Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Best Way to Be There For A New Parent

In an article about self-soothing I came across a sentence that had nothing to do with whether or not self-soothing is the way forward, but that had everything to do with what parenting is about for me: new parents ‘need help, not advice.’ 

It’s so simple, and for me it relates to so much more of life than just parenting. 

Advice is easy to give, and often it’s fun to give too. You feel knowledgable and wise telling a new parent what your baby responded to and how best to raise children now that you’ve done it once/twice/insert number here and have this figured out what all children really need. 

Advice feels helpful. You feel like a great friend telling others what to do and why and how. And it only takes a few seconds, a couple of texts here and there, or an unsolicited lecture in a cafe, and bob’s your uncle - you’ve helped a struggling new mother and you’ve still got time to get on with your life! Ideal.

Except you haven’t helped. Help looks very different from telling a woman carrying her baby that she needs to get him used to the pram, or from asking your friend why she lets her baby cry, suggesting he might be a lot easier to deal with if she saw to his needs more urgently. 

Help is really about action. And that’s why most people don’t help new parents very much. Because it’s a ballache. You probably have kids yourself, or a million work deadlines, or this is the only weekend you’ve planned something nice for so why should you spend it changing nappies or hoovering or sat down silently listening to your friend without offering advice or solutions and just letting her unload her feelings? 

I have to say, I’ve not been able to help any of my new parent friends. Partly because I have been a new parent twice over in a short amount of time, partly due to distance, but also partly because I’ve not offered, content to just send a few pearls of wisdom their way about what worked for me and will thus definitely work for them. So this is my resolution - when a friend is in need, hold back on advice and either try to see them to offer help in person or, if not possible, to just listen. 

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