How to REALLY help a mom in the trenches

I’m not just referring to new moms, although they certainly apply here. But I’m talking about the tired moms. The ones who have one, two, three, four (or more) kids whose days consist of not much more than infant/toddler communication, dirty diapers, endless amounts of laundry, non-stop food preparation, messy buns, yoga pants and not enough showers. These moms can have any number of kids, really, and they can be any combination of ages.

Most advice you find out there about how to help these moms consists of suggestions like bring them a meal, offer to pick up items at the store if they need it, schedule a play date (if you have kids of your own) and the list goes on. None of these are bad ideas….they are certainly helpful. But I want to focus more on how to help these moms on a very personal and emotional level as opposed to just a task-oriented/chore level.

I bring these suggestions from a place of being one of these moms. Things that I have either had done for me by a fellow mom/woman. Things that, frankly, I wish my fellow moms/women would do for me. Things that help me to feel human again.

  • INVITE HER TO BE AN ADULT AGAIN.
    • Being a mom turns your world upside down. Whether or not a woman was in the professional world before children came into the picture is irrelevant. Every woman with children was once a woman without children. And, trust me, she remembers life before her kids regardless of what she says. Of course, she can’t imagine her life without her children and would never change bringing them into this world. But there are certainly pieces of that past life that she misses dearly. Adult conversation. Free time. Eating a meal without being rushed. You get the idea. I think all of us women are guilty of not inviting a certain mom to participate in something because we assume she’s too busy or not interested…because “she just had a baby”, “she has 3 kids”, “her husband is out of town”, “she’s probably too tired”, etc.  I’ll be blunt, these excuses for not extending an invitation are hurtful to her. Maybe you invite her and she legitimately uses one of these excuses and can’t make it. But, trust me, the invitation meant something to her. It let her know that she’s not completely disconnected from the outside world. It made her feel loved and missed by her friends. And it solidified for her that there are friends waiting for her whenever she’s able to make it outside of her bubble. So, keep inviting her to Girl’s Night, asking her for a coffee date, talking about that movie that’s coming out soon and make plans to see it together….even if that means not seeing it opening night. Being a mom, you get sucked into that child-life where life just revolves around your kids’ needs. Moms can lose themselves here not knowing which way is up. Having friends on the other side (either friends without kids or seasoned moms with older kids) to help pull her back over from time to time is an important lifeline. She may be her kids’ mom but she’s not your mom….she’s your friend. Make sure she feels that way.

 

  • ENCOURAGE HER TO USE HER NOT-MOM-BRAIN
    • Mom brain is a very real thing. I’ve told people before that when you’ve been in the trenches for years there are parts of your brain that simply fall out of practice. For me, I notice a distinct difference in my ability to communicate with any sort of eloquence since having kids. I can struggle finding my words when I’m trying to have a conversation with an adult. This is a direct result of not having enough opportunities to utilize my not-mom brain…that part of my brain that has nothing to do with my kids. Those special skills and talents that I excelled at before I had kids lie dormant. So my advice here is related mostly to projects or tasks. If you could really use her insight on a project you’re working on, ask her. If you are looking for someone to take on a specific part of a project such as being on a committee, heading up a committee, building/creating something or collecting data (whatever her specific skill sets are), ask her. Maybe she’ll say no because her plate is too full. But let her be the one to tell you no…don’t assume that you know what her answer will be. And, any “no” you get doesn’t mean never. Ask again when another opportunity comes around. Like I said before, the invitation means something to her. It let’s her know that her skills and talents that she had long before kids are still valuable. These opportunities to dust off old skills and talents, as often as she chooses to take them, will breathe life into her.

 

  • JOIN HER IN THE TRENCHES
    • No, I’m not telling you that you need to go have kids of your own to connect with her. And if you do have kids of your own, I’m not telling you that you have to suffer with her through a challenging season. What I AM saying is don’t become disconnected just because the challenges you face may differ. Make the effort to help when and where you can. These can be small things. Or big things. I’m remembering a time last year, after my third was born, where I was lamenting on social media that all 3 of my kids were sick in some way (fevers, diarrhea, puking, the works). This meant we were on house arrest (something that drives me completely mad). After seeing my post, a friend of mine texted me that she was at Starbucks and to tell her what I wanted. Then she drove it over to my house. She had kids of her own that stayed in the car while she and I stood outside for about five minutes while we chatted (my kids were napping inside). It was small and only took a few minutes but gosh it felt good. You see, it wasn’t about the drink (although that was a delicious by product), it was about a friend empathizing with the challenge I was facing and joining me there, even for just a few minutes. Maybe you have a mom friend who is in a funk or that you just haven’t seen in a while. In my experience, the mommy blues come and go. You know she usually makes a grocery store run every Saturday morning. Meet her there. Walk and talk with her. Maybe she has her kids with her or maybe she doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. You’re there for her. Ultimately, in these circumstances, it’s not always about trying to pull her outside and, instead, meeting her inside. Moms love an excuse to come outside and will embrace them when they are physically and mentally capable. But they aren’t always able to do that. So go to her. Wherever she’s at. Literally and figuratively.

 

I realize that this appears that I’m placing all the burden on you to maintain your friendship with your mom friend in the trenches. I don’t mean it to come across that way. Friendship, after all, is a two-way street. What I’m trying to get at is don’t let her failure to make her wishes/desires known become a reason for you to not reach out to her. Wouldn’t you hate to get 15 years down the road and find out that that friend you once had was really going through a rough time back then and to think maybe a simple extended hand could have helped her? I’ll come to the defense of us moms in the trenches: our minds are rarely on ourselves and our own well-being. We’ll have glimpses of it here and there, sure. But, by and large, our heads just aren’t there. We can barely see ourselves most days. A friend that can help pull us back into view from time to time is a God-send. Be THAT friend.

Some day our loads will be a bit lighter and we’ll be able to pay it forward. Personally, I’m counting down the days 😉

Until next time mommas!

~ Erica

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