For a new mom, the first year can feel isolating and overwhelming, especially if you don’t have family nearby to help out. Lack of social support is a risk factor for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and something to be taken seriously. Well meaning friends will often say, “Call me if you need anything.” But chances are the new mother won’t reach out. There are many reasons for this. Here are a few.
- Sleep deprivation
When you get less than 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep in any cycle, it takes a toll on you physically and psychologically. It can feel too exhausting to do anything, let alone call a friend who may or may not be available.
Obviously, if you aren’t getting any sleep you are going to feel exhausted. Learning a new human’s cues, nursing, taking care of their basic needs, attending to their emotional needs, not to mention cooking, cleaning and laundry, all take up a lot of physical and emotional energy. There often doesn’t seem to be any time to ask for help.
- Fear of rejection
You’ve summoned the energy to call or text a friend, only to find out they aren’t available or you don’t hear back at all. For some mothers, this can reinforce an already existing core belief that nobody is there for them.
- Feeling ashamed
Many new moms struggle with feelings of ambivalence in their new role. When friends come over to “help,” they often ask how the baby is without asking the mother is doing. If she is asked, she may be filled with feelings of guilt and shame, putting on the mask of blissful mom when inside she feels completely different. By avoiding friends, she doesn’t have to wear the mask.
- Carrying the mental load
A new mother is learning who she is in her new role and is often viewed as the organizational expert for both baby and the home. While this idea seems somewhat archaic, it still rings true for a majority of mothers.
So what do we do with this information? How do we support our mothers who don’t reach out for support?
- Anticipate What They Need
If you aren’t sure what a new mother may need, chances are it lands in one of the following areas – sleep, food, empathy without judgment or advice, or a housekeeper.
- Let Them Know Which Need You Want to Help Them With
Maybe you want to bring them a week’s worth of easy nutritious meals or grab bags of snacks like apples or nuts. Text them and let them know, “I’m bringing you a week’s worth of food. Can I stop by around 7 pm?” They can let you know if that time doesn’t work. Want to give them a break? Text them and let them know, “I’d like to give you time to rest. Can I stop by at 3pm to be available for baby so you can lie down?”
Do you see how this works? Reassure the new mama that you aren’t going to judge and you prefer that they don’t feel the need to entertain you. Let them know you are reaching out to help and support them.
This can be especially meaningful if it happens over a period of months. Many family and friends get caught up in the excitement of a new baby. Once this initial excitement wanes, support is still needed and necessary. You may never know the impact you make on someone else’s life by being intentionally available.
Are you a new mom looking for more support? Click here to find out more.