Accept All the Help You Can Get - Woodmam

When I moved to California from Florida, I was happy to be independent from my family. But when my baby was born, I missed them in a way I had never felt before. I suddenly wanted and needed my family around me.

Kathleen, mother of two-month-old Ella Rose

Never in history were a mother and a father expected to care for their baby all by themselves. The idea of a nuclear family—one mother and one father to do it all—is one of mankind’s most recent, and riskiest, experiments, attempted only over the last two or three generations. (That’s a mere sixty years out of the 60,000 years since the modern human era began.) In the past, a couple’s family and community always pitched in to help, and later the couple would return the favor.

Sharon, mother of Noah and Ariel, was a work-at-home mom, a thousand miles away from her family, with no baby-sitters or nanny. Sharon’s goal was to make sure her kids were happy and healthy—even if she was dead on her feet. She described feeling like an old tomato plant, where the fruit looks plump and delicious even though the plant that nourishes it looks scraggly and anemic.

I’m always telling the parents of my patients: Get help and don’t feel guilty about asking—or paying—for it. Enlist your friends to bring you a frozen casserole, do some cleaning, or watch your baby while you nap. Just as you are giving so much of yourself to take care of your new child, lean on your support network to help take care of you—you’ll pay it back later. The extra pair of “hands” of a niece, neighbor, nanny, or swing is neither an extravagance nor a sign of failure. It’s the bare minimum that most new moms have had throughout time.

4. Get Your Priorities Straight: Should You Take a Break or Do the Dishes?

On the few occasions that my crying baby fell asleep before I did, I used the time for me! I soaked in a bubble bath, relaxed with a drink, read a book, and prayed that she would sleep a little longer.

Frances Wells Burck, Babysense

As I just said, I encourage you to get some help, but if you don’t have access to help, don’t worry: Your job is doable—as long as you put your priorities in order. The time will come to achieve everything you want, but that time isn’t right after having a baby.

One of your top priorities is: Don’t try to do too much. For example, the week after having your baby is not the time for you to host your family from out of town. As my mother used to say, “Don’t be stupid polite!” A few well-wishers are fine, but only if they’re healthy and helpful. Visitors who can’t cook or clean take up your precious time and, what’s worse, they can carry germs into your home. People you keep away may call you paranoid but, in truth, you never had a better reason for being neurotic and overprotective!

Another good idea is to leave a sweet announcement on your answering machine, giving your baby’s important statistics and telling everyone that you won’t be returning calls for a few weeks. Of course, you can always return calls if you want, but this at least frees up enough time to accomplish even higher priorities—like soaking in a hot tub.

Rest: The Essential Nutrient for New Parents

Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can do … is take a nap.

Ashley Brilliant

When we were teenagers, we were “dying” to stay up all night. Now, we’re “dying” if we stay up all night!

The extreme fatigue that goes along with being a new parent can make you feel depressed, irritable, inept, and distort your perceptions of the world like a fun-house mirror. (Some countries torture people by waking them up every time they fall asleep!)

So please nap when your baby does, sleep when your mom comes, and, however you have to do it—get some rest!

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