Every time I have a baby, and recently I had my fourth, I am reminded of what a hard gig motherhood is. While it is a deeply fulfilling experience, it is not all dandelions and daisy chains. It is demanding, exhausting and all-consuming. And that is on a good day. When things go a bit pear-shaped, or life throws some extra challenges at you, it can feel impossible. And that’s when we need a helping hand.
A few years ago, I experienced a random act of kindness from a stranger. My mission was simple in theory but seemingly impossible in practice. I needed to get my three kids (all under 3) out of the car and into the childcare centre. My baby was four weeks old and Melbourne was experiencing its wettest day in years. Amidst torrential rain and toddler tears, I was trying to cross the road holding both toddlers’ hands, their umbrellas and backpacks, as well as the baby capsule, all whilst trying to stay dry and placate my wailing toddler who had inadvertently emptied the entire contents of her backpack into the gutter. Add the cries of my baby who was desperate for a feed to my bone-crushing fatigue and I was a frazzled mess.
As my tears threatened, a passer-by stopped and asked if I needed help. She held the umbrella, picked up the drink bottles from the gutter and helped us across the road. When I got back to the car I thanked her profusely and she responded with three reassuring words: “It gets easier.”
Often a simplest act of kindness has a lasting impact. You can literally make a mum’s job a lot easier with one small gesture or a few comforting words.
Here are eight ways you can help a mum out:
1. Cook a meal
Hands down the evening meal has to be one of the most stressful times of the day for any mum, especially a new mum. It’s not called arsenic hour for nothing! Have a think about someone you know who might need a dinner taken off her hands. Perhaps it’s a new mum, a single mum, or just a mum who’s having a rough time lately.
2. Show someone you care
Let the mum wrangling three toddlers go before you at the cash register. Offer to help someone carry their bags to the car. Tell the mum whose child is having the mother of all meltdowns in the department store that you’ve been there, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
3. Give a mum a break
Think of someone who’s doing it tough and needs a “pick me up package”. Offer to babysit her kids so she can go for a walk, send her a gift voucher, drop off a hamper of goodies or flowers just to make her day that bit easier.
4. Ask someone if they are OK
This one is SO important. Too often we appear that we are in control and able to juggle multiple balls. In reality most of the time we are all paddling madly like ducks underneath the surface, trying to stay afloat. So, check in with one another. By asking the question, it will allow a mum the opportunity to say she’s not feeling okay.
5. Tell someone they’re doing a good job
How easy is this? And how good is it to hear? I remember a time a passer-by in the park stopped to tell me I was doing a great job. It was so unexpected, and so lovely to hear, I nearly cried.
6. “Want me to pick something up for you?”
These eight helpful words imbue such comfort. If you know someone is overwhelmed – perhaps by a new baby, health issues, or something else – give them a call when you’re heading out to the shops. A few friends have done this for me recently and changed the course of my day by doing so.
7. Simply smile
You may not have to exchange any words, but sometimes a quick smile is enough to improve their day. Mark Twain once said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
8. Show respect
There is also kindness in not doing things. Refrain from engaging in idle gossip, reserve judgment, don’t criticise other mums’ choices or parenting styles and avoid comparisons. Less judgment, more support. Let’s have each others’ backs!
Small acts of kindness don’t have to cost anything, or even disrupt your day, but they can completely transform someone else’s. So seek an opportunity to help another mum. Every small interaction with someone is an opportunity to have a positive and lasting impact. I often think back to the lady who helped me and I now find myself echoing those three powerful words: “It gets easier.”
Michaela Fox is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of three. She muses on the ups and downs of motherhood on her blog Not Another Slippery Dip, and believes in ‘good-enough’ parenting. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.