Your best friend or sister just performed a miraculous feat…she gave birth! Yea, let’s all give her a hand!! No really, I mean let’s give her a hand…a helping hand. Because all new moms (unless they have a full time nanny and maid staff) need help. Your friend will soon realize that her newborn needs constant care, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Needless to say, in a 24/7 clock, it’s hard to squeeze in time for the kinds of activities that keep a woman sane, like walking, getting her hair done or taking a yoga class, not to mention, showering, eating and sleeping!
After I gave birth to twins I quickly realized, both from personal experience and witnessing other new moms around me, that many new moms are stressed, overwhelmed and under supported. And, we all know that stress, exhaustion and lack of support, negatively impact a mother’s ability to parent. It is true that a relaxed, joyful and supported mom is a better mom who raises happier children.
Now, you’re a good friend and you want your friend to be relaxed and well-adjusted (if only for the kid’s sake.) And well…I know you don’t need a “What’s-in-it-for-me?” reason, but here it is anyway; if you give her the help she needs, she’ll think you’re a hero and be indebted to you forever. There I’ve said it.
So, let’s say you’re on board for helping her out. But, you haven’t had a baby yet, or it’s been a real long time since you did, and you don’t really know how to offer your support. Also, you may be afraid that if you pose the “Hey, how can I help?” question to your friend, she’ll probably tell you she’s got it all under control. Yes, mothers are notoriously hesitant to ask for help – except of course from their mom (but that’s always a double edged sword isn’t it?). Generally, new moms want to give the impression that they can do this baby-thing by themselves with one hand tied behind their back. It’s a weird sort of “mommy machismo.”
So, how do you – the best friend or sister – work around her natural resistance in asking for help? Well, you do it by simply jumping in there with specific action.
What specific action? Glad you asked. Below I’ve listed nineteen specific suggestions for giving her the support she’s inwardly screaming for. Which activities you choose to do will obviously be determined by how close you are with the new mom, and how much time you have available. So here they are:
1. Call her up and tell her what a great mom you think she is. Tell her that her baby “picked the lucky card” to have her as a mom. Let her know what an amazing job she’s doing balancing baby care with whatever else she’s got going (whether it be work, other children, husband, social or community responsibilities).
2. Are you worried about disturbing her with a ringing phone, just in case she has found that 20 minutes to rest while her baby is napping? If so, send her an e-mail instead listing several things you find terrific about her.
3. Really want to look like a hero? Then offer to help her out with a time jam. Suggest perhaps picking up her other kids from school, taking over a project she no longer has time for, or being her proxy at a meeting or an event.
4. Tell her you’ll run an errand for her. Offer to pick up the laundry for her, or go grocery shopping for her.
5. If things are bothering her, encourage her to get it all off her chest. Listen to her unconditionally while she vents. Just nod your head and don’t say a thing until she’s done. She’ll feel much better.
6. Also, new moms love to brag about their children. “Oh, you won’t believe what Brooke did this morning. She rolled over all by herself! She’s so far ahead of schedule. We think she may be gifted.” Just listen and smile.
7. Tell her you want to come over and “spell” her for 20 minutes so she can lie down and rest. Even twenty minutes can be so rejuvenating.
8. Bring her a meal one evening. If you’ve got the time and inclination, make it yourself. If not, call a really good take-out place and have it delivered to her door.
9. Stay-at-home moms, in particular, get so used to talking in that “baby talk” voice; they need some time around adults to bring their vocal quality back down to a human level. Offer to take her out for coffee and “grown-up” conversation.
10. If you haven’t had a baby, you can’t imagine how little things that appear so simple can be so helpful and mean so much to your friend. For instance, while you are visiting with her, you witness her baby dropping the pacifier yet again. You, the hero, pick it up, wash it off and hand it back to mommy. Or, you take it upon yourself to wash the baby bottle when it’s finished. Wow.
11. When she’s ready, offer to go for an aerobic walk with her. And, when you reach an incline, offer to take the stroller and push it up the hill. Do it regularly and she’ll get into shape quickly and start feeling much better about herself.
12. Along those lines, when’s the last time your friend got to the gym or a yoga class? If you belong to one, offer to take her as your guest. Many gyms now have a babysitting service while you work out.
13. Next time you go to the bookstore or library, pick up a book for her. Just make sure it’s not another “How to Take Care of Baby” book. I guarantee she’s got plenty of those. How about some fun escapist fiction?
14. While you are visiting the new mom at her house, step into the kitchen and start washing her dishes or wiping off sticky countertops or the floor. Don’t ask her, she won’t accept. Just do it.
15. Can Daddy watch the baby some night for a couple of hours? Suggest he baby-sit, then take her out to a movie. Or, how about shopping? Just remember to assure her that she’ll soon fit into those cute outfits she’s eying.
16. Women’s feet take a lot of abuse during pregnancy. It’s weird, but they usually grow a size or more and get really scruffy looking. How about offering to pamper her by giving her a pedicure…or, the gift of one at nice local spa?
17. Let’s not overlook the most basic of all…tell her you love her. Call her, e-mail her, or write her a card and tell her you love her. That’s it. Simply, you love her.
18. And now…the piece de resistance: offer to baby-sit for an evening! Let her go out with her hubby so they can re-discover each other. Most marriages become slightly compromised when a baby comes into the picture.
19. Finally, you know your friend best. What would put a smile on her face? What could you do to lighten her load and let her breathe for a bit? Think about it, then do it. Don’t wait too long. Those little infants grow into big kids faster than you can keep track.
Most of these suggestions are so simple, but they can help shift a new mom’s stress into a more relaxed and joyful parenting experience.
As a mom and an entrepreneur, I thought it might be fun to put all these ideas into a coupon gift booklet that friends and family could give as a gift to the new mom. Not only would the recipient feel supported and understood, but it would be handy and practical as well. She could tear out and cash in whichever coupons she felt comfortable redeeming. I wanted to make it cute, whimsical and fun so that the new mom would find it easy to ask for support. So I created it. The New Mommy Coupon Book, Or 28 Ways to Help Her Get Through The Day is available now through Colorful Images Catalog and at my website listed below.