Building a support network
“It takes a village to raise a child”
This is an African proverb that parents throughout time have known to be true.
Of course, in modern Australia those traditional villages no longer exist and mothers and fathers are often left to care for their children on their own. This can be physically and emotionally challenging for so many reasons, especially during the first year of baby’s life.
Without the built-in support of a village, mums must proactively ask for help to receive it. Sadly, this is something which many new parents struggle to do asking for help feels to them like admitting failure (it’s not!).
Right now, it’s impossible to know or control how challenging you will find the early days of parenthood. But what you can do starting today is work to build your own postpartum “village” so that you’re in the best position possible to handle whatever comes your way.
Think about it like stocking up on food before a cyclone. If the cyclone doesn’t come, yay for extra food! But if does hit, that extra food can be critical in helping you weather the storm.
So here’s what you should do now to build your postpartum village.
Simplify and Outsource
Make a list of tasks you do now and find ways to simplify or outsource how you get them done. For example, buying your groceries online (instead of in the shops), batch cooking meals, setting up automatic payments for your bills or investing in a meal delivery service, cleaner or laundromat. Shortcuts like these may sound trivial, but once your baby is here they will help you to conserve your limited time and energy.
All Hands on Deck
Next, think of how those who love you may most enjoy supporting you in those early weeks and months and ask them now if they will do it! For example, ask your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles if they will bathe your baby, stuff your freezer full of meals or babysit every fortnight so you can get time alone or with your partner.
If you don’t have family to rely on, don’t be shy about asking friends to help. You’ll likely find that they are not only eager to do so, but also flattered that you asked.
If your finances permit, consider hiring a nanny or mothers-helper, even if just for a short time. It’s amazing how much help an extra set of hands can provide!
Finally, give some thought to how you can use out-of-town guests and visitors as a source of support and help (instead of just a meet-and-greet with your baby).
Use Community Resources
There are also loads of community resources you can take advantage of, often for little or no cost. COPE has compiled a list of a national and state-level resources and you can also Google “support for new mums in [your suburb]” to find ones in your local area. Do this now and bookmark those which may be of interest later.
Remember, a village will not sprout up around you the moment you need it. You need to cultivate and plan for it.