People are different and people need different kinds of support but I’m pretty sure I speak for most new parents when I say that we are all generically tired and shouting out (or whispering) for our friends and family to step up. Now I’m a fairly independent person and with my husband working 12 hours a day as a chef I’m on my own with our son a lot which is fine but whilst the novelty wears off for everyone around us fairly quickly, we’re still trying to understand a tiny person and what every noise may possibly mean.
I have read many a blog that call out for help with laundry or cooking. This isn’t help I needed because I’m super organised and have a system that works for us. What I have needed is the people close to me to ask how we are. To ask how our son is and to make an effort to check in with me and to ask after my husband who is back at work and missing his boy desperately.
Here are some things that made me feel supported;
1. We had a WhatsApp group with both grandmothers where we sent daily photos of the little man and they could fuss over him as much as possible being far away (they both live a few hours away).
2. Weekly coffees with a friend was really important even if it was at my house. This gave me space to be more than just a mom and I felt cared for in these moments as she would coo with my son and ask me how I was – such a simple question but you would be amazed how many people don’t ask it.
3. From the time my son was 5 weeks old I was having a few hours once a week to go off on my own and do whatever I pleased. My husband would have his time with baby and I could go off and sit in a cafe and catch up on work.
4. Don’t tell me how to do things. I know this seems a bit harsh but a lot of becoming a parent is figuring stuff out for yourself and supporting us in that journey is giving us the space to make our own mistakes. I’ve had strangers advise me on sleep training…strangers!!!
5. Respect. Things change after you have a baby, even if you didn’t think they would, they do – in different ways. Some people change entirely, others just shift slightly but things will change. If you care for the new parents expect some changes and respect that they’re going through a major shift in their life and their priorities will be different.
6. Reassurance is so important when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing and you’re trying to keep it together whilst bonding with your baby and maintaining a relationship nevermind the house, work, studies or anything else! Telling the new parents they’re doing a great job really will make a huge difference to their morale.
7. Be there. Just be available and understand that your relationship with the new parents will be more give than take for some time. Creating a safe space where they can lean on you will build them up in ways you couldn’t imagine.
8. If you come and stay then help. Change a nappy, give a bath, do some laundry, do the dishes, hoover, change the bedding, make up a bottle. Every little input gives more freedom to the new parents to output more.
9. We are going out for the first time without baby this week, he is 9 weeks old. Our personal feelings are that until he is 6 months old we only want to leave him with our parents (personal choice) but having them available to offer that care means we can give some quality time to our marriage.
10. The outpouring of love we got initially was amazing but it’s the few people who have continued to check in that have provided the most support. The ones that take the time to text or call purely to say hi and to check on how your new unit is bundling along.
I want to reiterate that people need different things so don’t be shy to ask what they need. New parents, this one is for you – if someone asks if you need anything, don’t fob them off. Take the offer. Pride has no place in the fourth trimester.
Being disappointed with some people is bound to happen but you will be so preoccupied it won’t really matter. The people who will fit into your new life will be there when you need them.
Also, don’t expect everyone to be inamid with your new addition. It’s okay if they’re not, some people aren’t baby people and that’s ok. You almost want more non baby people because they will do all your chores to avoid holding the baby with any luck!