I think it’s probable that most people aren’t really good at being a friend (considering our self-absorbed nature and culture). But out of everyone, new moms have to be the worst. And behind them, moms of little children. You wanted to come over and chat? Sorry I sat in my bedroom nursing my baby for 2 hours straight. You wanted to go on a walk? Sorry I fell asleep thinking about it…before I texted you back.
When I had Jones, my first child, none of my other friends had babies at the time. Two of my best friends joined the club shortly thereafter, but I ventured into this whole Mom thing mostly alone. Since me and my new mom friends each had newborns, guess what, we weren’t talking to each other. Not to mention that bringing Jones into this world was a whirlwind of crazy and hell on earth, and I made my entrance into motherhood in a pretty beat up state. I was physically, emotionally, mentally fragile. In no shape to return phone calls. And I stayed that way for at least, oh….the next two and half years.
After Jones was born we were going through pretty stressful circumstances, I was kind of depressed, my husband was working 2 jobs while I was watching 3 other children in my home at given points in the week while trying to figure out what do with my own child who, for the love, did not know what sleep was. I also got pregnant 4 months later, and had another baby approximately 13.5 months after I had the first. All that to say, I know I have been the worst of friends. And for that I am sorry. But what would have been great, what I really could have used, was a friend, or five, that continued to be a good friend to me while I was sucking it up in this arena.
The thing about being a new mom, is that it is consuming. All I could think about was this new little life I was responsible for and all the things that go with it. It was easy for me to get all wrapped up in figuring out how to be a mom, and easy to forget that life was still going on outside of my little family.
So I am here to tell those of you who have new mom friends, whether you haven’t yet or don’t plan to enter into motherhood, or if you’re further removed from that new mom stage, this is not a time to expect much from them. If I had given all the energy I could muster up to being a good friend in those early months, it still wouldn’t have been enough to sustain relationships, because there just wasn’t that much of me left in those few and far between moments of the baby not needing me.
So if you’re wondering what you can do for your friends who are swimming in spit up and actually dying a slow death from lack of sleep, here are some ideas:
-Bring them a meal. Obvs. I think this is about the only thing people actually already know to do, though. New moms can definitely use meals in those first few weeks, but you know what? They could also use meals a month or 2 or 3 later, when people apparently think you must have gotten everything figured out about how to keep a tiny human alive AND clean your house AND have food prepared for meal times and whatever else there is going on. I was still sleeping, um, none at 3 months, and cooking anything was virtually impossible with Jones in the house, because of course he needed to be held 200% of the time and didn’t do all that great with the baby carrier. Oh, and coffee. Bring them coffee morning, afternoon, and night. Unless they don’t like coffee. Which they will probably soon change their mind about.
-Wash their dishes and their laundry. Because remember, some of them are dying and those things just might not get done unless someone else does it.
-Stay away during the first week or 2 (unless you are doing one of the above), when that newborn is actually sleeping (unless their name is Jones and they came out the womb and basically never went back to sleep), because this could be the last time for a while that they see 4 straight hours of shuteye. And while they will soon realize that 4 straight hours is a Godsend, they won’t feel that way in the first couple weeks. BUT, there usually is still some opportunity to take naps and they NEED to seize them.
-Go to the grocery store for them. Some don’t want to go out in public with that screaming baby, but also I never knew what I was supposed to do with the groceries in the event that my baby wasn’t screaming, and remember my baby doesn’t do so great with the carrier, and I am definitely taking that car seat in which takes up the whole buggy. And sure, lots of moms have husbands that could do this sort of thing, but guess what. They don’t want their husband going to the store after they get off work. They want their husband home, taking that wonderful, sweet, dependent baby right out of their hands for a gooood chunk of time. And guess where I don’t want to go when someone else is taking care of my child. Yep, the grocery store.
-Offer to babysit for an hour and try with all your might to convince them that their baby will be fine without them for an hour. I was so stressed out when anyone else was watching Jones because I just knew he was screaming the whole time and they were losing their minds. But you know what I should have thought? I should have thought “they offered and most people handle babies crying better than the baby’s mom.” For some of us it takes a few months or another child to realize they will survive the crying fits and won’t think that I’ve abandoned them. For some of us it takes a while to get over feeling like we need or are even able to fix every little discomfort. So remind them, and send them away. Or offer to watch the baby while they do whatever the heck they want in their own home. Like take that shower they have been thinking about.
-Don’t forget about them or assume they are busy doing their mom thing and are uninterested in interacting with people who don’t have children. Keep calling even if they never call you back, and don’t give them grief about not answering/returning your calls. Chances are you called in the middle of a diaper/outfit change, or while they were holding their sleeping babe (and no they will not move when that little one is asleep on their chest), or maybe even they themselves were stealing a quick nap. Also note that text messages are probably your best bet for getting a response, and instead of playing phone tag you can schedule a (potential) time to talk/Skype/whatever.
-and the most important thing you can do, if you’re asking me, is talk to them. And let them talk. Ask them how they are doing. Help them process the huge transition they are going through. You may not be able to relate, but let them talk about sleep and poop because that’s their life and you’re their friend.
The truth is being a new mom can be really lonely. Of course, some people have “easy” babies and are able to do more, and some settle into their lives being turned upside down with a little more grace. But I think for a lot of moms the days are long, but they fly by and then they come up for air and realize it’s been 6 months since they talked to their best friend. I realize life happens and things change, but if there is a time to fight for your relationships, it’s when you/your friend has their first baby. Like I said, motherhood is consuming and sometimes it’s hard to see how alone you are in the middle of it. Remind them that they need to make friendships a priority. Remind them what an enormous blessing motherhood is and at the same time that there is more to life than motherhood.
New moms, I deeply know how hard it is, but make an effort to be a good friend. Try not to get lost in the figuring it out. For the most part I think new moms don’t know what they need, but in those moments that you do, communicate to the people close to you. I wish I had admitted to someone “I need friends. I’m in a daze and I’m exhausted, but I need you to keep being my friend.” Family is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but it isn’t everything.
Friends of new moms, be patient and gracious, and be dedicated. New moms need you.