a laugh when I can, to my family spread across the country.
Helping others comes easily.
Asking for help is another story.
Shouldering the burden of raising a family and maintaining a home (among a myriad of other responsibilities) while a spouse is deployed is often regarded as a badge of honor. When my husband returned from deployment last September, I greeted him with joy. My kiddos and I were all smiles and hugs and kisses. But in my mind, I was tearing my shirt off (mind out of the gutter). You know, the dramatic-fingers-digging-in-two-handed-shirt-in-shreds tear. Shredded to reveal my hidden superhero get-up. I was out of breath, not from running to greet my husband, but from all that I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-ing.
I can think back to instances during that six-month period where reaching out to another human may have been beneficial.
Like the morning my son woke up, sick in a way I won’t describe so as to preserve your lunch. My daughter’s school is far enough away to be just beyond walkable, but that morning I loaded up the double BOB with my son in one seat and the blue bucket (the one we reserve for dirty jobs) in the other. As my son and I walked back home, a jogger paused to take a peek under the canopy of the second seat. I do believe she was surprised to meet my (blue) bucket baby. San Diego is full of people who drive cars. And drop kids off at school. I probably could have asked one of them to kindly save a seat for my daughter. But I was in deployment, not even survival mode, but bound-to-thrival mode. It was a head down and power through sort of feeling. And I did. And I powered through 48 hours later when I was the sick one, facing the challenge of somehow keeping two other humans alive while lying flat on my back. Badge. Of. Honor. (I say this with my greatest Chicago accent and natural sarcasm.)
Did I need help while my husband was away?
Did I ask for help while my husband was away?
Does it make my badge of honor larger and shinier because I didn’t ask for help?
The military is full of systems setup to ease the burden of our lifestyle, including during deployment. The efficacy of these systems is another conversation. For another venue. Perhaps with a cocktail in hand. But we do have a built-in community. A community full of spouses who would be more than willing to lend a hand. Spouses who often, like me, feel it’s easier to help others than to ask for help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or vulnerability. I know this. And yet, I am consciously working on realizing when I need help and how to ask for it as my journey with the military marches on.
This asking for help now extends beyond my personal life and into my working life as a virtual assistant.
What does asking for help as a virtual assistant look like?
Ask Google. Yes, I Google. And I YouTube. You’re not the only one that has stumbled or questioned, and chances are, the answer lies in the World Wide Web.
Check-in with your client. Working as a virtual assistant, literally, means you’re working to assist, virtually. Often, you’re working with an individual to grow her/his business. Early on, you learn your client’s style and the particulars of how to work in a way that is most beneficial to them. So, a logical stop on the help train would be to check-in with your client. I do not mean to say your client is going to teach you every how-to...you are there to ease the to-do’s in their life, not add to them. But, a check-in, for example, to ensure your writing style matches theirs, would not only be useful, but may save a later revision. A VA-client relationship that is question-friendly allows for these checks to ensure you’re on the right path...this shows a desire to perform at a high level, not weakness.
Find a network. Working as a virtual assistant can actually be a lonely endeavor. Finding a group of supportive people also working as VA’s can not only ease the loneliness, but also provide a wealth of knowledge. At MAVAN, we are working to create a network that supports military spouses looking to work or working currently as virtual assistants (contact me for an invite to join us!).
For me, asking for help can be tough! It’s as much of a journey as every other path I’m walking in my life. But should I need it, I know you’re there to help me. And I’m here to help you, too.