Ellie has had a bout of mastitis and the flu, her baby Sam has had runny poos and high temperatures (he has probably caught Ellie’s flu), there’s a mountain of dirty washing, the fridge is empty, the fruit bowl’s full of rotting apples and she hasn’t left the house for days except to go to the doctor’s surgery. Ellie’s husband is doing 12-hour shiftwork and her mum and dad are away on holidays.
In those carefree days BC (Before Child), when Ellie actually had sick leave, she used to be proud of how well she managed a crisis. Now, her grizzly baby can’t simply be ‘delegated’ and it’s just not practical for her to ‘rest up’.
Mothers don’t get sick leave and the buck stops with you, even when you are at your wits end and all of your resources (including energy and sanity!) been used up. Most moms in Ellie’s situation would feel too overwhelmed to even figure out what would be helpful, let alone who may be able to help you get back on track. And yet, the only sensible option is to call in the reserves.
Only a few days ago I was asking Angela, a client who desperately needed help, about her support network. It turned out (as it does so often) that Angela’s mother lived interstate. When I gently suggested that Angela’s mother-in-law, who lived just one suburb away, might be able to step up, I was met with a little resistance: “she has never minded our baby.” Further questioning revealed that the grandmother in question had never been asked for help. For Angela, her hesitation was due to a mixture of fear about losing face and possibly being judged. She was also concerned that her mother-in-law was too busy and not really interested. With a little bit of encouragement, Angela discovered that her mother-in-law was not only interested and willing but delighted to be asked to help out.
Most of us find it difficult to ask even those closest to us for practical help and sometimes the trade-off of asking a family member for help could be an avalanche of advice that you just don’t have the energy to refute. Janet, a mum of a toddler and a baby says, “I have found it much easier to ask friends for help rather than family members. I don’t feel beholden to friends, because I know this gives them permission to ask me when they need a favour returned. “
If it seems too hard to ask a friend or family member for help or if this isn’t an option right now, you can always call in hired help – even one thorough house clean or one basket of ironing outsourced can relieve a mountain of stress. It can also help to have groceries delivered . Increasingly, as well as these traditional services, many moms are finding professional help such as a postnatal doula is like having an angel in your home.
Doula is a Greek word for mother’s servant and this is exactly what you can expect. Although many doulas provide labour support, some also offer support services for new mothers. Of course you will pay for such help but this often makes it easier to ask for the kind of help you need without feeling you are imposing. And if you are so deeply in need that you cant think straight, an experienced doula will be able to pack you back together again, just like your own mum would – with a tidy house, washing on the line, a meal and some rest while she watches or holds your baby. Bliss!
For some great ongoing support and strategies to make mothering easier, subscribe to Pinky’s FREE monthly newsletter Gentle Beginnings and receive a free recording – What they never tell you -Mummy Meltdowns and the REAL truth about parenting at Pinky’s website