With the holidays coming up, I can guess that if you know a new mom, she’s stressing and nervous about spending time with family. The holidays can be stressful without a baby. Add a nap schedule, traveling (or hosting!) and flu season to the mix…
I won’t speak for everyone, but I know that I am definitely nervous. I don’t see these family members often, and I know they’re all excited to meet the baby. I’m nervous about having our parenting choices on display.
When I use the word “choices” it seems like parenting is a drop down menu, where we see what is available and effortlessly choose the one we like. Wrong. Absolutely not. Any decision I have made regarding parenting involved hours of research, discussion with my husband, trial and error and probably some crying. Even then, there are times where I second guess myself. To have all those choices out in the open to friends and family like, “Well, here it is, this is how I’m raising my baby,” for the first time… is terrifying.
Not because I think I’m doing anything wrong. I know I’m not. I know that we have made the absolute best choices for our baby and our family. But I know that those choices aren’t best for everyone, and I’m still feeling vulnerable as a new mom, and I really just don’t want to be judged.
Moms are also stressed about flu season and the risks it poses to our little ones. I know we’re already combating our first little cold in our house. (Send coffee, LOL) And on top of that, we’re worried about maintaining some sort of nap schedule that’s keeping us sane, making sure we’ve packed everything we need and keeping our little babe fed. Oh, and taking care of ourselves?
We all know that #FedIsBest, but regardless of how we fill our babies bellies, everyone has an opinion about it. It’s hard enough to hold your ground out in the real world, let alone in a confined space with family members telling you what they think is best. Whether you’re bottle feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, whatever… someone has an opinion. Family is no different.
Sometimes, these conversations can be really interesting! I’ve had completely respectful conversations with generations of my family where we talked about what was and wasn’t “popular” when they were raising babies. Despite what works for our family, I find it really interesting to learn about how my grandmother raised her babies, even if it’s not something I would have done, or agree with.
Let’s chat about how we have better conversations.
Besides the advice we’re subject to on a regular basis, how many times has someone commented on your body? Before baby, during baby, after baby? It’s pretty common, right?
It’s common for this to be a tough topic at a holiday geared towards food, too. Regardless of baby status. A lot of us are still learning to love our mom bod. Some people may not have much to offer in the way of conversation about babies and parenting, so they’ll comment on your body. Don’t listen.
What your body did? THAT is important. Your whole body literally rearranged itself to bring life into this world. Incredible. Your baby doesn’t care what your belly looks like. Your baby loves you for the way you hold them and snuggle them and make them feel safe. Screw the rest.
I’m the type of person that generally believes others mean well. Truly.
Let’s make a vow to change the conversation. Tell a mom she’s doing a great job. Tell a mom her baby is adorable. Ask mom how she’s doing, how she’s feeling. Tell her, again, that she’s doing a great job. Reach out to another mom during the holidays, just to say hi and chat if she’s struggling.
If you’re hosting, offer a new mom a quiet place to retreat to for diaper changes or to feed her baby or get baby to take a quick nap. If baby starts crying, give the baby to mom. Unless of course, mom is hiding in above mentioned quiet place sipping her wine, LOL. Be mindful and wash your hands to keep germs at bay. If someone else makes a hurtful comment, have her back. Ask her what she needs, every mom is different.
Don’t offer advice unless moms ask. Don’t comment on her body. If you do, tell her she looks fierce. Don’t ask if baby sleeps through the night. Tell her she’s doing a great job (yes, again). She might not want to pour her heart out. She might say thank you and move on.
She might also, very badly, need someone to talk to. She might need to hear she’s doing great. She might blush and shrug off your compliments but she will revisit those words later that night when baby is fussy from all the attention and she’s on the verge of tears.
She will hold those kind words in a safe spot in her memory and she will keep them for the times she need to hear them the most. When she is awake at night trying to get baby to sleep or when her first born is heading off to college. That is when she will pour out all those kind words.
She will remember your kindness and use it to build herself back up when she is feeling less than. She will pour into herself over and over with those words throughout her lifetime.
Pour more kindness into the world. Especially the moms of the world. We’re all doing our best. Even when our best is exceedingly enough, we don’t always feel that way.
I challenge every one of you to reach out to a mom today. Not even a new mom. Maybe a mom with grown children. Reach out to a mom and praise her, thank her, tell her she’s doing a great job.
Even if she’s not very receptive. Even if you don’t know her well. Let her know you see her and you appreciate her.
All it takes is, “You’re doing a great job!” or “How are you doing, mama?” and I promise you will make her day.
Lukewarm Coffee Mom