For some reason, once you become pregnant it seems like everyone thinks they no longer have to use discretion when it comes to making comments about your appearance, touching your growing baby bump, and giving unsolicited parenting advice. More often than not, the never-ending tips on how to hold your baby and how much you should be feeding them can be overwhelming to a new mom.
You can probably find a camp of moms that feels passionately about both ends of whatever the subject is when it comes to raising kids. And to make matters worse, telling a new mom that they’re doing something wrong can lead to mom guilt that they probably don’t need your help feeling because it comes with the territory.
When I asked a group of moms recently what they wished people were asking them when they were a new moms, this is what they had to say. Next time a friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker or whoever you know has a baby these are the questions you should be asking them if you really want to be helpful.
10 QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD REALLY BE ASKING NEW MOMS
1. Do you need a break?
This might seem obvious, but asking this is much more helpful than saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Even better would be to ask the question,” How can I make your life easier?” If she doesn’t know, offer to come over and do the laundry and dishes. Or ask if you can bring dinner or groceries.
2. Do you feel guilty about anything?
I don’t think I’ve met a single mom yet that didn’t experience mom guilt at some point or another. Asking this question can give the mom permission to tell you what is making her feel like she’s not good enough. Chances are, just saying it out loud will help her see that she isn’t a bad mom. But either way, you can still offer reassurance that what she’s feeling is normal. It might also lead to something else you can do to help in that situation.
3. What are you afraid of?
Having a baby is scary at times. Period. You’re now responsible for another human being’s life. As their mom, you definitely feel that pressure and it can cause anxiety. Often moms don’t realize that having scary thoughts about bad things that might happen to their baby is pretty common.
One of my favorite books is “Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts,” by Karen Kleiman. Kleiman says that over 90% of mothers have scary, intrusive thoughts about their babies and themselves. But the good news is that you can get help and you can work through them.
4. Are you eating?
The adjustment to being a new mom can be so overwhelming that moms often forget to take care of themselves. We’ve all had those days where we got so consumed in taking care of others and running around that we couldn’t remember if we ate breakfast and sometimes even lunch.
Moms have to make feeding themselves a priority just as much as they make feeding their babies a priority. If we aren’t getting enough protein and other nutrients, our mental health can also be affected. There are vitamins and minerals that have been depleted from your body when you go through childbirth and it’s important now more than ever to make sure you are replenishing them with a healthy diet.
5. How are you REALLY doing?
A common question that we ask new moms is, “How are you doing?” Often when people are asked that question, their response is quickly, “I’m fine!” Sometimes this response is just an automatic reaction because we don’t know if the other person really wants to hear the truth.
Other times, when we respond this way it’s because we are afraid to admit that we aren’t fine. There are also times when we’re struggling and we really don’t know that we aren’t ok. So asking, “Are you REALLY ok? I mean really? It’s ok if you aren’t” can be just enough to give a new mom permission to open up to you about how they really are.
6. Is your husband ok?
I know this is about moms, but husbands are often overlooked when it comes to postpartum mood disorders. One in ten dads experience postpartum depression and that number goes up to 50% when the mother is depressed. As many as 18% of dads develop a clinically significant anxiety disorder after becoming a father.
However, the stigma against experiencing difficulties in early parenthood is even higher for men than for women. Society views men as stoic, self-sacrificing, and above all, strong. When men feel none of those things as new fathers, they don’t want to admit it or seek help.
Postpartum Support International has virtual support groups for dads and is even sponsoring International Father’s Mental Health Day this year on June 19th. So don’t forget about the dads. Ask them how they’re doing too.
7. How are you handling your new roles?
Many moms get as little as 6 weeks maternity leave. Leaving your newborn and going back to work when your baby is barely sleeping more than 3 hours at a time is tough!
Going back to work and leaving them with someone else can feel horrifying, but some moms don’t have a choice.
There are also moms who have worked their whole life and defined themselves by their job, but decided to be a stay at home mom. Going from a working mom to one who doesn’t work outside of the home, can be isolating and confusing.
I’ve done both and neither are easy. So make sure to ask your friends how adjusting to their new role has been for them. Do they need help figuring out how to balance it all?
8. Better than questions, were the moms that just showed up.
The ones that said, “I’m bringing dinner tonight.” Or, “I’m picking up the non baby sibling for a playdate so you can nap.” Or I’m coming over with a bottle of wine and/or coffee. What is your favorite sweet treat so I can bring that too?”
Sometimes, new moms feel guilty about asking for help and they need you to just show up. Don’t ask, just do it.
9. Do you need to see a pelvic floor physical therapist?
Did you know that you shouldn’t have to hold it in so that you don’t pee yourself when you sneeze, cough, or exercise after having a baby? The focus of care after delivery gets shifted from the mother to the baby. And mom’s often don’t get any guidance on how to heal their bodies.
There are physical therapists who specialize in helping you retrain your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles so that you don’t have to continue holding it in forever. Empower Physical Therapy and Wellness was founded by two moms who get it. Their goal is to help guide you through the postpartum period so that you have a solid understanding of your body’s capabilities and how to safely return to exercise. Reach out to Aimee and Lauren if you have questions or to set up a free consultation.
10. What do you miss about your life before you were a mom?
I often ask moms this question when we start working together because it’s usually a good indicator of where we can begin. It helps me to understand what you’re passionate about and what brings you joy. We usually have to get creative and think of new ways to implement those old hobbies or activities that we used to do without having to plan ahead and find a babysitter. But that doesn’t mean it’s not doable. Finding your identity as a new mom is important. Yes it will change, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still the same person and that you can’t enjoy your new life!
If you’re a new mom and you’re feeling like you don’t have the support you need, reach out to Patrice to see if working with her might be helpful to get you back to feeling like your old self again.