In the month of Mother’s Day, we are exploring ways in which we can offer compassion to mothers, to ourselves, and to our families. In this first week, we’re exploring ways in which we can offer compassion to other mothers.
New mother’s, and mothers in trauma are in a state of survival. We often send well-intentioned offers of help but someone who can barely keep their head above water does not have the bandwidth to think of ways someone might be able to help them. This also puts the pressure on them to actually ask for help. And in our society asking for help can make one feel it's a sign of weakness or admitting they cannot do something, which often leads to feelings of guilt and shame, lending itself to them just not asking for help altogether.
Offering Help that Mothers Can Accept
The brain fog, the exhaustion, being a new mom is a time of adjustment and figuring things out. It’s no wonder we want to help them. But asking them how to help is asking them to figure out one more thing. It’s really difficult for someone in this situation to make a decision about how you can help.
The meaningful type of help in this situation is often work like washing dishes, washing clothing, helping around the house. These are chores that we might have trouble asking for someone to help with. So the well intentioned “Let me know how we can help.” offer often misses its mark.
We can change the way we offer to help.
Instead of asking how you can help and placing the onus on the mom, offer specific means of helping. This way, you offer help that mothers can accept.
Instead of asking “What can I do to help?” try framing your question like this: “What needs done around your house and how would you do it if you were doing it? If it's okay with you, I'm going to do this for you now." This type of question leaves little to wonder about how that mom needs help. She definitely knows what needs done, but it will only be helpful if it's done in a way that feels right and good to that person. By taking that direction the mom doesn't feel she needs to go and redo it or never should have accepted help in the first place.
Compassionate Help for Mother’s in Crisis
When a mother you know is battling an illness or caring for someone with one, has experienced loss, or is in the midst of other crises we naturally want to help. It can be really difficult to know where to begin, or what type of help to offer. So you might feel like you are back to square one, asking that mama how you can help her.
Another thought you might have is to show up and do the chore or be the help they need without asking. This can be equally overwhelming for that mom. In a crisis we often feel like we have no control over the situation. If we feel this way and then return to a home someone else has cleaned, or organized it can amplify these feelings.
Sometimes the most simple ways of caring can offer the most help. Simply showing up for someone is the biggest way you can show compassion. Active listening is another way you can help someone who is going through a difficult time. You don’t need to solve their troubles, but hearing them as they felt and experienced by this mother is very compassionate.
Also sending something such as coffee for delivery or flowers may send the "I'm thinking of you and I'm here to talk if you want to talk with me" vibe without taking away that person's control or overwhelming them further.