How to Ask for Help With Childcare

A woman working from home wants help with childcare.

 Geber86 / E+ / Getty Images

Asking for help can be tough, especially when it comes to your kids. But the truth is you can’t be in more than one place at once. And the more kids you have, the more likely you are to be pulled in many different directions.

Soccer practice might be at the same time as dance. And piano lessons might start before you get out of work. You may need to ask someone to help you shuttle kids from one activity to the next.

Or you might find that you need someone to watch the kids for just a couple of hours so you can go to an appointment, clean the house, or do your taxes. Or if you're working at home—actually get your work done. Maybe you also just need a quiet afternoon to yourself to go shopping—or appreciate a little silence.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make asking for help a little easier. Keep these strategies in mind as you prepare to talk to others about needing assistance.

Accept That You Can’t Do Everything

Before you can learn how to ask for help, you have to let go of the idea that you should be able to do everything. You might currently be telling yourself things like, “Good parents don’t need help watching their kids,” or “I should be more efficient so I don’t have to ask anyone for help.” But thoughts like these just aren’t true.

There will likely be times when you could use an extra pair of hands to keep everyone in line or an extra set of eyes to ensure everyone is safe.

Asking someone to assist isn’t a sign of parental weakness. Instead, it’s a sign you’re wise enough to recognize when a little more support might be a good idea.

Your willingness to ask someone to help shows you’re able to put your ego aside and do what you think is best for your family.

Consider Who You Want to Approach

Whether you want to ask another parent to take turns doing a carpool every other day, or you hope to reach out to your in-laws to see if they can watch the kids every Saturday morning, think carefully about who you want to approach.

You might find yourself in the fortunate position of having plenty of people who are able to pitch in—neighbors, members of your church, family, or friends. If this is your situation, you may want to think about who will best care for your kids and who is most reliable and dependable.

There’s also a chance you might find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum—with too few people to help out. If this is the case, you may want to get to know other parents in your community. And you might find it feels more comfortable to ask if you can share tasks, rather than ask for them to watch your kids without anything in return.

Develop a Plan for How You’ll Ask               

Asking for help with the kids doesn’t have to involve a huge sit-down meeting. And you don’t need to turn it into a big deal.

But you may want to figure out what you’re going to say before you broach the topic. Here are some things you might consider before asking for help:

  • Ask for what you want. If you ask for help in a vague way, you likely won’t be happy with the result. Be as specific as you can by asking something like, “Would you be willing to watch the kids on Thursdays from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.?” or “Can you pick up Zack from soccer practice on Thursdays and drive Zoey to piano practice on Fridays after school?”
  • Decide how much to reveal. If you need help because you’re dealing with a private matter (like a health issue or simply being stressed out), decide how much you’re comfortable revealing. You might simply say you have appointments to attend or things to do. You aren’t obligated to share all the details.
  • Offer a trade (if you want to). You might ask, “Can you drive my child to the swim meet on Saturday afternoon next week? We would be happy to provide transportation home from practices on Thursdays if that would help you.”
  • Determine if you’ll offer money. A teenage babysitter will expect payment. But should you pay a grandparent or family friend for helping out? It depends on the situation. There’s no right or wrong answer, but consider whether you want to pay (and whether you have the funds) before addressing whether money will be exchanged.

Cope With the Discomfort If They Decline

There’s always a chance that the individual you ask to help might say no. And while this may feel uncomfortable, don’t let it get you down.

Pay attention to the thoughts you have around this. If you start thinking exaggeratedly negative thoughts like, “No one ever helps me,” remind yourself this isn’t necessarily true.

Being turned down by one person doesn’t mean you should never ask anyone else or that no one will ever help you.

Remember that it’s better for the person to say no upfront than to say yes when they don’t really want to do it. Someone who commits to something they don’t really want to do may often cancel or be unreliable.

Find healthy ways to cope with any uncomfortable feelings you have. Exercising, listening to music, or practicing meditation are just a few examples of coping skills you might use to manage any distress you experience.

Manage the Emotions Associated With Getting Help

You may also experience a variety of emotions when you find someone who agrees to help. You might feel guilty, anxious, or sad. You may even be a little resentful or embarrassed. Whatever you feel, it’s OK.

Just don’t let these feelings lead to unhealthy behavior. For example, if you’re embarrassed someone is helping you, you might be tempted to brag on social media about how great your kids are to compensate for your feelings. Or if you’re resentful that another parent has more time or money, you might feel annoyed that they’re able to help you. But don’t let these types of feelings cause you to put someone else down in an effort to help yourself feel better.

Instead, acknowledge your feelings and use healthy coping skills to deal with them.

You might also create a little script you can repeat to yourself when you’re feeling bad. Reminding yourself, “This is best for me and my kids,” might help you silence any negative thoughts you have.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your parenting duties, you’re not alone. Every parent feels overwhelmed sometimes. And asking for help can be a good way to help you manage stress and a busy schedule.

If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Talking to a mental health professional (in-person or online) may help you feel better.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.