The Problem With Self-Sufficiency

This week, after three years of homeschooling, I hired a teenage neighbor to come help me while I work with my third child, Mary Bernadette.

I've needed extra help like this for a


long time, as it's almost impossible to keep little children occupied while educating their older siblings, yet I've been resistant to ask.

I didn't want to spend the extra money.

I didn't want to appear needy.

I didn't want to admit I have trouble completing certain tasks, even though my lifestyle clearly makes the basic stuff (say showering, for example) quite difficult.

Reason # 579 why I need extra help

This is what happens when MB finds a marker in the backseat of the van

So I finally bit the bullet or rather, my mother--in her great wisdom--said,

"Colleen, you need some help.  Here's a little bit of cash, hire someone."

Her permission (and the extra Benjamens) were all I needed to get started and after only one week, I know that from now on, I will always find a way to hire someone to assist me in this capacity.  

This small arrangement--a four hour block of time where I can count on a second pair of hands to take care of daily duties--has revolutionized my life.  

I didn't yell once this week.  Not


The Problem With Self-Sufficiency by Colleen Duggan


Nor did I feel overwhelmed or stressed or concerned about completing the kids' school work.

Instead, I knew at noon on Tuesday and Thursday, Madison, our new babysitter and adopted family member, was going to show up, feed everyone lunch, and take Christopher and Camille outside to play while I homeschooled the older children.

Four hours of help a week has revolutionized my life.

Have I said that already?

I feel like I did three years ago when I made arrangements for a cleaning crew to come twice a month to scrub my floors and bathroom. 

I feel like a new person


aware that the money I pay to these kind souls is worth every.single.penny.

Emotional and mental sanity are priceless.

So why am I so stubborn to request the help I need in order to make my life easier?

I have a ridiculous tendency towards fierce self-sufficiency.  Perhaps I'm just a good product of the American culture which feeds the (inaccurate) belief that

if I just work harder!, I can attain my goals and solve all my problems. 

You know the attitude.  The one that boasts,

"It's OK.  I'm


!  I don't need any help.  I can



But I


do it on my own.  I need help, especially if I'm undertaking the already arduous task of raising six kids in addition to homeschooling them.

(Seriously, if I'm not a candidate for additional resources and help, I don't know who is.)

And so I'm reminded once again that my desire to remain self-sufficient is really a spiritual problem.

  If I have trouble asking others for help, you can bet I lack confidence in the goodness of God to help me.

"One could even say that the surest way to lose one's peace is precisely to try to assure one's own life solely with the aid of human industry, with personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else.  In what state of anxiety and torment does one place himself who thus seeks to save himself, given our powerlessness, our limited forces, the impossibility of farseeing so many things and the deceptions that can come from those we count on.  To preserve peace in the midst of the hazards of human existence, we have only one solution:  We must rely on God alone, with total trust in Him, as Your heavenly Father knows what you need (Matthew 6: 32)."

                                             Father Jacques Phillipe,

Searching For And Maintaining Peace

Rather than relying on God and even other people, I look to myself to solve my problems and find myself in a constant state of worry because I'm so hell bent on going at it alone.

Just like Camille, my three year old, I slap away the hand of those offering assistance, I fold my arms across my chest and I shout,

"I do it myself!"

Oddly enough, I think I actually believe this ludicrous claim.

The result is a permeating sense of restlessness, preoccupation, worry, and exhaustion.

It's miserable. 


"Effort and contention constrict the soul, but a gentle repose, a peaceful manner of behaving and a steady, measured and quiet interior action expand it," says Francois Marie-Jacob Libermann.

Whenever I start telling myself,

Colleen, you need to work harder!  More effort will solve your problem,

I need to instantly stop what I'm doing and re-evaluate.

Putting forth more effort is not going to solve life's dramas.  Surrendering my refusal to ask for help, however, and then taking the steps to actually secure it, may bring a two-fold result:  it might get the job done and it might bring me peace.

My strength does not come from me and my own efforts.  It comes from the blood of Jesus Christ, who has already done what was needed to save me from myself.

Like mother, like son.  Self-sufficiency at its finest, folks.