Having a baby can be both wonderful and stressful. You are expanding your family and have your very own child — what could be better than that?
But it’s not always fun and games. There are diapers to change, baths to give, feedings to administer and crying sessions to soothe.
It is hard work and can be much more overwhelming than a mother wants to admit. And asking for help isn’t the easiest thing for a new mom to do.
New moms often think they can take the world on and not need the littlest bit of assistance. But of course, that simply isn’t true. The problem is sucking up your pride and asking for an assist.
We caught up with Kathleen Mates-Youngman, a licensed marriage and family therapist, to get her perspective on how to ask for help as a new mother.
1. GIVE UP GUILT
Summoning the courage to ask for help to begin with can be its own hurdle. New moms can feel like a burden because taking care of a baby is no walk in the park. Here’s the thing; you need a break too.
Handing over your kid to someone else for a couple of hours shouldn’t make you feel like a horrible mom. If it is, get to the bottom of why. Perhaps you should talk out your feelings with a professional and figure out why accepting help is a problem. Could it even be linked to postpartum depression?
Mates-Youngman explains, “Keeping an eye out for postpartum depression or anxiety is a big deal. Sometimes new moms aren’t aware that they are even suffering from it. There is a lot of self-doubt involved. That is all the more reason to go against your gut and ask for help.”
2. TALK TO FAMILY
Family members are there for a reason: to help each other out.
If you are looking for grandma to step in and watch your bundle of joy every Thursday afternoon, run it by her. The worst she can say is no, then you move on to the next person in line, right? Chances are your family will understand the stress you are undergoing with a new baby and will want to jump in once you open the door — but first you have to ask.
Chances are your family members would love to give you the support you so desperately need, but they don’t want to butt in. That, and they can’t read your mind.
3. WORK WITH YOUR PARTNER
To be blunt, it isn’t fair if your partner works and doesn’t help with the baby. It doesn’t matter how stressful his (or her) job is, there is always time to pitch in. Again, verbalizing this is key.
Perhaps he doesn’t know you need the help, or figures you are doing fine without his help. The thing is, it is hard to take care of a baby all day, then also be on guard all night. All of the feedings, diaper changes, baths, and crying sessions shouldn’t fall on you!
The number one helper in your life should be your partner. Have the conversation.
4. SAY YES!
It sounds kind of basic, but when people offer to help, say yes!
Whether this person is willing to make you dinner once a week, watch your baby while you take a nap for an hour, or baby-sit for a day every week, it is help that would make your life easier.
The next time someone makes an offer instead of brushing them off, let them know their offer is appreciated and take them up on it.
Orange County has a super mom culture, but there is no shame in asking for help. Mates-Youngman says, “The Orange County culture seems to have a lot of peer pressure. Moms feel like they should do everything — like they should breastfeed even if they are struggling with it. They should make their baby food from scratch.
“They feel like they should make it seem like they have it all together, and it puts a lot of pressure on them and on others. To be vulnerable enough to say you are struggling a little bit, know that even the best moms are transitioning, and accept help is a good thing. Don’t get caught up in the ‘shoulds.’”
5. MAKE A PLAN
Sometimes a good way to get help is to help yourself.
You don’t know what help you need unless you are organized. Get a plan together and see what you actually need help with before you start asking people for help with chore-like items.
Setting yourself up with things like a maid service and grocery delivery will allow you to focus more on your baby rather than running errands. Also, cooking and freezing meals will have you spending less time in the kitchen as well.
Being organized allows you to see the big picture. It allows you to properly delegate work to people who want to help.
6. GIVE BACK
When all is said and done, you want people to continue to help you while you have a little one running around. The best way to do that is to help them in their time of need just like they are helping you.
This might not mean running their errands or watching their kids because you have your own bundle of joy to worry about right now, but it could be as simple as listening when they need to talk and being there for them emotionally.
More information at Mates-Youngman’s website: kathleenyoungman.com.