When I was a new mum I was tired. Obviously.
I was also frustrated.
I was also my own worst enemy.
Why? Because even though I was tired and frustrated I found it impossible to ask for help and difficult to accept it when it was offered.
Why? I’m not really sure.
Maybe I approached parenthood in the same way I approached all of my previous ‘jobs’. I knew it would be tough at the start but if I worked hard it would become easier.
Maybe because before kids I was an extremely independent person who never needed any help. I was also very capable and organised — maybe I thought that by asking for help I was admitting defeat.
Maybe I thought that accepting help was proof that I was not coping — not up to the ‘job’.
Maybe I just didn’t want to push my responsibilities onto others. I’d gotten myself into this mess — I’d get myself out.
The truth though — and it took a few kids before I realised it — is that parenting isn’t a ‘job’ it is part of life. And you can’t get better at by working harder at it — well, you can but then they just move onto the next stage of development and all the rules change.
Asking for or accepting help does not make you a failure. It makes you smart and it lets you have a rest when you need it.
And people who offer to help, well, they actually want to help. They want to be part of this ‘village’ that it takes to raise a child. Many have been there themselves — they know how hard the early months are. They love you and they want you to get through it!
Oh — and parenting isn’t a ‘mess’. No wait, that bit is true! Just wait till they’re toddlers!
So I’ve come up with a few simple phrases that new mums need to hear. If you want to help a new mum – start your sentences with these phrases.
- “Here, let me …”
- “Why don’t I …”
- “How about I …”
Try to steer away from “would you like me to …?” or the vague “is there anything I can do?” — that’s just giving her a way out. She’ll no doubt respond with ‘no, it’s OK’, ‘I can cope’, ‘I’m fine’.
I would have.
Instead suggest that you DO help by using the above words to start your sentences – these words will give her less wriggle room. For example, “here let me nurse the baby while you have a quick shower” or “why don’t I get the clothes off the line?” or “how about I pick up some lunch on my way around?”.
Of course, you’ll have to know when to step back and what the limits are. She might not be ready for “here let me take the baby to my house for a few hours while you sleep’ or “why don’t I move in for a few months?” or “how about I invite myself over for dinner every night?”.
It will be the small things that will make a big difference and will be most appreciated.
And if you are a new mum consider these three phrases ‘code’ for “please let me help you — I want to and you know you’d like me to”.