One of the most important things you have to prepare for after giving birth (Nope, it`s not buying the newest model of Phil and Teds) is... Building a strong support system.
Whether you`re a first time mom or you`re pregnant with a second, third, fourth, ... umpth member of the family, let go of that supermom ideal and accept the fact that you will need some help. None of us are doing this whole mom gig by ourselves and neither should you. Especially not if you`ve just given birth.
Ever heard of the saying `It takes a village to raise a child`? Now is the time for that village to start mobilizing itself. But wait... What village are we talking about here? In today`s society families live scattered across the country (Or even across the globe) and we hardly know our next door neighbor by their first name. In a perfect world (Or maybe not so perfect and maybe just a little more rural or indigenous. ;-) ) new moms would be able to count on the support of their close family members: their mothers, sisters, mothers-in-laws, sisters-in-law, ... They are able to play a vital role in this major event in their daughter`s/sister`s/... life and in most cases I believe they are very eager and willing to step in. They might need some nudging here and there though. ;-) (And if you`re reading this as a mother, a sister, a mother-in-law or a sister-in-law, please, realize how much of a support you can be and step up your game: your help is much needed and appreciated.)
Unfortunately we live in a not so perfect world and some of us have family members who have already deceased, that we are not on good terms with or are living half way across the globe and that`s where friends can play an important part. As an expat mom myself I know all too well how other expat mothers are lacking much and in most cases any support from family. In situations like ours friends, acquaintances and neighbors are worth their weight in gold. One of the ideas I came across when one of my friends was pregnant was to set up a `meal train`: together with a group of friends make a calendar to drop off ready made meals in the days and weeks after birth. Everyone picks a day or days on which they will drop off a meal (Or two or three) at the new mom`s house. Looking for a way to get started? Check out this website. If you`re expecting: engage your friends in setting up a meal train together. If you`re a friend of someone who is expecting: don`t underestimate the value of some home cooked food to a new mother. She`ld rather have you bring her a home made dish of lasagna than another set of baby clothes next to the 101 sets she already got. ;-)
If you`re not around family and your friends don`t really seem eager to help you out (Or are drowning in work with little kids of their own.), it`s time to accept the idea of getting paid help. Now that`s a difficult one, isn`t it? Repeat after me: `It`s okay to pay for some help around the house.`
Ever since my son was born I hardly ironed any clothes. I honestly like ironing, but I find it very time consuming, so I decided to outsource that chore. My items that need ironing get picked up and delivered back a couple of days later all wrinkle free.
Here in Qatar it`s very normal to outsource chores like ironing, cleaning, ... All of my mom friends get help in some area. (And yes, they are all stay at home moms. Because well yes, we deserve a break too...)
In western culture (But I guess it`s a global phenomenon.) however it still seems difficult for a lot of women to accept outside help. (I know I do.) There`s this very strong ideal of a woman having *to do it all* all of the time. Recently however, I read a great post from DramaMama about this exact topic and I wanted to share an excerpt:
`It's not feminism to say women can "do it all" and then hand over the heavy burden of those expectations onto the shoulders of women trying to rise. "Doing it all" is a philosophy that hurts women. It's an oppressive tool masquerading as a rah rah call to action.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, chances are you are. Take a look at your life and see how you can make it easier on yourself and free up some time. And then do it. Without guilt. You have no reason to feel guilty. You're a human being, not a super machine.
Try saying no thank you to doing it all. You'll find yourself able to do a lot more.
And just so we're clear I'm not even talking about work outside the home or building a career (though there's absolutely nothing wrong with that given that our role models like Khadija (ra) or Ayesha (ra) had plenty active a public life.) I'm just talking about simple pleasures like reading a book or playing with your kids. Would you believe I hear from women that they have no time to read to their kids or play with them even though they really want to because, well, they have to wash the bathrooms everyday? And these are wealthy women mind you. For God's sake hire someone to clean the bathroom. There is nothing wrong with that. Circulate your wealth a little, sheesh.`
In some countries, like Belgium, the government provides services to help out new moms during postpartum, called `kraamzorg`. (And I recently found out they can also provide services during pregnancy!) In Qatar we don`t have something like that, but you can hire a post-partum doula or a part-time or even full time nanny.
In this time and age, wherever you are living, it`s up to you to build your own village. Whether it exists out of family members, friends, hired help or a combination of all three: the most important thing is that you are and feel supported, so you can focus on your most important job ahead: healing, bonding and loving that little one of yours.