There is a proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. Most cultures take this to heart--families live very close to each other, sometimes several generations under one roof. There are aunts, grandmothers, sisters and cousins to pitch in with cooking, advice and swaddling.
For some reason, however, many American mamas hit the ground running at the first sign of a baby bump and put up a proverbial “Do Not Disturb” sign when it comes to raising families.
You need a license to drive, vote, drink, fly...but people are having babies every minute with little to no education or support on what to do. No one will argue (they better not!) that raising a child (well) is the biggest responsibility one can undertake. Yet, outside of a half-day class the hospital offered about safety (surprise! half of our house plants were poisonous) and an hour postpartum power-point lecture we had to sit through before being released (where the glassy-eyed new mothers used it as a prime opportunity for one last nap), there isn’t a lot of parenting prep-work.
We have all this technology to make being a parent easier--video monitors, Baby Bjorns, teething tablets...why can it feel so darn hard?
I think there is an assumption of failure that moms (especially) have if they ask for help. They feel guilty when they can’t balance being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, employee, chef, housekeeper, teacher, treasurer, family organizer, doctor (you don’t need a prescription for boo-boo kisses!), cheerleader, chauffeur and therapist all while still maintaining a bit of who they were before they took on 15 new jobs.
Here is my biggest advice for not only new parents but seasoned ones as well: ASK FOR HELP.
I promise no one is going to judge you or criticize you or throw dirty diapers at you. And if they do I am sure you can find one in your purse (oh, that’s where that went!) to chuck back.
This column came to light when a friend and new mom posted that she was ready to snap, that she couldn’t deal with everyone expecting her to be perfect all the time when she has so much to do.
We all feel this way at some point. It really takes away from enjoying time with your kiddos when there is a to-do ticker flashing in front of your eyes all day.
When I mention the “H” word to moms they immediately stop me.
“No, I can’t spend that kind of money. I can do it all...” then they burst into tears.
I am not talking about hiring a full-time staff to do your bidding. There are plenty of choices that won’t break the bank. I am giving you permission to spend a few dollars in order to feel some peace and order in your mind (at least for a few hours).
My son was born five weeks early and before I had my baby shower. We were so not prepared when we got home. I was only on Month 4 in “What to Expect.” We hired a postpartum doula to come a few hours each week to help with breast feeding, bathing, nap time, and for all the little things that are as alien as (albeit much cuter than) Snooki. This is a fabulous baby shower gift a bunch of people can chip in on and will be appreciated much more than knitted socks. Dona.org is the official doula website where you can search your area for accredited doulas or ask your OBGYN.
I am sure you know someone with a tween daughter that needs money to go see Justin Bieber. Hire her to be a mother’s helper for like five or six dollars an hour. She entertains the kids in the house while you catch up on laundry and US Weekly. How is that not worth $15.00? (Give up lattes for a week.)
And if any family or friends ask what they can do--don't be a martyr. Say, "Please make me enough frozen lasagnas to get me through the winter."
Just because we don’t want the village in our living room helping raise our kids (hell no, I just vacuumed!) doesn’t mean we have to go it alone, either.
(This piece is slanted toward moms, but I certainly know and respect that there are plenty of dads equally invested in and overwhelmed with parenting.)