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The Worst Thing to Say to a New Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

There are plenty of things you should probably avoid saying to a new mom (“When are you due?” being at the top of the list), but after having my most recent baby, I noticed one in particular that’s meant to be helpful and just... isn’t.

How many of us have earnestly told a friend about to have a new baby, “Let me know if there's anything I can do to help!” Probably most of us. I know I’ve been guilty.

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And yet, what new mom is going to call up a friend or an acquaintance and say, “Could you please bring me dinner tonight?” or “My baby didn’t sleep all night—any chance you could watch my other kids so I can squeeze in a little nap before I completely lose what’s left of my mind?”

Almost all of us don’t want to inconvenience anyone and those who are struggling the most, whether with a colicky baby, juggling the needs of multiple children or postpartum depression, are the least likely to ask for the help they need.

When I have a new baby, the last thing I want to do is a lot of arranging or figuring out of schedules. Give me two options and I can pick one.

With each of my babies I’ve had friends who, instead of making that useless blanket statement, called or texted or stopped by and said things like, “I’m making lasagna for dinner tomorrow—can I bring you some?” or “My kids would love to have your kids over to play so you can get a nap. Is Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning better for you?”

Those specific offers were the nicest things they could have done and each time I’ve been more determined to make my own offers of help easy for someone else to take me up on.

When I have a new baby, the last thing I want to do is a lot of arranging or figuring out of schedules. Give me two options and I can pick one. Ask me to text you when I want dinner and the odds are 100% that I’ll never text you to ask you to bring me dinner.

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And it doesn’t have to be a big thing, either. You don’t have to take extra children for hours and hours or make a full dinner. Just a quick text to say “I’m at the grocery store. Could I grab you a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread?” is ridiculously helpful.

The friend who dropped a pint of ice cream on my doorstep spent about $2 and made my entire week. Another friend who offered to return my library books so I didn’t rack up fines was a lifesaver so I didn’t have to make that trip with a newborn.

Any help that’s actually given is so much better than all the empty offers in the world.

So next time you’re chatting with a new mom, don’t tell them to call you if they need something. Offer something concrete, big or small, that you’re willing to do in the next day or two, and know that if you follow through, they’ll probably remember it for life.

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