Last week I wrote a post about the "statement that changed my life forever." A story of how God opened my eyes, as a young mother, to the flaw that occurs in comparing our lives to other women. I knew it was going to be one of those vulnerable posts for me, where I admit the areas in which I struggle and confess that I definitely do not have it all together. But I wasn't expecting the overwhelming response I received from so many other women who were touched by it!
I definitely hoped that other women would be able to relate. And I prayed that they would find comfort in the fact that even the Proverbs 31 woman couldn't do it all alone.
But after seeing the response, it only affirmed in my heart what I had already been experiencing... the comparison trap is real. And moms want to know that we are all in this together.
One of the things I mentioned in my previous post was that we needed to stop comparing and start helping each other. And that's a lot easier said than done, I realize. So after a couple conversations with some of my other mom friends this weekend, I came up with a few suggestions that I think would definitely help a mother out.
1) Don't be afraid to hold our baby. Yes, we love our babies. And yes, we know that our baby prefers "mama" over most anybody else. But our hands get numb, our backs have a constant ache and I promise if you hold our baby for one minute, we will forget all about the pain. (Hold them for five minutes and we might actually get to pee!)
2) When you give a gift, do not expect a thank you card in return. And if you really cannot live without the acknowledgement, then the best gift you could give a mom would be to NOT give her a gift at all. The hours it takes to address, lick and stamp an envelope (not to mention, writing the card thanking them for a gift you already opened and thanked them for in-person - talk about redundant) could be used to do something more meaningful for their family (like, cook dinner).
3) Extend an invitation for a play date. Adult conversation while the kids play with their friends and wear themselves out before nap-time? Yes, please. (And on the flip-side, if you are a mom who has never accepted an invitation to a play date - then you need to help the mother out who is extending one.)
4) Offer to entertain an older sibling for a little while. If you know a mom who is juggling more than one child, especially if there is an age gap, offer to take the older sibling out for the day. Each child has different needs, and while one may need to stay inside close to mom (to nap, nurse, or recover from sickness) the other may be bouncing off the walls in need of outdoor playtime.
5) Step-in when one parent is unavailable. There are times when it really helps to have two parents in the picture - such as, doctor visits for mom and baby. Not only to physically entertain the baby, but also to offer support for the parent (shots are NO fun!) If you know a mom who happens to be doing these visits alone - offer to accompany her on one. I can guarantee you she won't mind the support (mentally, emotionally and physically).
6) Offer to babysit for free. Like mentioned above, sometimes doctor visits are necessary for mom too. And sometimes the doctor visits fall during inconvenient hours for the baby (nap time, lunchtime, etc) Paying for a babysitter to keep the baby at home AND paying for a doctor visit can end up really hurting the family budget (and probably lead to more subsequent doctor visits due to stress). If you can ever afford to bless a mom with free-babysitting it is greatly appreciated, but especially under these circumstances.
7) Be an errand-buddy. There are times when a mom needs to "run in and run out" of a store, post-office, etc and the thought of lugging the kids in and out of the car is enough to keep them from ever leaving the house. Bless that mama who needs a day to do this, by being her errand buddy in the front seat. Maybe take this a step further and encourage the mama to do some shopping for herself, by offering to be the one who stands outside the dressing room with her kids while she's trying on outfits for that fabulous, post-baby body. Pick a day when you already need to run errands yourself. That way you both win. ;)
8) Acts of service. Bring a meal, do her dishes, organize the pantry, etc. I still remember coming home to find my pantry organized one day - I thought someone broke into our home and stole all of our food because there was so much more room in our pantry when empty boxes were thrown out and cans were stacked on top one another! Anyway, a thoughtful neighbor and an organized pantry can do wonders for the mom who is feeling overwhelmed.
9) Give her grace. If you are the friend of a mom, sister of a mom or even the mom of a mom... have realistic expectations about your relationship. Give her grace when she doesn't return your phone call or text. Remember to never take for granted the time you have together. And give her grace for the times she doesn't have it all together.
And finally, I can't go without saying...
10) Keep advice to yourself. If not directly asked for - advice can sometimes be taken as "you are doing it wrong, so let me tell you how to do it right." Which is exactly the kind of thinking that encourages comparison in the first place. Unless it's advice on how to help a mother out, of course - then keep sharing away! ;)
If nothing else, hopefully these suggestions triggered your mind to begin looking for practical ways to help mothers around you. I have been SO blessed with people in my life that have done all of these things in one way or another. Could I have survived on my own without anyone's help? Sure (hashtag, womanpower). But I definitely would not be thriving as I am today. Because, I cannot do it all. But thank you Jesus, with the help of loving friends and family, I don't have to.