What Not to Say to a New Mom

A new mother holding up her newborn baby and smiling

Enjoy this time, it goes by so quick! I'm not an angry person but that's neither here nor there. When a kindly stranger says this to a haggard looking mother who is sitting adjacent a stroller in some random cafe because this is the only way the baby will be taking her naps now, it is not soothing.

Meant to provide helpful perspective, this advice is dripping with the bias that only rose-coloured nostalgia can offer. Even worse, it makes parents feel guilty. Why am I not enjoying this time?

Oh, that's right. Because my bundle of joy woke up every 1.5 hours last night to scream and make me feel like I'm doing a bad job. And in the light of day and through wicked sleep deprivation, I'm kind of starting to believe it. 

If you see a Mom, just tell her that her baby is adorable or that she's doing a good job. Better yet, tell her it gets better and offer your best anecdotal evidence to support that.

Sleep when the baby sleeps. This one's practically a trope, but this well-intentioned kernel that everyone can't stop sharing doesn't always work out practically. I can't sleep at Starbucks (or can I?) and I certainly can't sleep with a baby strapped to my chest as I walk and walk and walk in the pouring rain.

The worst is when literally every piece of the puzzle is in place - baby asleep at home, house clean, gee why not sleep? - and instead I lie there staring at the ceiling. Just try to catch rest where you can and ask for help; this is the best you can do.

You're so lucky, what an easy baby you have. My baby is beautiful, but come over at 1:00am. Then come back at 1:45am. Then come back at 3:10am. Then come back at 4:37am. Then come back 5:25am. Then come back at 6:12am. Then come back at 7:18am when I'll be throwing together a delicious gourmet breakfast, oh and are you in the mood for sweet or savoury?


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Maybe if you just go with the flow more... This might be the worst. When you meet my so-called easy baby, it is very likely because I've spent all the hours preceding this very rare serene moment chasing the nap.

You see, babies have wake windows, and it is our unconquerable task to determine when they are coming to an end. To let you know they're tired before it's too late, your baby may pull at her ears, stare off into space, yawn, or, actually, now it's too late and she's screaming. It's over and now you're in hell.

To avoid this you will do anything including: hold the soother directly into your child's mouth for 20 minutes until, oops, you've nodded off and now they're screaming again because you failed at your one job; duck into an array of places in which you must make purchase to remain but that's okay because you needed a fifth latte; walk in the pouring rain all evening which is miserable on its own but also you brought the dog because you feel bad about neglecting her and now she's pulling and if she thinks she's ever going to catch that squirrel she is living in a fantasy.

Look, it's hard work for most parents and going with the flow is a thing people would do if they could. I know some parents who can and they seem very happy. But for those can't, try to understand that even the most Type A person wouldn't enjoy this as some sick self-flagellation ritual.

Not only do many babies need help learning to sleep, but they also need sleep to grow and develop, so we're caught in one of these maddening damned if you do damned if you don't situations. Of course kids are not a pass to just assume everyone should accommodate you, but a little understanding (pity?) goes a long way.

Thanks to: every family member and friend who has put up with my even shorter than usual patience; my memory, who is holding on by a thread like a champion (thanks, bro); my hair, for not saying 'Hey, if you don't care why should I?' and just falling out; and, my sweet baby girl, as I try to figure out how to be your Mom.

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