I really really detest that statment.
You’re important too, followed by the don’t you know. It’s said in a patronizing tone by someone who cares enough about you to notice that you’re struggling but not enough to actually offer you any real hands on support, usually. If it’s said followed by, what can I do to help or let me take the little one for 10 minutes or so while you have a shower then wonderful. However, we’ve probably all been there before. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
Mum – “I’m just so tired, the house is an absolute mess, and I haven’t had a decent shower since X was born 6 weeks ago.”
‘Friend’ – “You poor thing, you’re important too you know, it won’t hurt him to have a cry while you have a shower or a cup of tea, they have to learn independence at some stage.”
Face, meet palm.
If you’re a friend of someone who has just had a baby, do not tell her she’s still important or needs to make herself a priority. She knows that. She knows that she feels awful. The thing is it is hard to ask for help directly, we all fear rejection to some extent, or we’re too proud, or we just don’t want to appear like we can’t do it on our own. So instead of hearing, I’m too wrapped up in my baby hear this, I would love your help.
If you hear, I haven’t had a good shower in weeks, then offer to make that happen for her! Sometimes a nice warm shower alone is just what I crave, and so when my husband comes home from a trip away one of the first things I ask of him is if he can watch our two so I can have a shower. Simple, but after weeks of grabbing a shower here and there the freedom to just relax and not rush, and wash my hair without a worry is bliss.
If you hear, the washing is just not getting done, then ask where the machine is or offer to fold a basket while you chat.
Bring a meal. Nothing is better then a meal cooked just for you. Make it something simple she can just reheat. Ask what her favourite is! And if you can’t cook, bring snacks, fruit, coffee from her favourite cafe.
Instead of offering her crap advice like, would he be happier if he learnt to self settle, are you sure you have enough milk and so on, how about just asking, what can I do to help.
What do you need?
The best thing you can do for a friend who is struggling as a new mother is just be there for her and offer her your time, listen to her, make her feel like what she is feeling is real and valid. Trust me it is so hard when all the other mothers seem to have it together, hair neat and tidy, make up, outfits that look decent and aren’t covered in reflux spew. That’s tough, it feels like you’re the only one not making this work when the washing is piled sky high, you haven’t fed yourself more than a blueberry muffin in two days and getting out of the house feels like mission impossible.
So don’t tell her she’s important, that she needs to put herself first, that a happy mum makes a happy baby (*shudder*). Listen, is she really saying she is having a hard time or is she asking for your help. And if she’s doing the later, offer it. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, if you’re already sitting there then fold a basket of washing, or if you’re already there then cuddle that baby while she showers. Who doesn’t love a squishy newborn hug.
I promise you it’s those gifts of hands on support that are remembered long after the cards of congratulations go in the drawers and the cute gifted outfits are grown out of. They cement friendships. They are treasured.
So remember, food not flowers, is the present that will be treasured by new mums the most.