Hi, new mom (for the third time) here. I gave birth to my third child about two months ago. Before his arrival, I was showered with offers of help. “Let me know if you need anything!” A welcomed phrase that always makes me feel good and loved, even if I’m terrible at actually asking for the help. I so appreciate my friends’ many offers of help, but before the birth of my newest baby, I wasn’t really sure what exactly we’d need.
This wasn’t my first rodeo. I can survive on a pretty abysmal level of sleep. I can cook dinner while nursing a baby. I also know when to press the eject button and head to Chick-fil-A for dinner. Starting a load of laundry ten seconds after waking for the day is just part of my morning routine now. I know my friends and family would have happily stepped in to help with any of these things, but did I really need help with them? I certainly didn’t want to take advantage of their generosity.
Then that sweet third baby arrived, and ohhh boy, did I find out exactly what kind of help I would need.
My two other children.
My parents very kindly took care of my older children during those first immediate days in the hospital, but once we returned home, my children expected Mommy to be the Needs Meeter I usually am. Except there wasn’t enough of me to go around.
My newborn needed to nurse around the clock. My five-year-old needed all the things prepared for her to have a successful day at kindergarten: lunchbox packed, homework checked, binder signed, clothes picked out, hair combed. My three-year-old, well, suddenly he couldn’t do anything for himself. I mean ANYTHING.
Mostly, my older kids needed love and attention. They quickly grew tired of being stuck in the house with a baby, who was pretty boring by their standards. Our new baby happened to be born right before Christmas, so they didn’t even have school or the benefit of a regular routine to keep them busy. The tantrums and emotional meltdowns were firing at all cylinders from every member of my household. I was devastated at the lack of attention I was able to give my older kids.
Enter: the help.
One day, about two weeks postpartum, a dear friend asked if she could take my big kids to the zoo. She is a mom of four and knows all too well the struggle. She drove to my house first thing in the morning, picked up my older two kids, and spent nearly the whole day with them at the zoo. She dealt with a pretty epic tantrum from my three-year-old and didn’t bat an eye. She even fed them lunch at Chick-fil-A before returning them to my house happy and full.
This gift: I have no words.
The rest I received that day was great, but the real beneficiaries were my children. They were so energized the rest of the day, having had a chance to step out of newborn-land for a little while. As my newborn has gotten a little older, friends and family have offered to stay with him for small bits of time so my big kids can enjoy time with me. It’s so refreshing for all of us.
So what’s my best piece of advice? If you know a mom who is about to give birth to her second, third, fourth, etc. child, offer whatever help you are able to give — cook meals, do her dishes, fold her laundry — but don’t overlook the impact entertaining her older children can have. Though they certainly love their new sibling, they don’t have the capacity to sit at home and entertain themselves during those delicate newborn days. They’re bringing their full toddler energy despite mom and dad’s exhaustion.