Step 7: Practical Support

Ask yourself “who is cooking meals and cleaning the house?”  It should not be a new mother!

I like the story of a new mother who put this message on her answering machine: “Hi, thanks for calling. Mother and baby are doing well. Please don’t ring the doorbell when you stop by, and if you’ve been kind enough to bring us food, just leave it at the front door. Thanks again!” This example of an assertive request for practical support is rare. Many parents are reluctant or embarrassed to ask for help. There seems to be a vicious rumor circulating these days that it’s possible -and even expected -that you can care for yourself, a home, and an infant alone. But, like most malicious gossip, this is false. Women were never intended to mother alone. It takes teamwork to parent! Only in very recent times have humans forgotten the ancient concept of a clan comprising many families helping each other.

During pregnancy or preadoption is the ideal time to prepare for the practical side of life after baby comes. The concept of preparation for parenthood is a noble one. Unfortunately, it can only be tested with reality. Every “things to do” list looks good on paper before the baby arrives, but bringing that beautiful newborn into the picture will wipe out even the best-laid plans, getting the double umbrella stroller that you worry so much is one of the easiest part of being a mom. Thus, it’s worth the effort to talk about options for getting help.

If relatives or friends can’t help your new family, then make an investment in the your family’s mental health and pay for household assistance, childcare, and/or take-out meals for a while after the baby comes. A new industry, doulas (www.dona.org), has emerged in many developed countries that fills this need, offering professional postpartum care assistants who cook, clean, shop, and, most important, mother the new mother.

Continue to Step 8: Referrals & Other Resources