I thought that not having to work and having that time off with my baby would mean I’d turn into some superwoman. I thought I’d have loads of time (and energy) to clean, to do the laundry, to have dinners made, all the while looking bright eyed and well kept.
HAHAHAHAHAHA! Who was I kidding?
When I think back to those ridiculous expectations I set for myself, I do laugh. But I wasn’t laughing back then.
When Elliott was born and in the early weeks, it was intense. An intense flood of emotions, mostly negative ones. I didn’t cope from very early on but very few people would have realised it. The energy it took to put on a positive façade added to my exhaustion.
But yet, I was too proud to ask for help. I thought that asking for help made me look like I was incapable.
Fast forward to my second child who, as I write this, is three weeks old and sleeping peacefully (I’m thanking my lucky stars). This time, I’ve learnt a very valuable lesson, that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. No, I probably haven’t asked for help as much as I should but I’ve been lucky to have some great support.
So that brings me to sharing some suggestions on how you can help a fellow mum out without them having to ask. These suggestions are things that have really helped me these past few weeks.
How to help out a new mum
Take her other kids off her hands for a while
Our parents have been wonderful in taking Elliott for a day or overnight stay. It has given Mr G and I time to do what we’ve needed to. It may be that you take her children for a couple of hours, perhaps to the park or out to lunch. This is valuable time she can spend when it’s nice and quiet, bonding with bub.
Invite her out for coffee, lunch or dinner
I seriously love the opportunity to get out of the house and have food made for me. Going out to the local café and being able to order a coffee and cake just makes me feel a little more human. Even better is when we’re invited for dinner or lunch and I don’t have to think about it at all and there are other people who can take turns nursing. It also gives me a reason to get out of my mum uniform, if only for a couple of hours.
Organise some meals
My mum is seriously a legend for doing this. Our freezer has been well stocked for the past three weeks and we still have enough meals for another week. I just can’t imagine how I would have come up with meals in my recent state of exhaustion.
Help around the house
One of the things I’ve appreciated the most is my mums help around the house. If there’s something that’s needed doing like the laundry, washing up of dishes or folding the washing, she does it while I feed the baby or take a nap. If you visit a new mum, ask her if there’s anything you can do or if you see a pile of dishes, just do wash them.
Treat the new mum
My aunt gave me the best treat before I had Mila, a gift card to get a manicure and pedicure as well as a voucher for a café where I could enjoy a coffee and cake when I just need to get out. I haven’t used them yet, but it’s great that I have something to look forward to.
As a new mum, there’s nothing better than receiving a text asking how you’re doing or if there’s anything you need. I’ve received a number of them and I tell you what, such a small gesture means a lot to me. It’s great to know there are so many people there for support. It might seem small, but a quick SMS can really make a difference and shows you care.
One of the most important things anyone can do is let the new mum know that it’s OK to ask for help, it’s OK if she’s exhausted, it’s OK if her house is a mess and that it’s OK if she doesn’t want to see anyone. Speaking from the experience of having postnatal depression, support and understanding are essential.
The visitor thing is also one of those aspects of new mum life that I’ve found tough with both children when they were newborns. It is hard to say no to visitors but then it is very hard when you’re utterly exhausted and you have visitors. The most important thing is that a new mum is never made to feel guilty when she says she doesn’t feel like having visitors. As much as you may like to see the baby, think about mum and baby first and don’t overstay your visit. Make it nice and quick.
The best thing for anyone to do for a new mum is to take the first step and offer help, a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. I know this has made the world of difference to me. It’s the little things and is so important for a new mum’s mental health. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.
What things were you appreciative of when you were a new mum?