Being a mother is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Whether you have one child or six little ones, it is demanding, exhausting, rewarding, and life-changing. Each child has their own personality, and part of your job is discovering theirs while providing what he or she needs. Motherhood is not for the lazy or undetermined woman. It literally is a job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There are some things you say to mothers and others better left unsaid. It’s hard enough as it is being a mom in a judgmental world, we should not add more frustration to the title. Be kind; think about what you say and how it falls on a mom’s ears. Please be cautious of saying the following:
1. “It’s your first kid. You will be more laid-back with the next.” This is offensive for many reasons. First off, these words imply that the mother is incompetent simply because this is the first child she has mothered. For a tired and hard-working mother, it’s an insult. And she might be the same with every child, so your words are insinuating there is something wrong with what she is doing. Second off, this might be an only child. No plans for more. Or a rainbow baby. Not all moms want five children; many have their hands and hearts full with one bouncing baby. Instead, “You’re doing a wonderful job as a new mother. I support you,” goes a long way.
2. “He wants siblings. You cannot let him be an only child.” I’m actually guilty of thinking this… until I had a baby. But some children are meant to be without a bunch of other kids in the house annoying them and taking all the parents’ attention. That single child may be plenty for the parents, grow up being surrounded by many friends who feel like brothers and sisters, and soak up all the effort from the parents without feeling cheated. *Also – we have no idea the troubles some couples go through to conceive or adopt. They could be over the moon ecstatic with the one healthy child. “She is so very loved and lucky to have you as parents,” is all you need to tell a parent.
3. “Don’t worry. You need to relax.” Telling a mother not to worry is like telling Trump the Democrats will support his ludicrous ideas. It’s impossible [and will enrage Trump]! And it might cause moms to worry more because they don’t feel heard, understood, or validated. Part of being a mother is always worrying, maybe deep down or maybe very actively. It is impossible to comprehend, from the outside looking in, from a non mother to a practicing mother. A better thing to say is, “I hear you. Your worries show you care about your little one’s well-being.”
4. “Maybe you should let her cry.” Or, “Let him cry it out.” This one gets me FIRED UP, and of all the advice I did not take, I’m glad this topped the list. The CIO method teaches a baby his only form of communication doesn’t matter and won’t be responded to. This action causes him stress, anxiety, insecurity, and lack of trust in his most important relationship. He feels alone. It also goes against the mother’s biological instinct to hold a baby in need, to nurse her child for comfort, and to react to a baby asking for help. It damages the parent- baby relationship. I recently read how crying in the arms of a caregiver is much different than left to cry alone (maybe offer to hold an upset baby while mom runs to the bathroom. This helps the baby feel their emotions with support). If you did this with your child, fine, but please do not pressure another mother to ignore her baby for a few more hours of sleep. Instead, “Follow your intuition. You may lose sleep, but do what feels right, not what a book tells you to do,” encourages a mom to rely on her natural mothering knowledge.
5. “Maybe you should not pick her up.” Or “you hold her too much.” CHILDREN NEED HUGS, CUDDLES, CARRYING, AND CLOSENESS. By holding a baby, toddler, or older child, it shows them their feelings, opinions, and needs are important. They know they can find comfort in mom or dad’s arms. If you ask any parent, I guarantee you NONE will say they held their child too much. Perhaps, “Hold your child as long as you want/can. They grow too fast,” is a better option.
These phrases have been said to me and other mothers all too often. All parents receive unwanted advice, so I am trying to do the opposite. The above tips present things NOT to say (or with a more compassionate alternative), creating a supportive, nurturing environment for the overworked, overtired mom. Most of the time, if we offer kindness and understanding to mothers and fathers alike, they will be more confident in relying on their intuition, in turn making the best decisions for their developing family.
Just think about your words.