We are chuffed beyond measure to be sharing our blog with the fabulous Vanessa Rowse from Style and Shenanigans today. Vanessa is a former lawyer and advocate for women, great fun at parties, and a very snappy dresser. We love her blog for its quirky take on fashion and interiors, and we love Vanessa for her smarts, her compassion and her willingness to stand up for what she believes in.
Here are 10 things Vanessa knows about mums helping mums…
1. Mums are people first and foremost
As much as we adore our little people, many mums don’t just want to be seen as an extension of their children.
The very act of giving birth can change our perception of who we are but sometimes, we want to be seen in our own right.
As a person with our own dreams and aspirations, talents, strengths and experiences who not only existed, but had a full life, before she had her kids.
She is herself, not just so and so’s mum.
2. Some mums don’t like asking for help
I’ve generally found that even in a crisis, women aren’t great at asking for help.
If you want to help a mother, chances are you’ll need to ask what you can do or think about what you’d appreciate in the same circumstances. Which leads on nicely to the next point.
3. You can’t go wrong with giving food
I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of my local village upon the births of my children.
Meals being delivered on the doorstep, baked goods provided for the kids’ lunch boxes and even the odd bottle of wine.
If I know a fellow Mum is having a tough time or has a new baby, dropping off a meal is an easy and practical way to help.
4. Tell her she’s doing a great job
As a Mum, you don’t get regular performance appraisals (except from irate children) or yearly bonuses.
Kind words from friends, even a simple, “I can see how hard you’re trying and how much you love your kids” through to “You’re a great mum” can provide the validation and acknowledgment so many of us crave.
5. A compliment goes a long way
I’m really over people telling other mums (and me) that they look tired.
We are all tired. All the time. Full stop.
Genuine compliments such as, “That’s such a great colour on you”, “You look really well” or, “Your hair looks fab today” show that you notice your friend and want her to feel great about herself. Because she is.
6. Tell her mum, dad or partner what you love about her
A few years ago, I happened upon my friend’s Mum at kinder pick up – she was there to collect her grand-daughter as my friend was working.
I got chatting to her and told her how much I admired her daughter and what a great friend she was to me, which was the honest truth – she’s an absolute ripper. The Grandma felt chuffed and later, my friend told me with tears in her eyes, that that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said about her and how much it meant to her to hear that from her own Mum.
7. Don’t let your friend have a crap Mother’s Day
As you’d never leave a sister behind at a bar or a club, never knowingly let your friend have a crap Mother’s Day.
If you know things aren’t going well for her for some reason – perhaps because of her mental health, her marriage, extended family or with her kids – do something special for her and let her know she matters to someone.
This year, the week before Mother’s Day, I took a girlfriend out for lunch as she was anticipating yet another terrible Mother’s Day. I gave her a Mother’s Day card and a gift and told her she is Mother of the Year as far as I’m concerned. Which she is.
8. Help her see the big picture
It’s such a great thing to know someone who is further along in the parenting journey.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some great Mums as mentors who can tell me about the seasons of parenting and how what I’m feeling and experiencing is normal. It turns out that I’m not hopeless or inadequate, I’m just going through what millions of mothers have been through before me.
When I see mums with children younger than mine, I try to encourage them. This generally means avoiding any phrases such as “Enjoy it, these are the best years”, as these sorts of comments used to make me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork when I was sleep deprived with a newborn and chasing my Forrest Gump impersonating toddler down the street.
Acknowledging the challenge they are facing, sharing an awful (but hilarious in hindsight) anecdote and maybe (if they’re interested) offering a strategy that helped you is much more helpful.
9. Look for ways to share the load
Kids both going to the same party, activity or event? Share the transport.
Is their partner away and they are in dire need of some respite? Offer to pick up the kids from school/kinder and give her a break or have them all over for dinner if he/she’s gone over a weekend.
Does she want to do classroom help or go to an important medical appointment without the kids but doesn’t have anyone to care for her toddler? Help her and then let her reciprocate when she can – or else she might not ask again.
Other mums have done all of this for me and more and I’ve appreciated it so much and tried to return the favour whenever possible.
10. Sometimes, all you can do is listen, be present and acknowledge
Many mothers I know quietly and stoically cope with significant ongoing challenges – their child’s disability or diagnosis, mental illness in their families, their own depression and anxiety, rebuilding their lives after fleeing domestic violence, absent partners (either emotionally and or physically), financial uncertainty and job insecurity.
None of us can “fix” these situations but we can support our friend when she needs us by listening to her and supporting her in the way she needs. If you’re not sure what she needs, don’t be afraid to ask her. Even asking her the question shows you care.
How do you help other Mums? How have other Mums helped you?