Should new mothers ask for help?
By Victoria Greenly, Mar 8 2018 04:17PM
It’s International Women’s Day today and this got me thinking. It got me thinking about how we as women sometimes realise we can’t do everything – and that we might need a bit of help. But what I want to know is how do we ask for help?
Over the years I have tried to do a lot without much assistance. Raise a child, set up businesses, manage a house and finances. But what becomes a daily juggling act can spill into the region of being overwhelming. I think this can be said of the time straight after a woman has a baby too. Society is not geared up for understanding or supporting the multitude of tasks a woman may feel she has to complete in order to be perceived as a good mother. Naomi Stadlen gave a different perspective in ‘What Mothers Do’ about what it is new mothers actually spend their time doing – all of which is hugely important and should be given a much higher value than it is – comforting babies and meeting their needs, as well as understanding our value as we transition from women to mothers.
The reality of a looking after a baby is that it is incredibly time consuming without much room for other tasks. Breastfeeding a baby for hours on end (particularly if it isn’t going very well) doesn’t give you much time to whip up a gourmet meal, deepclean the house or arrange a new mortgage package. And rightly so - we are guaranteeing the health, happiness and wellbeing of future generations. Babies don’t come ready prepared out of a packet, they need time, input, observation and love. Women need to feel the job they are doing is really worthwhile and not at the bottom of society’s pecking order. To do that job well, they need some time, love and nurturing for themselves too.
We live in a society that is very task orientated and that spills over into all sections of our lives. We often measure ourselves against the targets we have reached and the goals we have achieved. But do we and indeed should we, particularly after a baby is born? Should we be trying do it all on our own with a newborn in tow? And if we don’t want to and perhaps shouldn’t, what is stopping us?
Maybe one thing – asking for help. It’s a hard thing to ask for. Maybe we don’t want to appear weak or put ourselves in a position of vulnerability. Others might think we aren’t coping or castigate us for being incapable.
But, in all honesty, how do these thoughts really help us or our baby? How beneficial is to us or our baby to do it all on our own? The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ didn’t come into being without its reason. This is a proverb from African cultures that says ‘it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for children to experience and grow in a safe environment’. It would be great if more indepth scientific studies were undertaken to show the benefits of shared support for both mother and baby outcomes. Studies of doula support have shown positive results for both mother and baby and anecdotally, we know that helping new mothers is a good thing.
More than not though, many women are raising children without much support.
How do we change this? Let’s break down the taboo of asking for help. Let’s change the dialogue to one where instead of feeling weak or incapable, a mother feels that by asking for help she is, in fact, asking for the best for herself and her family, knowing that it is not beneficial or enjoyable to raise a child without it. Let’s give new mothers the permission they need to reach out and the realisation that asking for help is, in fact, a positive action and will meet with a positive response.
I take this attitude and put it into practice so when a woman rings me to ask for postnatal support, I say to her with positivity ‘it is so great you are reaching out’. She needs to hear it.