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Monday, May 30, 2016

New Mom Code

When I hear the phrase “Girl Code” I think of some randomly numbered meme dictating who you’re allowed to date. 

Well if there were 1,718 rules more important than this one,
maybe it's not as serious as it sounds.

But today I saw a small collection of stories about women helping other women (often strangers) out of potentially dangerous social situations with no explanation needed, and they said that was “Girl Code.” Much better definition, in my opinion.

I think both genders can benefit from help from strangers in awkward or potentially dangerous social situations, and we should all do what we can do avoid becoming part of the bystander effect. But in the particular (and sadly not uncommon) case of women experiencing harassment or violence from certain kinds of men, it makes sense to me that fellow women who have previously experienced this would be especially inclined to step in and try to help.

There’s an analogy here to motherhood. You can find a bunch of different articles online about what we’re supposed to include in the “Mom Code.” Some of it I agree with, some maybe not so much, but the recurring theme I do like is: moms help each other out. As the author summarizes: 
“I’ve had mom friends lend me last-minute Halloween costumes, bring my family dinner, and take pictures of my kids during the Christmas play. In turn, I’ve happily contributed to meal trains for new moms, picked a friend’s kid up from practice, loaned out books and DVDs, and dropped off good chocolate when I could tell a friend just finished a particularly rough day.”

This kind of support is wonderful at any stage of parenthood. But since I’m still a relatively new mom (my daughter is 14 months old), I wanted to focus in particular on helping out moms with newborns.

I’m happily married and my daughter was planned. I had the luxury of putting on hold other aspects of my life (work, my degree, SPL, whatever) in order to focus on recovering from a C-section, taking care of my little one, and adapting to such a different chapter of my life.

Let it begin...

Even with such a good setup, there were still times, particularly in the first few months, when I felt pretty overwhelmed. I now understand much better the kind of physical and emotional exhaustion brought on by long-term sleep disruption; the frustration of having few chances to really focus on anything for more than a couple moments; and the alienation of suddenly being home and away from other adults so much more than before.

I can only imagine what all of that is like for new moms who are single or in problematic relationships, or who have to go back to work or school or other responsibilities before they’re ready. I expect if their pregnancies were unplanned it will typically feel even more intimidating.

So, as a subsection of Mom Code, I propose New Mom Code: helping her out especially in the first few months after she has her baby.

Of course you don’t have to be a parent to pitch in. I was touched by the help I got from my friends, none of whom have children. Most of them were classmates from my graduate program, and pretty busy with their lives. Yet they found time to provide me company, encouragement, a break in routine—oh, and food. That doesn’t hurt.

Keep in mind: a lot of times new parents will be too exhausted and inundated to reach out and say “Hey, think you could help me with XYZ?” If you are in the position to, just take the initiative and call them up: “I can come over on this day and run some errands, clean something, watch the baby while you get a nap, bring lunch, whatever. Let me help.” There are plenty more suggestions online to choose from. 

Don't underestimate the precious gift of parent naps!
"Best Case Scenario" by Danielle Guenther
Also keep in mind: a lot of people are already great about this support for the first week or two, but, at least for me, it was more like the first two or three months that I could really use the help.


I think other mothers are more likely to realize how much support a new mom can use, and so may be more likely to know what to offer and more tenacious about paying forward the kindness they received (or wish they’d received) when it had been their turn. But really any of us can and should pitch in. It’s a very pro-life thing to do!

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