Every week PJ Parenting writers weigh in on parenting issues large and small and you have the opportunity to share your insights in the comments section below. We’d love it if you’d join us for a cup of coffee and some great conversation!
Question: What advice would you have for a new mom who is feeling overwhelmed?
Megan Fox: Stop trying to do the laundry and all the normal stuff you do. Leave it. Lie down with the baby, nurse and sleep for hours. Don’t do errands. Ask for help. There are friends all around who want to help, so let them. Ask for meals. One of the things I did before I had the baby was stock my freezer with freezer meals to throw in the crock-pot. That helped a lot.
Brianna Sharbaugh: Sleep when you can. Buy more underwear (and do less laundry). Ask and be willing to accept help. Call that person who generically said “let me know if you need anything.” I seriously had to call my mommy, who lives a state away from me, to come cook and get my digestive track moving again (fiber is your friend).
The multi-tasking will get easier — wearing baby while you do housework, grocery shopping, keeping the baby happy, etc. Don’t leave the house until you are SURE you are ready. Once you start venturing out, you’ll tell yourself you have to keep venturing out.
Megan Fox: One of my friends is a doula and she recommends a minimum three week “laying in” period where mama literally stays in bed doing nothing more strenuous than cooing at her newborn. I like it.
With my last, it was really hard on my body (the old gray mare…). I cried for about a month because it had been so traumatic — baby in NICU, broken tailbone, horror delivery, nurse from Hell. I limped in pain for eight months afterward due to a tear in a tendon in an unspeakable place. My precious mommy would come in the room and I would be sobbing and she would say, “Oh, it’s okay, you just cry. Go ahead.” So my advice is to lie in bed and do whatever you want, including sobbing yourself silly. Childbirth and recovery are no joke. It’s hard, HARD work and it deserves serious recouping time.
Jamie Wilson: I want to give some advice to the new DADDY. Bring her flowers when she doesn’t expect it. Tell her how beautiful she is when she laughs, cries, nurses, agonizes over the baby fat. Keep saying it, even when it makes her mad. Take the baby away from her for an hour or two–every day if you can–and let her do things to relax.
If you have older children, take them to McDonald’s at least once a week and let her just hang out with the baby. Arrange for dinner at least half the time. Take-out pizza will do, provided it’s not every single day. Big trays of lasagna and a salad are fine too, and about as easy as it gets. Don’t just zone out after work, because even when she’s been home all day, she’s been working her butt off (just not being paid for it) and she really, really needs to talk to an adult human being.
Susan L.M. Goldberg: Speaking as another brand new mama… The girls here have covered the practical advice. SLEEP. Get help in: spouse, family, friends. SLEEP, EAT, RECOVER and BOND. Then, get out of the four walls known as your house. After a while, it feels like a trap. Make the spouse or the grandma keep an eye on the babe, even if it’s just for an hour, and take yourself for a drive. Get a coffee. Read a stupid magazine. Remind yourself that there is a world outside of the chaos you’re encountering 24/7.
Mentally and emotionally speaking, it’s okay not to be in love with parenting the minute you have your baby. Note: I said “not in love with parenting” not “not in love with your child.” Two very different things. I loved my child from the moment he was conceived. The act of parenting is something that grows on you over time. We’re about to turn the three month corner and I can now say that yes, it does get better. Granted, we’re formula feeding, so we jumped into longer stretches of sleep quicker, but there are other rewards beyond an extra hour of shut-eye at a time.
Greatest reward: that big smile. And the look of sheer love when your baby gazes at you in complete contentment. The giggles, too. And the playing! When that kid discovers his hands you not only feel a huge surge of accomplishment, you also start to relax. Mainly because you finally get 15 minutes to breathe while they stare at their fists in complete delight.
Parenting is hard. Brutal, actually. And if you’re transitioning from a professional environment filled with adults to a sleepless environment where the most intellectual thing you say on a daily basis is, “We made poops!” you’re going to hit a point where you’re sure you made a huge mistake, you’re a terrible mother and you should’ve taken all that love you have for children and put it into managing a charity for kids instead of foolishly trying to have one of your own.
Best advice: Let yourself feel everything. Remind yourself that part of the drive behind your emotions is your body readjusting. I experienced PMS on steroids after giving birth — the mood swings were insane. I’d cry in the shower for no reason. And every time I felt something negative I’d just book-end it with, “I’m a terrible mother for feeling this way.” Eventually, I caught myself and said it isn’t what I was feeling, but what I was doing with the feelings that mattered. Then I let a lot of them go. That’s when I really started enjoying motherhood.
Julie Prince: Give yourself permission to be a slacker. Women tend to feel guilty about this. Your hubby can be on house and kid duty if you have other children. The good news is, HE WILL LIVE! Sleep is what you ultimately need the most of whenever you can. Your normal routine can resume once you feel healthy again.
I felt a tired that I never knew existed after having my babies. Listen to your body. It knows what it needs to heal itself. Continue to take your vitamins and get a lymphatic massage if you can; I swear by these! It gets your blood flowing and flushes out toxins to rejuvenate you. Plus, they feel fabulous!
If you’re lucky enough to still have your mommy, call on her. Nothing like having your mum around to help with the baby and give you a little TLC!
Bethany Mandel: Find your tribe. Make mom friends and devote yourself to cultivating those friendships. Go to classes, events, anywhere that you can find a group of people with kids that are your kids’ ages. Babies aren’t the only ones who need friends; you need them more. Be childlike in your quest. Did you meet a mom you really like at a program? Be ballsy. Suggest exchanging numbers and make a playdate for yourselves. The kids can come along.
Susan L.M. Goldberg: “Continue to take your vitamins” — brilliant. I was told to drop everything. Yeah, your body really hates that kind of shock, especially on top of the shock of no sleep. And “hubby can be on house and kid duty” is another winner. AMEN to that! Fortunately, I have a really involved husband who manages to shock the rest of his family when he says things like, “I do the early morning feeding before I have to leave for work.” One aunt said, “parenting is very different nowadays.” You’ve got that right. If I was doing it alone, like past generations of mothers, forget it. I’d already be interviewing nannies.