I’m one week into motherhood of 2 and my motto has been “I’m not allowed to turn down help.” I already feel way more supported and way less overwhelmed than I did the first time around. I am recovering quicker and I have more time to bond with my new baby boy, really soaking up those baby snuggles and smells.
With my first I had all the latest baby gear and gadgets. And you know what? A lot of it sits unused in the basement (I feel guilty even admitting that). I registered for everything “thing” I thought I needed. I had my baby shower and thought I was prepared for motherhood. What I wasn’t prepared for was being able to ask for and receive help.
I lived under the crazy assumption that I would be Supermom. I know a lot of new moms can relate. In my head, I could still run my business from home for the first 6 weeks while learning to breastfeed and care for my newborn. Oh yeah, and I definitely had to have the house clean, laundry done, and dinner on the table when my husband got home from work. No one put that pressure on me. My husband would have been happy with take out. Or no dinner at all if it meant he had a nice wife and a loved child to come home to. He would have been happy to make dinner for our family… If I would have let him. If I would have known how to ask for and receive help.
When you know better, you do better. While it’s a process learning to ask for and receive help, I’ve come a long way with baby #2. Why? Because I’ve learned that I can’t do it all on my own and enjoy the amazing journey of new mommyhood. So, this time I have shifted my focus away from the stuff I thought I needed for baby and started asking for more help.
So here’s some advice for new moms (whether it’s your first or fifth):
- If someone offers to help, take them up on it. They get as much satisfaction out of taking care of you as you get from the support. Even if it means someone holding your baby for an hour while you shower or take a nap, say “yes”! As a new mom, that is needed more than any baby gift.
- Be specific with the help you need. Often people want to help but they need guidance. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you would be grateful if they would do your dishes. My sitter came over last week and stayed (off the clock) just to do my dishes. It was a small gesture but it gave me time to snuggle my newborn while playing with my toddler.
- Meals, meals, and more meals. Did I mention meals? You have to eat. There is this amazing website called Meal Train. Check it out. Then ask a close friend or family member to organize a meal train for you so you get prepared meals delivered to you and you don’t have to do the work to organize it. Tip: Specifically ask for disposable dishes so you don’t have to worry about cleaning and returning them. I am lucky enough to own a barre studio in Birmingham, where I found my tribe of strong, generous and supportive women! Students and staff organized a meal train with over 20 participants and I received my first meal delivery last week. My family will get healthy, delicious, (and this is the best part) already made meals every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next month. Oh. Em. Gee! A homemade meal is more helpful than another baby blanket, believe me.
- Identify tasks your partner can own. Forget a push present (although those are nice too). As a new mom, you need help from everyone in your life. Even if you work in the home full-time, you need help from your partner. Being able to ask for it will save your relationship from unnecessary tension, resentment, and fights. Learn from my mistakes. Maybe they own the dishes, laundry, cooking, and/or caring for the kids for 1.5 hours at night so you can have a little “me time.” Whatever it is that would make you feel more loved and supported, communicate that to your partner. It will only strengthen your relationship when you open up about your needs and empower them to help you.
- Childcare. Ask close friends and family. Pay a mother’s helper if your family can afford it. Hire a Postpartum Doula. Especially if baby has older siblings. Say “yes” when someone offers to take big brother/sister for an hour… or the weekend. You will need space and your other children will want lots of attention—from you, grandma, aunts and uncles, sitters, so just say yes!
Our culture tends to expect women to “jump back on the horse” right away after giving birth without proper rest, recovery, and support. However, many other cultures around the world practice a quarantine period spanning a month or more after birth (read more in this NPR article) where new moms stay in the house with their new babies and friends and family bring them food and help with household chores.
We also think about pregnancy and birth but forget about recovery. We host the baby shower to get our mommies-to-be all the “stuff” but tend to forget about the help and support they need to fully recover from birth, establish a strong bond with new baby, and transition into motherhood. It’s rough and many women feel alone, abandoned, and even depressed during this period.
Let’s work a little harder to pamper the new moms around us and commit to asking for help when it’s our turn, we are the tribe!
Yes,yes, yes. Give me all the help! I had a c-section with both, so had to have help, since I couldn’t lift my 2.5 year old who was still sleeping in a crib, and eating in her highchair. Even after I was given the go ahead to lift, I still love when someone comes over to watch my girls so I can have some me time (or blogging/sewing time). 😉