When I started writing these posts, (and the last four were all written in August-September last year), I was experiencing something I hadn’t ever experienced before and it was scary.
I’m not sure when it happened or how but at one point or another the fog lifted and I stopped feeling totally overwhelmed at the smallest of things and started to breathe again. Life was a blissful place to be again. I gradually relaxed a little about the things I felt I ought to be doing, and doing easily, as a new Mum.
Since having Bliss, I have felt more than a little embarrassed and sad at the ways I have failed to support friends with new babies in the past so I though I’d write down some of the practical ways you might like to support friends and family member with kids. Some of these things I did before I had Bliss and others I only ‘got’ after her arrival. I hope you find it helpful, if you want to add anything to the list let me know in the comments…
* Be specific with your offers of help. Rather than saying “Let me know if there’s anything I can do/that you need?” say “I thought I could come over on X morning/afternoon and help out. If there’s nothing you need done why don’t I take Y and you can catch up on some sleep or just have some time to yourself?” OR if you are visiting and have a close relationship a quick “Can I just put on a load of washing for you/hang some out/take the baby for a walk etc…” never goes astray especially in those very early days.
* It’s always easier for me to accept help with Bliss when I feel like the person helping actually wants to spend time with her. You may not always feel like this but if you do, let the Mum know. I know it’s easier when someone says to me “I’d love to play with her, why don’t you leave her with me while you go and do whatever?” rather than “I suppose I could look after her for you”. Miss Awesome was particularly good at this! She was also good at…
* Doing things (like the dishes!) without being asked. We noticed & appreciated…thanks Miss Awesome!
* If at all possible never go to a new Mum’s house without food, even frozen meals from the supermarket. These are a complete lifesaver!!
* Try not to overstay your welcome when visiting a new family
* Text don’t call when a Mum is in hospital
* Don’t ring doorbells, knock loudly or ring repeatedly when visiting a family with a new baby. If in doubt ring once or text.
* If you find that your friend has fallen off the face of the earth and you can’t get hold of them, chances are they are just immersed in this new world they’ve found themselves in and are a possibly also more than a little tired and overwhelmed! Try not to push them and certainly don’t get offended – they haven’t fogotten you, life is just…well, full on! Think of a way to let them know you are thinking of them and that you are care…it’s like to be the best way to get a response.
* If a new Mum and her family seem to be going well then AWESOME! Just remember that just because a baby is an ‘easy’ one they are still a baby, and that means huge transitions and adjustments. A family with an ‘easy’ baby will still appreciate all the love and support you can offer, and if the baby is not quite so textbook then please…help a that Mama out!!
* Encourage your Mum friend to trust her instincts, encourage her with the fact that she knows her baby better than anyone else. There are so many insidious ways for guilt and doubt to plague a Mum, every bit of encouragement and reassurance really helps!!
* A recent study I read said that the quality of a couple’s marriage falls precipitously low after the birth of their first child. The HH and I feel very thankful that we have managed so well together since LP has arrived but it’s true that many couples struggle…and we’ve certainly had to keep working at our communication to make sure we stay on track, something that’s hard to do when you are both tired and stressed. Ask your friend how things are going with her partner. Offering to babysit and then making it happen, giving your friend and partner some quality ‘couple time’ could be a priceless gift you give. In fact, some friends of the HH just gave us two movie tickets and offered to babysit for us…to say we were touched by their thoughtfulness is an understatement!
All this sounds very selfish and demanding. It’s not meant to be and maybe my fellow Mum’s will disagree with me…at the end of the day just being a friend and being interested is fantastic and a wonderful thing. Also, by no means would one person also do all of these things! We have one friend who was great on the food front, every time she came over she would basically restock our freezer and not just ours! We were so grateful! Other friends have been great at giving me a couple of hours to myself by looking after the little one…I know that there are some things on this list that I do better than others and I think that’s OK. You do what you can when you can and try to do what’s most needed as far as you are able to discern that.
There have been times when I have wanted to help a new mum but didn’t know what I could do…so these are some of my thoughts, take them or leave them.