There I was, dropping off a meal at a brand new momma’s home and staring at her sweet bundle of joy. Her little one was all swaddled and wrapped up in a soft yellow muslin blanket. I remembered how tiny my little boys used to be. It was so precious when they would perform the grasp reflex and wrap their tiny fingers around my own. I remembered how little their clothes were.
I began to ask the new mom the annoying typical questions we seasoned mothers often forget that the poor new moms have to answer practically every day. “How are you feeling?” “How was the birth?” “Is the baby sleeping well?” “How are you sleeping?”
My friend began to talk about how the baby wakes up every two to three hours. Then she mentioned that she makes sure she herself sleeps for at least six to seven hours each night because of all the outside help she has. It was then I did it. Instead of saying, “Oh, that’s wonderful you have such great support,” I did the unthinkable. I rolled my eyes! In my head, of course. But, nevertheless, I had done it.
Do I tell her? Should I tell her how I hadn’t slept for more than two hours straight in the past three months because of having to constantly get up to tend to my boys for intermittent illnesses, sleep apnea, and teething troubles? Should I tell her that she’s a mom now so she can kiss sleep goodbye?
I decided to hold my tongue.
Bad Habits of a Seasoned Mother
There’s this particular thing that we seasoned mothers often do around new mothers (And by seasoned mothers, I mean any mother who has a child or multiple children over one year of age, who no longer winces at the smell of vomit, and/or no longer packs five pairs of extra clothes in the diaper bag.).
Sure, we might jump in to help a new mom by providing meals, holding her baby while she takes a shower, putting her dishes away, and doing some much-needed laundry. But our favorite thing to do is to give unsolicited advice.
When we listen to a new mother talk about navigating the waters of parenthood, we are quick to roll our eyes. Instead of helping them, we focus in on our own parenting troubles, and say, “Oh, honey, just wait until you have two (or three … or four)!” Or “Oh, sweet pea, my kids still don’t sleep through the night.”
We then tell her how she should be swaddling her baby. Why swaddling is bad for the baby. How co-sleeping allows for so much more sleep. Why co-sleeping is a terrible habit to start. Ways she should be pumping to produce the most milk. What she should be eating to produce more milk. How she shouldn’t be going for a certain amount of time without nursing because it will lower her supply. That she should just stop breastfeeding because it’s exhausting. Formula babies turn out fine, after all. How she should never use formula because it isn’t natural and harder for baby to digest. That she should let her baby just cry it out. How she should never ever let her baby cry it out because it induces too much stress. To make sure she has time for herself. How she’s a mother now, so she shouldn’t expect to get any time for herself … and the list goes on.
A Word on Giving Advice
I’m not saying to not give advice. I don’t know what I would have done without all the wonderful advice and help I was given as a new mother. But, wait until the new mother asks for the advice.
She might tell you that she’s tried multiple methods of doing something for her child and it just isn’t working. That’s your cue to explain what you have done in the past that worked for your own child.
She might flat out say, “I just don’t know what to do anymore!” Again, seasoned mother, that’s your cue to give her encouragement and tell her what worked for your kid or your friend’s kid.
Instead of rolling our eyes and telling new mothers about how frustrating our own children are at the moment and how easy she has it right now, let’s stop and remember how exhausting and frightening yet overwhelmingly exciting it was to be a new mother.
Sure, maybe this new mother gets plenty of sleep at night, but she could be dealing with breastfeeding issues. Perhaps her mother and mother-in-law are telling her how she should parent and it’s completely opposite advice. Maybe her husband is nervous around the baby and doesn’t help out much. Or her husband hovers over her constantly and drives her crazy with all the parenting books he’s read and is now quoting to her. Maybe her husband is deployed overseas and is missing out on those rough newborn months. Her recovery from a difficult birth could be especially hard. She could be battling postpartum depression.
You never know what a new mother, or any mother for that matter, is going through. So, let’s stop rolling our eyes at new mothers just because we “think” we have it harder.
Together, let’s come along beside them, bring them meals, send them encouraging texts. Tell them they are doing a great job and simply rejoice in the births of all these newborn babies.