Fact: Mothers need encouragement, especially those moms raising babies, toddlers, young children or teenagers. OK, so all moms need encouragement.
Yes, motherhood is beautiful, but it’s also trying. We pace the hallways at night, argue with nonsense, wipe butts and dry tears, even on the good days. So, of course we need an immense amount of support and encouragement from the community around us. Mothers who are new to the game especially need words of encouragement and wisdom from those who have been in their shoes.
Tip: There are some words of advice that, despite popular belief, shouldn’t be repeated to a new mom just doing the best she can. If you happen to be the speaker of these words, your new-momma friend may not tell you your advice sucks, but I promise she will want to.
So in an effort to ease tensions and facilitate peaceful existence among new mothers and the rest of the world, here is a simple list of “no-no” phrases that should be avoided at all costs when talking to new moms.
1. “Sleep when the baby sleeps.”
Oh, I see, you must be a comedian.
Or you haven’t been to my house at 11 a.m. when my baby has just gone down for her 45-minute nap. Here is a sneak peak: I am still in my sweatpants, a comb hasn’t touched my hair, the bed hasn’t been made, the dog hasn’t been fed, and my breath smells like a trashcan.
Now let’s talk about priorities. I’m clearly exhausted, but societal norms tell me a shower every now and again is probably important. And something else that’s pretty important? I don’t want my husband to feel like he stepped into a game of “Jumanji” when he walks in the door of our home.
Simply put, it’s impossible for me to sleep every time the baby sleeps. Nothing gets done during the day unless I am awake to do it. Yea, I will sneak in a nap when I can. But NO mother has ever been able to take advantage of the infamous “sleep while your baby sleeps” philosophy. It’s time to give it up.
2. “Breast is best.”
You know what’s really the best? When women don’t care about how another mom’s baby is getting fed, as long as that baby is in fact (1) eating food, and (2) healthy. I’ve seen the hashtag used a million times on social media, and I can’t help but roll my eyes at the audacity of some mothers to judge another mom for going the formula route.
Here’s the truth: Breastfeeding is tough stuff. It requires a woman to yank out her nipple every time her baby needs a snack, sip, slurp or dinner. Some women do not have an adequate milk supply, work incredibly long hours, or have a medical condition that prevents them from breastfeeding.
And yes, ideally, breastfeeding provides children with life-long health benefits, along with significantly decreasing a mom’s chance of getting breast cancer. That’s pretty awesome!
But, to judge another mother for the way she chooses to feed her child is plainly breaking mom code. Breastfeeding may have been the best choice for you, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. So, stop with the “breast is best” comments.
Can I get an amen?
3. “I don’t know how you do it.”
Yeah, I know. Sometimes I look like I’ve wrestled a bear before making my way into public. And honestly, sometimes being a mother of a toddler feels a lot like wrestling a bear day in, day out. But when people look at me and say something to the tune of, “I just don’t know how you do it,” while shaking their heads... well, I just don’t know how to interpret that comment.
Do they mean it to be complimentary? Like, “Man, underneath that messy bun and stained white T, you must be superwoman,” or, “Great job, you are kicking motherhood’s butt.”
Or do they say it out of condescension, like “Wow, your child is a terror, I just don’t know how you put up with her on a daily basis.” Like they can’t even imagine being in my shoes because that has to suck so, so badly.
Either way, if you have ever said this to a mom of young children, do me a favor: Don’t do it again. If you think I’m superwoman, I could always use the compliment. If you think my child is a maniac, please don’t tell me.
But whatever you do, do NOT proclaim that you “just don’t know how I do it.” Because if I have to wrestle bears on a daily basis, I can definitely take you down. Just saying.
4. “Just wait until...”
It never fails that when I’m speaking to a more seasoned mother about some difficult stage my child is going through, she will at some point respond, “Just wait until… [INSERT she’s walking, or she’s talking, or she’s a teenager and hates her parents.].”
Why can’t we both just pretend for a second that this is the worst stage my baby will ever go through? Please? The correct response is never swapping out sympathy for fear mongering. Just fake pinky-promise me that it gets better, and listen to my rant until I start talking about how sweet she is in my next breath. I know on the inside, this motherhood gig only gets more complicated as the years go by.
But for now, just lie to me. I’m begging you. Lie. To. Me.
5. “It flies.”
There are so many perks to being the mother of a freshly made human ― free cuddles, sweet grins, and what seems like an endless amount of one-on-one time. However, I know it will one day come to an end.
I have spent countless nights wondering how I will handle the gradual process of not being needed by my children. And, it’s scary.
Truthfully, I don’t know how I will handle it when that time comes. So, I’m going to count down the days slowly, and pray they creep by, even though these days are spent wrestling animal-like children and walking around like a zombie. Sometimes it’s just easier to pretend she will always be my baby.
So let’s avoid talking about the future, and pretend I’ve given birth to Peter Pan. Despite all it’s haphazardness, I just don’t want motherhood to fly by the way you say it will. Just let me be a dreamer.