When a mom enters the postpartum period, she receives an abundance of often well-meaning text messages such as, “OMG he’s here!!” or “She’s adorable!” and “Can’t wait to meet her, more pictures please!” But behind the scenes, mom is trying to manage it all, keep a baby or children alive, all while trying to process this massive shift in her life. Let’s showcase a more direct focus on moms’ well being and state of mind, offering tangible support and more of an understanding of how to truly show up in an entirely different way – a mom-first way.
1. “Congratulations! Baby is beautiful! How are YOU doing and feeling, mama?”
Be the friend who celebrates a mother being born and doesn’t solely focus on the baby. Texting a new mom to ask how she is doing might not sound monumental to you, but I promise it’s meaningful. We live in a country where so much of the emphasis is on the baby – the registry, baby’s growth, feeding, sleeping, and meeting milestones. All too often, mom is left feeling alone and unseen. Let’s prioritize treating baby and mom as two people growing and evolving together, being born together.
2. “We left soup for you outside your door, with a baby gift too. Whenever you’re up to it, or have slept more than a few hours, we’d love to visit, or let us know if we can ever be helpful to watch the monitor while you shower or take some time for yourself!”
Be the neighbor who takes the pressure off of mom and doesn’t add more expectations and stress to her plate. Whether this mom has one child or multiple little ones to take care of, moms are overstimulated and have a giant to-do list… all the time. Not only can text messages and check-ins help mom feel less alone during a time of so much change, they can also be an opportunity to truly help mom, and perceive a need that she might not know she has in the moment. You can even offer a range of options to choose from. This way, you truly take the pressure off a mom who is trying to figure it all out, take care of herself and her baby and/or children, while wearing so many other hats too!
3. “Rough day over here. It’s noon, I haven’t brushed my teeth yet and I’ve needed to pee for the last hour. I’m trying to enjoy maternity leave but this is no vacation! How are you holding up today?”
Be the mom friend who allows mom to be figuring it out with you, not the one that makes you feel like you don’t measure up. The glamorization of motherhood and expectations we place on moms to be perfect are often unrealistic and can make moms feel inadequate. This is even more crushing during the postpartum period, when moms are flooded with new emotions, experiences, and expected to be experts on all things baby! The pressure to have a clean house, have time to shower and put yourself together, all while mastering playtime, sleep schedules, and somehow maintaining a social life can all be too much.
4. “Leaving work now. Home in thirty minutes. I can either go grab the diapers from Target that I saw on the list this AM or pick up dinner for us. I can also come home, bathe the baby and you go out for an hour to get some fresh air?”
Be the partner who helps to combat the mental load. Over and over again, moms express that they wish their partner could understand or visibly see the amount of tasks that they are drowning in. Moms often describe the “open tabs” on their computer browser, the feeling of the never-ending lists that simply won’t stop growing. The reality is, it often feels like an invisible list that is solely resting on mom’s shoulders. Taking on tasks that mom “traditionally” handles or seems to “naturally” take responsibility for can be a helpful way to connect and acknowledge the mental load and ongoing to-do list, and successfully remove some of the stress or executive decision-making responsibilities that often fall to mom.
5. “Checking in on you and the baby. We miss you and we’ve got your back. Focus on this time with your family.”
Be the boss at work who gives mom permission to be mom, not employee. Anyone who has been on maternity leave knows it’s anything but a vacation. Colleagues and bosses at work have the opportunity to protect mom during a sacred time of the early postpartum days by truly allowing mom to shift her focus and priorities. So often, a high achieving mom enters the postpartum period and sees how different motherhood is compared to the other jobs she has had. Some women race back to work, and others question their next chapter. Most have mixed feelings about this stage of life. Giving mom the space to hear her own voice and thoughts during this time period is essential. Granting permission in person or via text to continue to spend meaningful time with one’s family can feel like a gift for a mom who might be struggling.
6. “I know you waited for this baby for so long. Remember, you are still allowed to adjust to this time period like everyone else.”
While mom might be so grateful and relieved to finally meet her new baby after infertility and recurrent loss, mothers who experience loss often feel that much more pressure to “just be happy.” Moms tend to already feel that it is only permissible to remain upbeat, joyful and grateful, rather than allowing themselves to feel the wide range of emotions that every new mom feels. Let’s celebrate the reality that all women and mothers can experience two opposing feelings at the same time, including – or even especially– those who have had a difficult journey to get to motherhood.