On Monday, I wrote a post titled: ’15 Things You Should Never Say To Mothers’ which you can read here. Today I am going to balance the scales and tell you 15 things you should absolutely say to them. These simple statements/questions can make all the difference to a struggling mother. If you want to help, dip often from the pool below and watch how much it changes everything for the better. I know hearing these things did wonders for my mental health, especially in the early days. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Quick Disclaimers: 1.) Trigger Warnings for Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, 2.) This post includes transgender and non-binary mothers as well 3.) I am aware that some of these suggestions don’t apply during a pandemic. Keep these in mind for when things return to normal & 4.) This post isn’t meant to put anybody off having children. I just believe it’s vital to be real about the experience.
1.) ‘How Can I Help?’
Simple but effective. Ask new parents what you can do to help. This could range from bringing food to holding the baby so mama can have a shower. Anything to lighten the load will help ease anxiety and keep depression at bay. It can be difficult for a mother to ask for help in the beginning. We are very proud and feel we can do everything ourselves. However, we really need each and every member of our community. We need you.
2.) ‘You’re Doing Such A Great Job.’
Even now with a two year old daughter, I can never get enough of hearing these words. Mum anxiety/guilt is enormous so being told that we are doing a good job can make all the difference. It will remind us that despite our inner turmoil/fears/concerns, others can see that those worries are unfounded. Don’t just say this once. Say it often, no matter how old the children get. It’s music to our ears.
3.) ‘I’m Here For You.’
They say it takes a village to raise a child and whilst I do believe this, I feel like the mother is neglected in this adage. The village needs to raise the mother as well. They need a strong community of family and friends to listen, provide support and nurture them so they in turn can nurture their little miracle. Continue to let the mothers in your life know they are not alone and that you are here for them. Even if the sentiment is implied, they need to hear it.
4.) ‘Parenting Is Hard.’
I remember asking another mother in the beginning if she was struggling as much as me and she just gave me a blank look. In that moment, I felt utterly and completely alone. She was probably feeling the same but thanks to good old mum guilt, couldn’t admit it. I needed more people telling me that parenting was hard so I didn’t continuously question my sanity. Ironically, a childless mother looked at me one day and said ‘it’s freaking hard isn’t it?’ I wanted to weep tears of relief when she said this. When we are vulnerable with others, we open up a passage for them to be vulnerable too. I ended up leaving my mother’s group because none of them wanted to discuss the realities of motherhood and that deepened my anxiety. Recently, I reached out to another new mother who said she left her mother’s group for the same reason. It’s more common than you think.
5.) ‘It Will Get Better.’
If you had checked my internet history in the early days, you would’ve seen me ask Google over and over ‘does it get easier?’ I needed more people telling me it would get better. That I wouldn’t always feel this way. I had to know there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I clung to those words whenever I heard them and now I say them to my friends with babies. It will get better. It does get easier. Hang in there mama, you’re doing an amazing job!
6) ‘Have You Considered Seeking Therapy?’
Acknowledging that a mother in your life might have postnatal depression is very important. They might not even realise it themselves or want to admit it. Encourage (don’t push) therapy and send them helpful resources so they have the information handy. This gives them the autonomy to make the decision themselves. Offer to drive them to their appointments or better yet, watch their child whilst they devote crucial time to their mental health. Your support may be just what they needed to take that step.
I don’t usually feature images of Abigail but this was taken years ago and at a distance.
7.) ‘You Look Beautiful Inside And Out’
As I mentioned in the first post, a mother’s body changes in a myriad of ways after giving birth. No amount of body positivity can make us feel good about how we look; especially when we haven’t showered in days, are leaking breast milk and stink of vomit. Remind the mothers around you how beautiful they are inside and out. Tell them how wondrous their bodies are for creating life in the first place. We need these words more than you know.
8.) ‘Let’s Talk About Something Besides Babies.’
I treasure the friends that spoke to me about things besides motherhood in the beginning. I wanted to hear about their lives, especially as I was terrified to reveal how hard I was struggling. I needed something to prove that I was more than just a mother. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in dirty nappies, engorged breasts and how often we woke up that particular night. We start to forget about the real world outside of our baby bubble. Your distractions will be so appreciated.
9.) ‘You’re (Insert Their Name Here) First And A Mother Second.’
Similar to the point above, it’s so vital that mothers maintain their identity postpartum. Once the baby arrives, it’s startling how quickly a mother begins to forget who they were prior to giving birth. Yes, our children need our constant love and attention, but we need it too. It’s important we show our daughters and sons that we are human beings with passions, desires and dreams too. Recently, a friend opened up on social media that she had lost her identity since giving birth. I sent her a private message reminding her of all the things she was passionate about before her baby arrived. She told me it meant the world to her. Don’t ever forget who you are.
10.) ‘You Are An Inspiration.’
Believe it or not, the miracle of childbirth is also one of the most traumatic things a woman/gender non-confirming person can go through. Not only is pregnancy extremely difficult, the actual pain of birth and recovery afterwards can be downright debilitating. Telling another mother how inspirational they are, reminds them that they’ve just done an incredible thing.
11.) ‘Let’s Go For A Walk.’
I barely left the home when Abigail was a newborn baby. Granted, it was winter and I was recovering from abdominal surgery but it would’ve done me the world of good to get out a little bit more. Encourage the mothers in your life to take a walk with you. Fresh air and movement can do wonders for the mind. It also breaks up the monotony of the day.
12.) ‘Take Your Time.’
The three best words in the English language are ‘take your time.’ I remember one morning my own mother told me to have a relaxing bath and take my time whilst she watched Abi. It took the pressure off my shoulders to make it quick. The newborn stage can be quite a blur. Aside from the sleep deprivation, you’re wolfing down meals whilst balancing a baby. Everything is rushed and you’re constantly aware of the limited time you have before your baby needs you again. When you offer to watch the baby, slip in the words ‘take your time’ and you’ll have a friend for life!
13.) ‘You Know What’s Best For Your Baby.’
In the last post, I mentioned how serious mum guilt/anxiety is. We are constantly second-guessing ourselves as well as listening to others tell us how to parent. I believe strongly in mother’s intuition and knowing what is best for your baby. Everything my gut told me to do whilst raising Abigail was right for her. I wish I had listened and trusted myself more. In a world of mum-shaming, it’s essential to tell a mother to trust their gut. Empower them.
14.) ‘You Don’t Have To Love Every Second.’
I’ve mentioned this before but this is something I tell all my mother friends now. There’s a deep-seated fear in the heart of a mother that if they admit how tough parenting is, they are terrible people. This simply isn’t true. You do not have to love every second. You can also grieve the life you had before, without it meaning anything evil. Give a mother permission to voice what they’ve been feeling in their heart and mind. Having a child is the most wonderful, magical thing in the world but it’s also challenging. The sky won’t fall if we all said this a little bit more.
15.) ‘You Vent, I’ll Listen.’
Being a shoulder to cry on is the most valuable thing a friend can offer sometimes. Even if you don’t have children yourself, let a mother vent everything they are feeling. Listen to what they are saying. Listen to what they aren’t saying (meaning check for signs of PPD and then suggest therapy). Allow them the space to get everything off their chest because for some mothers, all they need is to release some pent-up frustrations in order to feel better.
I hope this gives you more an idea of what to say and what not to say to a mother. It’s important that we nurture the mother as much as the child and that begins with how we speak to them. Let me know if you have any questions below. Thanks for reading!
Peace & Love xoxo