It takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when your village isn’t listening? You can blame hormones and lack of sleep when a new mom feels like they are asking for support in a foreign tongue, but the feelings are real and often overwhelming. Here’s how and why new moms should ask for help so that people will listen.
The first step is to seek acceptance from yourself. You don’t need to do it all. You do, however, need to stay sane. According to Kate Rope, author of ‘Strong as a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood,’ it is instrumental to prioritize your own mental well-being as a new mom. Self-care does not equate to self-indulgence, so accept that you need to nurture yourself as well as your infant. This might mean requesting your partner be available at a set time every day so that you can take a 30 minute break.
Set your own boundaries
You are setting boundaries of who, what, and when people can visit, which is critical for your sanity. Some friends won’t bat an eye at the tower of dishes beside the sink or the yard that hasn’t seen a pooper scooper in days. However, not every new mom wants these people to see them at their most vulnerable, and it is okay to set boundaries.
There is no need to offer an explanation. It is, however, critical that your partner supports your choices and supports you. If you are venturing into parenthood on your own, then ensure your closest confidants understand and accept your need for boundaries.
After giving birth, a mother is emotionally and physically drained. Despite the elation of creating a human, it’s a scientifically proven stressful time in life. The Holms and Rahe Stress Scale puts gaining a new family member as more stressful than life events such as the death of a close friend, or trouble with the in-laws.
Listen to your partner
If you have a partner going through the rollercoaster of new parenthood with you, then it can be all too easy to get off track from each other. Most of the work with a newborn is done by the mother, but this doesn’t mean that the other parent isn’t willing or able to help. A new infant can be time-consuming, and sometimes the non-nursing parent feels pushed out. Spend time listening to your partner about their feelings, and you’ll find they will likely be more responsive to your own.
Make a list
Don’t be so quick to ward off help when you have an entire list of chores that need to be accomplished. It’s okay to admit to being vulnerable and letting your village rally with offers of help. If you don’t want to wait for others to ask, set up a Care Calendar and watch as the to-do list shrinks. Remember that some people’s version of helping is to buy it, so feel free to make requests for a cleaning company or a food delivery service.
Group chats can be the passive-aggressive trump card for new moms. Why ask one person for help when you could ask all of your family simultaneously? We are confident that if your mother-in-law offers to walk the dog that another family member will be nudged to also chip in. A group chat also ensures that cute baby pictures are distributed to everyone and you don’t forget an integral family member from the list.
Talk to a professional
Reaching outside your social circle and talking to someone who is not part of your everyday life can be exactly what is needed for your sanity. This is especially true if none of your friends have children. The reality of daily motherhood isn’t always what people expect, whether they gave birth, used a surrogate, or adopted their child. Sometimes antidepressants can help, but other times, we simply need someone to listen without judgment or who has had similar experiences.
Becoming a new mom and admitting the need for help can be challenging. However, learning to prioritize and verbalize your own needs, as well as those of your growing family, can significantly assist in smoothing the rough but memorably scenic road ahead.