Hi there, hello. My name is Katie and I have been a “new mom” three times. I have brought home a newborn three whole times, each time having different challenges than the last. I would venture to say that this last time was the hardest, having an almost two year old at home. Nevertheless, the postpartum period with a new baby is undoubtedly some of the most challenging and draining times in a woman’s life, and potentially the time when we need the most help we ever will.
There are sweet angels on earth who want to “do something” for these new moms. But, what? Flowers? Food? Baby gifts?
I heard the sentiment pronounced in every “Do you need anything?” question, but, I always answered “No thanks, I’ve got it!”. That was a lie. But why did I lie? Why would any new mom who is exhausted and in need of ALL the help say she DIDN’T need any?!
Pride. Politeness. Denial. It’s awkward to be put on the spot. It’s uncomfortable for many people to accept help. It’s especially hard when asked such a broad question, because in your mind- you are thinking- “Of course I need something. I need everything and anything because I am running on no sleep and I don’t have enough hands or brain cells for Motherhood, thanks.”
So. Here is what I have learned. There are better ways to ask how to help. (Spoiler alert: the new mom DOES need something. She needs everything, and doesn’t know how to accept the offer or answer such a loaded question.)
1 | Ask a specific/narrow question.
“Can I come over this afternoon and hold the baby so that you can shower?” or “What day is best for me to come help you?” “Would it be helpful to come fold some laundry?” This is specific and way easier to agree to than an open ended question.
2 | Don’t offer anything that is tied to obligation for her.
Example: I had a friend that offered to bring coffee and leave it on my doorstep. It sounds simple, but the “leave it on the doorstep” approach takes away the obligation to tidy my house, get dressed, or be pressured to socialize in exchange for the gift.
3 | Offer help through a question with an “A” or “B” answer.
“I want to help. Would morning or afternoon be better?” or “I want to bring your family a meal, is lunch or dinner better for you?” It’s a lot easier to select an answer from “multiple choice” as the recipient than feel pressured to think of something and boldly ask for it.
4 | If you go over to her house, don’t ask “What can I do?”.
I know. That seems courteous and kind, but again, it’s too broad in this instance. An emotional foggy-brained new mom doesn’t need one more thing to delegate. Look around. Are there dishes in the sink? Unfolded laundry? Trash that needs to go out? Just pick something. And do it. Don’t make her think.
New moms are fragile, regardless of how they present themselves. If it weren’t for the ladies in my life who used these four techniques to help me, I don’t know if I would have taken help. They need all the encouragement and support you can give them.
That’s it! Moral of the story: help the new mom. She needs it in a million ways, even if she says she doesn’t.