Friends and family shower expectant mothers with gifts, parties, and well wishes before the baby arrives — all with genuine excitement and good intentions. Sometimes though, these offers don’t come into fruition once the baby is born, putting the mama in a weird spot — socially and emotionally. Let’s chat about what’s going on and figure out how we can turn the tide.
One mom I interviewed had friends offer to set up a meal delivery rotation for the first few weeks after the baby was born. When the baby arrived, it turned out that the the sign-ups never happened and the mom was too embarrassed to remind her friends about it. Fortunately, her own mom gifted a good amount of food delivery to fill the gap.
Another new mom had friends and family reach out to her postpartum asking, “Let me know what I can do to help!” She really appreciated the offers, but in reality, her baby had a ton of health issues and she was unbelievably sleep deprived, so what she really needed was for someone to just step in and do something. Bringing food, throwing in a load of laundry, hanging out with the baby long enough so she could take a shower — these were things she actually needed help with, but she felt too embarrassed to ask. She shared that it would’ve been easy to ask a best friend or family member to throw in a load of laundry covered in breast milk, but they all live far away. It felt like too much to ask of a newer friend or acquaintance.
While family will often be there (and sometimes in your face even more than you’d like!), it can be a delicate balance with friends. Perhaps friends are hesitant to offer a visit for fear that they’re barging in or encroaching on the new family’s space. The reality is that most new moms do want friends to reach out and help. My one pal said it best, “I mean, sheesh, just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you only want to hang out with that baby and your partner and parents for the next three months!” Even just a text or email showing support and presence is so valuable, and isn’t something a new mom feels like she can ask for specifically.
When the baby gets older, we still need help, but it can feel too late to ask. It’s not that friends don’t want to help their mama pals — everyone is just busy, time passes and soon it feels too late to say, “Hey, remember me?” One mom friend shared that since her daughter is now a toddler, the most important thing is feeling comfortable enough to ask someone to babysit for a couple hours so she and her husband can go out to dinner (i.e. “have a meal in peace”). Although it might seem crazy, she feels guilty asking anyone for help because she knows it’s a lot of work to watch her daughter.
So, what do we do? One of my mom friends shared a brilliant article from BUST Magazine suggesting we skip the traditional baby shower and throw a postpartum party instead. This six-week long “party” is a time when your support system organizes a schedule to help you through the first six weeks of postpartum life. Here’s a link to the original article to learn more. I love this idea because it is a designated time and space for loved ones to organize their support. In this way, the help can be scheduled in a way that’s spaced out appropriately (especially meals and visits) and the mom can ask for what she really needs.
If you’ve missed the boat on the postpartum party or that’s not really your vibe, not to worry. In that case, we’ve just got to get a little more confident with texting pals or family members requesting a boost. Whether you’re six days or six months postpartum, you’re still allowed to ask for help. We may feel embarrassed to send out an SOS, but the reality is that your friends and family WANT to be there for you. Sometimes they just don’t realize what you need or know how to help.
Perhaps you could break the ice by sending a funny group text to your crew with a YouTube link to “Message in a Bottle” by the Police and the caption “Sending out an SOS!” This is hilarious and will get your pals to leap into action. If you’re not into the Police, you could send the sweaty faced emoji or the Bitmoji who’s drowning in quicksand shouting HELP! It’s silly, but asking for help in a way that’s lighthearted and funny might increase your comfortability in reaching out.
We can also affect change by paying it forward and supporting other new moms. After one of my mom pals had her son, she started sending delicious delivery meals to her new mom acquaintances. She only asked for the address and if they had any dietary restrictions and then sent over enough food to last a few days. These women were so thankful.
With that in mind, finding the courage to ask for what we need and deserve (or taking the time to reflect on what we really could have used and need help with in the future) will empower other new moms to do the same. The more we can use our voices and advocate for support, the more we can shift the dynamic as a whole. As one of my mama pals so beautifully articulated, “It takes a village to raise a MOTHER.”