You were more than likely told to get plenty of rest, eat well and accept help during the first few weeks with your newborn. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. For one part, it assumes help is available to you and it’s the sort of help you need.
Secondly, it relies on the fact that you are actually open to asking for and accepting help. It’s not unusual for a new mother to have a range of thoughts and feelings that can get in the way of accessing support when it is there. In some instances, these mental barriers may be stopping you from getting the help you need.
Are you stopping yourself from getting help as a new mum?
I want to be the perfect mother.
With every parenting trend and word of advice, every aspect of caring for your baby can be magnified. You may expect, or feel expected, to reach impossibly high standards. You might think that ‘good’ mothers are always in control, always perfect, and that asking for help is admitting failure. But your baby doesn’t know perfect and doesn’t need perfect. If you feel like you aren’t meeting your own standards, it’s worthwhile checking whether your standards are actually the problem.
Everyone else copes.
Or so you think. Just as people only put up selfies when they are looking their best, other parents may only present their happy babies, gourmet dinners and perfect homes, rather than the day-to-day reality of baby vomit, breastfeeding struggles or hormonal blues. It’s easy to think you’re the only one struggling when comparing your reality bloopers with another’s edited highlights reel.
I shouldn’t need help.
As women and mothers, we can sometimes feel that we should be able to get everything done all by ourselves. Shoulds and should-nots usually lead to guilt about failing our own expectations. Changing should to could as in ‘I could use some help’ focuses on positive action. This allows a problem to be recognised and solved without interpreting it as a failing on your part — because it’s not.
My baby is more important than me.
As a mother, it becomes natural to put others first. But be careful not to let this selflessness stop you asking for help when you need it. It is a necessity not an indulgence. Just as we are drilled to put our own oxygen mask on before helping others when on a plane, we need to take responsibility for our own self-care so we can care for our child.
They won’t do it the way I want.
Letting someone help can feel like you are losing control. Sometimes it feels easier to just do something yourself rather than explain how you want it done. Sure, some things may be non-negotiable but others will be more flexible. Does it really matter if the towels are folded differently or the floor is only half swept today? It might not be done exactly how you’d do it, but it’s still done.
I don’t want to trouble them.
You may not want to place extra responsibility on a partner who is already doing a lot or burden friends and family who could resent the imposition. Generally, people find helping others a mutually positive experience—and if someone can’t help when asked, it isn’t necessarily a personal rejection. Giving your partner, friend or relative time to build a relationship with the baby could be giving both of them a gift.
I can’t trust my baby to anyone else.
It can be scary to trust others with your baby and not everyone is going to be capable of helping. Developing trust can take time so you can build these relationships gradually, at your own speed. If it’s your partner, they also deserve a chance to build a relationship with your baby whether that is through helping them to settle or taking over a nappy change.
They should know what I need.
People won’t necessarily know or see what you require without you telling them (this includes your partner). You might look like you have everything under control or they might be preoccupied with their own life. This doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t want to help. Often, those who’d like to help are unsure how to offer and may be worried about offending you or doing the wrong thing.
They’ll judge me.
Mothers get so good at mindreading the needs of their babies they sometimes feel they can mindread other people as well. You may fear you’ll look bad in the eyes of others. Or they’ll think you don’t like being a mother or don’t love your baby enough. These are your thoughts, not necessarily theirs—and they are unlikely to be either true or helpful.
Motherhood isn’t easy. Everybody needs help from time to time. Try and recognise the blocks in your thinking that may get in the way of accepting support when it’s offered or requesting it when it’s needed. Caring for a newborn is a definite learning curve and learning to ask for assistance from others is another skill. Remind yourself that asking for help isn’t just good for you; it’s good for your baby as well.