I know many of you aren’t moms or expectant moms (yet) so this blog post is especially for you. Because you know, I don’t want you to have FOMO reading these #MommyMonday posts. Along with the lie that every pregnancy is an amazing time, I believe that society and the media has made the women who aren’t having the baby believe that they’re helping by saying or doing or not doing certain things. There are some things people just say because it’s the polite thing to say when someone has a baby, but don’t really think it through or have any intention of doing it. Don’t be that person.
Here are five ways to be a good friend, or sister, to a new mommy.
1. Don’t just offer to help
Your heart’s definitely in the right place, if you offer to help. But when you do, please then actually help. I know you may be waiting for her to take you up on your offer by calling or messaging you to and being specific about how you can help her. But giving birth is overwhelming and takes a toll on your body physically and mentally. For a long while, your friend or sister probably won’t even know what day of the week it is. So make things easy for her and just do. How? Take things off her plate. The more the better, it’ll make a ton of difference. Of course, many things will fall off the list but the key, mundane ‘little’ things still need to get done. Do her groceries, take baby off her hands, run a couple of errands. Just because she had a baby doesn’t mean her responsibilities have magically vanished. And unfortunately her hubby will probably only get the standard 3 days’ paternity leave (ridiculous) and has a ton of other things to handle himself.
2. Let her sleep
Visiting the baby is all good and well. It’s much appreciated. What’s even more appreciated is if you let new mama rest while you’re there. So if you have a couple of hours or even just one, go over to the house and while you’re oogling over the baby, let mommy take a nap. I’ve seen it in person where guests still expect to be hosted in a way, while they’re visiting mommy and baby (which I think is pretty inconsiderate). If you’re around when that happens, let mama rest and take over the hosting for a bit. Make the guests a cuppa or grab some easy snacks for them. If she’s your friend, you probably have an idea of where key things are in the kitchen anyways.
3. Tidy up
A lot of household chores are still left up to the woman of the house. So even after giving birth, there may be quite a few tasks for her to do in between ummm recovering. I’m hoping that your friend has a husband who has a few domesticated cells in his body and can lend a hand, but let’s face it, many still don’t or don’t do it properly. So put a load of laundry in, wash some dishes, iron. The golden one? Cook! I had no idea how much I’d appreciate my mom and mother-in-law making food for us and freezing it so we had a supply to eat for a couple of weeks. It takes up time and energy your friend is so scarce on, but she’s gotta eat! Even if you don’t or can’t cook, no one will turn away a Woolies roasted chicken – I know I didn’t. So much goes on in a day with a newborn and breastfeeding makes you ravenous. If hubby can’t cook for whatever reason, this is a lifesaver – literally.
4. Spoil her
A lot of times, people forget mommy at a baby shower. Of course the whole point is to help the expectant mom by showering her with gifts for her baby. She’s probably feeling fat, ugly and sweaty so something for herself would be a much appreciated pressie. Instead of buying another pack of cute onesies for her baby shower, try to give her something for herself. I recently gave a friend her requested baby registry gift and added a little pamper hamper with nice smelling bath salts, lotions etc. just for her. After having a baby you feel so run down, a little treat for yourself is much needed and it feels less guilty when someone else gets it for you. I received a lot of presents for my two (yes, two!) baby showers but the one that really touched me and made me cry? A voucher to Sorbet. And boy did I cash that in as soon as I could leave the house for a couple of hours. I’m paying that forward and getting something for both baby and mommy for my expectant mommy friends.
5. Take her out
New moms are advised to limit the time we’re out and about with our newborns. At least for the first 6-8 weeks. And if you’re breastfeeding, you and your baby become one. Yes you fall in love with your baby but cabin fever is real and can get quite disorientating. As much as I loved having friends come over to visit and meet my boy, I was itching to leave the house for some fresh air. Going up the road with a friend to grab a coffee and brownie was like going on a beach holiday. Even as Kai has gotten older, many people want to meet with me somewhere but want me to take him with for lunch. I get it, you want to see the baby but she might need a break from being a mom and would like to put her girl friend hat on. So offer to see baby at the house for half an hour, coo over the baby but then take her out of the house so she can get some downtime. Or babysit while she goes out on her own. If all of that isn’t possible, you can’t personally make it or you don’t have the time, send her a voucher, order some chocolates to be delivered to her. Just something for her to still feel a bit more human.
So, I hope this has helped you to help her. As mentioned, I know your heart’s in the right place but you may not know how to actually be helpful. Your presence at such a time is appreciated but one or two considered gestures will go a long way. Some women are blessed to live near family or belong to cultures where the women come together to help with the every day tasks to let mommy rest properly. Others aren’t that lucky and may not have family living nearby, or their house is too small to accommodate people. If you know your friend has that tight support system, some of these things may already be taken care of, but it doesn’t hurt to contribute somehow.
Non-mamas: What do you think? Have the tips above helped you?
Mamas: What gestures did/would you have appreciated from your close friends and family?
Photography by Clarke Sanders