A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Moms Need Help Getting Help

By Abby Theuring, MSW

Recently a friend of mine had a baby. I made her some soup and asked when I can stop by with some gifts. Once the day came I asked what time was best. She sent me a long response that her house was very messy and things have been crazy. I said I could leave my kids home and either take her kids while she cleaned, take her kids while she napped or help clean up the house. She didn’t respond.

Why are we so terrible at accepting help? I mean I know why. I know exactly why. We live in a culture that does not value interdependence. We do not value needing other people to get by. We are isolated from each other, forced to put on a happy face and suffer to keep the house clean for others when we really need to nap or spend time with friends.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder breastfeeding new baby

We are really shitty at supporting moms during their postpartum weeks and months. But moms are also terrible at accepting the help (this being a cultural problem-not the direct fault of the mother). I remember when I gave birth to my first son I was so stunned. I wouldn’t let anyone over, I wouldn’t let anyone help, I wouldn’t accept anything. I was alone, sad and shocked at the intensity of new motherhood, but I had no idea how to ask for or accept help for it.

By the time I had a second child I had this huge online and offline community. I saw how much being isolated affected me, my breastfeeding relationship and my mental health. When my second son was born friends would stop by with food and gifts. They tiptoed in and promised not to be too long. My husband and I said, “COME ON IN! SURE YOU CAN SERVE US THE FOOD AND THE GARBAGE NEEDS TO GO OUT!”

My friend down the street texted me shortly after the birth asking if we needed anything from Costco. I responded with a grocery list, sent the text and then texted again after I asked my husband if he could think of anything else. She drove up to the front of our house in a snow storm and we laughed as we scaled mountains of snow to exchange money and a box of groceries. I did not invite her in, she wouldn’t have wanted to anyway and we hung out a few days later with our kids like usual.

I am still awful at accepting help most of the time. But there are times when I can see clearly the benefits of skipping the guilt, the social anxiety and the stigma that comes with asking for and accepting help. We are generally so anxious about how we are putting other people out when they actually really want to help. People feel good helping others! But we’re stuck in the thoughts, “I can’t let anyone see my house like this.” “What if they see me cry?” “How can I manage to entertain guests and take care of my kids?”

I hope we can keep fighting to change the cultural belief that interdependence is weak and show new moms that it is normal to need help. It is normal to be drowning in new motherhood. It is OK to ask for help. It is OK to accept someone’s offer to help.