I know, I know! I have only been a mom for 7-ish weeks now, but why not share with you all the great little things that N. does and make our lives easier?
(DISCLAIMER: I am not going to talk about big stuff, like postnatal depression support, because I haven’t been through that fortunately, but if you suspect that your partner has more than just the baby blues, then do seek professional help. You can start with her midwife or OB or call a free support line in your area.)
- Don’t wait for her to ask you to change diapers in the middle of the night. Just offer to do it. Or even better, get up and do it, without waking her up (even though I am pretty sure she will be awake before you, because nature does this cruel thing to moms: they wake up with the slightest noise their baby makes).
- Vacuum. Wash the dishes. Load the laundry machine. Iron the clothes. Cook. Do one or more of those chores and pick the ones that you can actually do well. There is no point if she has to do it all over again. And if you have never done these things before, it’s never too late to start. Ask her for clear instructions and listen to her when she gives them to you. It is really annoying to have to repeat how the laundry machine works a million times, when you are sleep deprived.
- Protect her sleep. When she manages to get a nap along with the baby (that’s how it usually happens), put your phone on silent mode, do the same with her phone as well, log off skype and in the unfortunate case that someone rings the doorbell, don’t walk to the door. RUN there, so that they won’t ring a second time.
- Take the garbage out every day. Those dirty diapers and wipes stink. If you don’t do it, she will have to do it. It’s a small thing, but makes a big difference.
- If you have pets, take over their care. Especially if your partner is breastfeeding and has the exclusive responsibility to feed your child, it will be a huge relief if you can keep your pets alive without her aid.
- If your partner is breast-feeding, bring her a glass of water/juice/herbal infusion/coffee (if she is the naughty kind), when she sits there to breastfeed. Some times, especially with new babies, a feeding can take almost an hour and it is really dehydrating. Oh, and leave that beverage at a distance where she can reach it without getting up. It’s hard to understand how limited the mobility of a woman with a hungry baby latched on is. And it is hard to imagine what a torture it is to be able to see that cold glass of water, but not be able to reach it. It’s kind of being in the middle of the desert and seeing that oasis at the horizon, but not being able to get there. Don’t take the oasis away from your partner.
- Help her take a shower in peace. Offer to take care of the baby, so that she has at least 20 minutes for herself. Even better, take the baby for a walk out of the house, because most moms can’t fully relax, when they hear their baby cry, even if they know their partner takes care of the little one.
- Listen to all her mommy wars stories. Or pretend to. She will be her interesting, normal self again eventually, but right now her brain can probably absorb only baby-related stuff. Nod. Just nod. It’s good enough.
- Be by her side. Even if you think that the parenting comments that your great aunt Gilda makes are right, if your partner feels attacked/judged/defensive, do stand by her side. You can explain to her your point of view later, when there aren’t any relatives around.
- Surprise her with stuff she likes. I love it when N. brings home my favorite (usually junk) food items from the grocery store as a surprise. I wouldn’t buy a store-bought double chocolate muffin for myself, but if it’s a gift, I must eat it surely?!
- Tell her that she is doing a great job taking care of your child. Yes, showing your appreciation with all the above mentioned ways counts as well, but some times a few encouraging words is all that keeps a new mom from a meltdown.
- Give her a break. She might have been the perfect partner to you so far, taking care of all the little details. It sure is an inconvenience if she doesn’t pay the bills any more or she forgets to iron your shirts, but she has more important things to do, namely, take care of that child of yours. Therefore just do the stuff that needs to be done and don’t mention it.
- Tell her that she looks nice. Saying things like “you poor thing, your dark circles will reach the floor soon, you must be exhausted!” does not help. Compliment her on her clean, spit-free shirt. She probably made an effort to put on a shirt and keep it spit-free, so it’s nice to show some appreciation.
- Give her hugs. But not too many. I know, this one is tricky, because everyone is different. For me personally, hugs are great most of the time, but if I have a baby on me for 20 hours, I might appreciate a warm cup of tea more than even more touching. If she feels touched-out, you will probably notice. Just pay attention to the signs, because it’s not easy for everyone to turn down a hug.
- Insist on taking care of the baby. Some new moms feel that they are solely responsible for that little creature and that no one else can adequately take care of their precious treasure. I had a talk about this with a friend today. I am not one of those moms and will happily give my child to my partner and friends to change/burp/walk/baby-wear/put her to sleep/cuddle. If your partner, however, is terrified of handing the baby over to you, do your best to convince her that you are capable of taking care of that child. I know it is convenient if she doesn’t require you to do a thing, but it won’t be fun when she gets burnt out. Then you will have both a crazy partner and a baby that you will have no clue how to care for. Clear enough, right?
- Take her out. We had our one-year wedding anniversary with N. when Loulou was 10 days old and I had my birthday when Loulou was 21 days old. On both occasions we were exhausted and we would very much like to just stay at home, thank you! But N. convinced me to make an effort to go out and it was really nice, despite the fact that we stayed out for a little while. It was enough to help us remember that we are not only parents, but also human beings that deserve to celebrate important moments and can do so, even with a little screamers in our arms. In my opinion, going out as soon as you can after the baby is born, takes the fear out of it. You can do this!
That’s all I can think of for now. If you have more suggestions and ideas, please feel free to add them in the comments section below 🙂