5 Things Never to Say to a New Mom (I might eat my words on one of them) & What to Say Instead!
(One quick thing before reading this. PLEASE know that I am grateful every waking moment of my life for my children and my family. I also realize that there are WAY bigger problems in the world than what I describe in this post. This was written only as a way to help support new moms who are still trying to navigate the world of parenting.)
1.Enjoy every moment!
This one is number one on my list for a reason. Every one of my friends who has little kids right now brought this up (or some variation of it) when I asked them what they hate when people say to them. While there may be good intentions behind saying this, it can actually make someone feel worse.
Yes, I understand the idea behind this is that time flies. And that my boys will be teenagers before I can blink an eye and I will long for the days when they were little.
There are so many moments throughout the day that I stop and drink it all in — how they smell and how they sound and how they look.
I know that I will miss the days when they snuggle with me so tight say and do the sweetest things and I will miss that they want to be with me 24/7 and that they love me the most.
I know one day I would kill to have the time back when they jumped into my arms or when I had their sweaty, sleepy heads resting on my chest. I will miss so much what it’s like when they learn something new and I get to see the joy on their face. And the giggles — oh, I will miss the giggles!
The thing is, and I’m sure everyone realizes this, parenting is combination to huge highs and some extreme lows. And, in those low moments, sometimes we just need support.
So, when you tell someone who is having a hard time to “enjoy it because they grow up so fast”, it completely minimizes the very real struggle that person is going through.
It’s almost like it insinuates that they aren’t enjoying motherhood. That there is a lack of appreciation or something.
Motherhood is riddled with enough “mom guilt” as it is. There certainly doesn’t need to be an extra added dose.
If I was complaining because my baby wasn’t sleeping, what you might not have known was that he had woken up every hour of every night for 2 months straight.
And someone telling me not to take this time for granted definitely did not make me feel any better. Would you like to come over and “enjoy the moments” of complete and total mental and physical exhaustion for me? Because I’m 100% certain you have forgotten what it’s like.
If people remembered what it was like or if they had ever experienced extreme sleep deprivation, they would not be telling us to enjoy every moment.
And, this especially goes for single parents and parents who have kids with extra medical needs or social and emotional needs!
Again, totally get it that people like to emphasize that we should appreciate the time we have when our kids our little because we can’t get this time back! And, on the other hand, there is a much better way to say it to people that will make them feel supported and not criticized.
Maybe you could say…
“I know you are in the rough stages right now. As hard as it was, I actually look back on this time and miss how little they were.”
“Back when my kids were little, I remember I was able to enjoy the crazy moments more when I also took some time to myself for some self-care.”
“You are in the thick of it right now. Is there any way that I can help?”
p.s. Kelly Murray changed our lives with how she coached us through getting both of our boys to sleep through the night and take great naps. If you are struggling with your baby or toddler not sleeping, she is your girl, I promise.
2. It doesn’t get any easier (I might eat my words on this one)
I’ve heard many times from different people that it doesn’t get easier and I wonder about this every time someone says it.
Over the summer, we had several weekends with friends and family at our lakehouse. I had kids later in life (Van at 39 and Dre at 41), so most of my friends have kids who are older.
As I was constantly watching that Van was in his life jacket and with someone who could help him if needed and I was attached to Dre every second to make sure he wasn’t eating sand or diving headfirst into the lake (or taking a dump in the water), our friends were floating on rafts, beers in hand, not a care in the world while their children jumped off the dock and fished.
And I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…that sure does look a lot easier than when I’m doing right now!”
When someone says it doesn’t get easier, I’m all,
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN? ARE YOU SAYING I WILL NEVER AGAIN HAVE TWO MINUTES TO SIT ON THE COUCH WITHOUT SOMEONE NEEDING SOMETHING? WILL I NEVER HAVE MY FREEDOM BACK? WILL I NEVER SLEEP IN AGAIN?!”
Okay, so what I hear is that it gets easier in the sense of being able to relax again and the sleeping part gets better and physically not having to have an eye or hand on your children 24/7 changes.
The struggles that we have with our kids when they get older are much, much different and I totally get that.
And at the same time, for the love of everything, please just reassure me that it won’t be forever that I will be dealing with things like my kid peeing in his carseat on the way to a funeral when I forgot extra clothes.
Please make me feel like, one day, my kids will be able to tell me why they are having a full blown meltdown and that they are going to be able to survive without me feeding them and that they can let me know if someone hurts them or if something is really wrong.
Yes, I know the problems become different, but please please please try to remember back to when you were “in the thick of it” and just throw us a bone that certain things actually do get easier!
3. You’re doing great, mama!
If this comes from someone who sees me interacting with my kids or who spends enough time with me to know that I am actually doing a great job? Yes, please tell me this.
But, throwing a blanket statement like this out there when, in reality, you have no idea if I’m doing a shit job or I’m the best mom in the world just doesn’t help. It’s an empty compliment.
Compliments need some authenticity and substantiation behind them in order for us to truly feel the positive energy behind it and for it to mean something.
It’s like when something online starts with “hello, gorgeous”. Yes, it’s a cute saying, but in no way, shape, or form am I going to feel like I’m gorgeous because there is nothing behind it that shows me that they actually think I’m gorgeous.
Just like when I come across a social media post that says, “You’re doing a great job, mama!” I wonder to myself how they would even know.
Any, you know what? Sometimes I don’t feel like a “great mama”. Sometimes I feel like a total failure. And you know what makes me feel better? When people say things like:
We are all doing the best we can right now.
I know how hard it can be.
Is there anything you want to vent about?
This stage in motherhood can seriously suck.
It’s okay to make mistakes. Actually, it’s an opportunity to model that for your kids when you lose your cool. For example, Dan and I got into an argument in front of Van (well, let’s say that I argued with Dan — he’s always calm). I felt terribly because I remember how horrible it was when my parents fought. So, I decided we needed to make this a learning opportunity and Dan and I apologized to each other for our part in the argument and hugged and talked all in front of Van. We wanted him to see that part, too.
4. Aren’t you so in love?
I’m so incredibly fortunate that I did not have postpartum depression. However, (according to the ASA) 1 in 7 women experiences postpartum depression. In fact, three of my close friends have experienced it.
Something women with postpartum depression experience is not being able to bond right away with her baby. Imagine going through everything that occurs with having a baby from hormonal changes alone (anxiety, mood swings, mild depression), throw in sleep deprivation and figuring out how to feed and care for your baby in general, and then not feeling a strong bond on top of it all.
So, women who are going through this are already trying to grapple with why they aren’t feeling this joy that people are talking about and then someone excitedly asks,
“Aren’t you so in love??”
One of my close friends said that magnified what she was going through and only made her feel worse.
Instead, when talking to someone who just had a baby, it makes more sense to say things like:
How have you been feeling?
What does it feel like for you right now?
Being a mom brings up so many different emotions!
Having a baby can be so different for everyone. How has this been for you?
5. He must be….
Ohhh the unsolicited parenting advice. A few of my friends mentioned this one.
When their baby was crying and people said things like,
“She is so fussy, she must be hungry!” — Nope, I just fed her.
“He must be cold!” — Well, if you can find a way to keep him from taking his hat off that doesn’t require a staple gun, that would be great.
“He should be done with that pacifier by now!” — You are welcome to spend the night tonight and take it away from him and see how that goes.
In the end, we really shouldn’t be giving advice about what other babies and kids need or don’t need unless we are asked. We have no idea what has been going on prior to us inserting our opinion.
If you see their baby is crying, instead of telling the mom or dad what to do, ask if there is anything you can do to help. Or, ask if they need a break and hold the baby for a few minutes if they want.
If you are a stranger? Sometimes a quick, “I’ve been there” or “Let me hold your grocery cart still for you so you can wrangle him back in” is all it takes to help someone through a tough moment.