I wrote an article for my business blog last year called 10 great tips for grandmothers to support new parents, which – even if I do say so myself! – I think gives a good comprehensive guide of dos and don’ts for any family member, not just grandmothers, looking for advice in supporting a family with a new baby. Actually, to be honest, it isn’t really for people “looking for advice” per se. It was more written for parents or parents-to-be who think they might have a problematic family member on their hands when the baby comes and it’s really for a “I’ll just leave this there, in case you might stumble across it all by yourself on my timeline” kinda way.
It came to mind again after I had written my last post on Kate Middleton which set me thinking about what mothers need in the days and weeks after their baby is born, when clearly for the vast majority of us it isn’t to stand on the hospital steps with the world’s media glaring down on top of us.
But while my 10 great tips are full of gentle, carefully-worded, positive advice what they are missing is the sucker-punch of brutal honesty. So here it is. What new mothers really need are two very simple things:
- to spend time with their babies
- to not have to worry about all the shit that gets in the way of spending time with their babies
There are the obvious practical examples – stressing about dirty houses, stressing about sleep, stressing about managing daily life with their other children if they have them, stressing about not getting a shower/cup of tea/food in their bellies.
And yet, in their obviousness, they’re still the same things that seem to come up for so many women.
A part of me thinks it has to do with how help is offered. Most people want to “help” by taking the baby off the new mother, so that she can do other things. Just to be clear now so there’s no confusion: no woman wants you to hold her baby so she can wash her dishes or make you a cup of tea. People want to help with the wrong things. They want to help with the things that make them feel good. Another problem that arises in a terribly Irish way, is that people ask if they can do something for you and then require a response so more often than not “can I put a wash on for you?” or “will I pick you up some things from the shops” with be greeted with “ah no, sure you’re grand” when that might be a barefaced lie. Sometimes we don’t know how to say yes.
So to my 10 tips I would like to add four straight-talking extra ones:
- Just buy the food and drop it at the door.
- Just wash the dishes and then make the woman a cup of tea. Then you can hold her baby so that she might just get to finish it.
- Just take the clothes and bring them back clean.
- Bring her other kids to school. If you’re a family member, you’ve had at least a good six months notice that there’s a new baby coming so just buy the bloody carseat – it doesn’t need to be an expensive one – so the poor woman doesn’t have to drag the newborn out first thing in the morning, particularly if she’s recovering from a difficult birth or a Caesarean. That’s worth a thousand babygros or cute outfits.
I know that some new parents are lucky enough to have family or loved ones who just do all of these things naturally but for everyone else who is feeling their way, you’d be doing something really incredible if you just took the initiative with the practical support. But of course not in an intrusive, creepy kind of way 😉