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After the second and larger child came barreling through the southern end three years after the first was removed through the midwest, I was on bed rest for three weeks on account of not being able to so much as sit up for all the injuries incurred. It was an ordeal, people. (I mean, what birth isn’t…but still. An ordeal.)
For all of my belief that mamas should take it really easy and actually recuperate after such bodily trauma, I realized while lying there that I had taken to heart- for myself only- all of the cultural messaging for women after birth. That I should somehow be exempt from the rest I encouraged for everyone else, and that I should be able to immediately drag my traumatized, depleted, and sleep-deprived body back into the fray of professional pre-baby life while juggling a family, household, and a tiny brand new person with 24/7 needs.
Because even though we shouldn’t have to, all the other moms manage it so I’m failing because I can’t.
I really don’t like to need help.
Needless to say, three weeks of bed rest schooled me. Those three weeks were transformative on many levels, which is a post for another time. Thankfully, my family pulled through for me and did seriously everything while I couldn’t so much as sit up or pee properly.
But what if family doesn’t pull through? Or can’t pull through to meet all of the needs? What if you need help and you’re just not getting it?
This season is about the realest that life gets. And as such, it’s a beautiful opportunity to let people in. To not keep up facades that are 1) impossible to keep anyway and 2) so clearly façade-ish to anyone who has ever welcomed an infant.
The fact is, we ALL go through this. So we get it. There is no reason to clean your house or serve coffee or even stay awake while visitors are here. Every good visitor will know the rules and will want to help, but they may need a bit of encouragement or direction (probably both) in order to do so.
Here are a few ways to set up your visitors for success so that you get to sit quietly in your PJ’s sipping tea while your guests take care of you and your family. (<----Did you catch that? This is the goal, good reader. Go ahead and read that again. Goal. Right here.)
Before we dive in though, there is one thing I need you need to do: get comfortable with it. This might be one of the only seasons in life where it is totally acceptable that your visitors should be expected to pitch in, but first you’ll need to accept the help.
Ok. Let's set up your people for success:
Have a coffee and snack station set up for visitors. I get that this sounds counterproductive since I'm telling you to rest and now I'm telling you to work, but hear me out. There are three really great reasons for this.
- They can help themselves to what they need, and you don’t have to be up and around “serving” or “hosting”.
- It's a super thoughtful gesture, and a great lead-in to the whole idea of helping.
- This is the perfect place to display your chalkboard/dry erase board or FREE Downloadable Sign inviting them to help (more on this next).
Here are some ideas for such a setup. One or two of these ideas would suffice just fine.
- A Keurig or coffee maker (and a sign with instructions) or instant coffee packets
- Teas and an electric kettle
- For the hot drinks: Hot To-Go Cups, Stirrers, Packets of Cream & Sugar
- Bottles of Water or other drinks
- Bowl of fresh fruit
- Individual bags of chips, snack packets, or granola bars
- Cookies or some baked good
You can use our Free Downloadable Sign OR a chalkboard or dry erase board. Position the chosen messaging where everyone who comes in will see it, and it can say something like this (with your own flavor, of course):
“Thanks for coming to visit! We love you and we’re so glad you’re here. Please help yourself to coffee, drinks, and snacks.
Willing to help out? It doesn’t have to be long. Please take a chore card* that suits your liking, and do as much as you’re able! We are so grateful.”
*You can get your free downloadable chore cards at the end of the post :)
OR if you’re not a fan of chore cards:
"Here are some things that need to be done that we would be so grateful for your help with:"
etc. etc. etc.
By writing it out, those who are interested in helping will do so, and no one feels obligated. Wins all around.
Use Chore Cards:
Chore cards have a two-fold purpose: they save time and questions by listing out all of the information, and using chore cards allows you to adjust your list as often as needed. You can find a handy PDF download below. Just print out a stack of these and keep them nearby, and whenever you think of something that needs to be done, fill one out and drop it in a basket below your sign for visitors to pick up.
Include items like:
- Where to find the supplies for the job
- Where to do the job/where not to (i.e. "please vacuum all rooms except the office")
- How to use machines or tools
- Who to ask (not you, if at all possible) if they have questions about the job.
Get creative. Anything that would take you off of your couch, delegate. (Ok, you’ll need to shower. But that’s about it.)
Have a gatekeeper/scheduler:
Have your partner or someone close schedule visits, and be sure that they include an end time (you can say something like “The baby and I go down at 8, so I can visit from 6-8…”)
Also feel free to:
-Use an extra half hour. Or hour. If you really do go down at 8, then tell them 7:30, because by the time they get out the door it will inevitably be around 8.
-Ask if they’ve signed up for your meal train. Polite factor: ask in a way that feels like you haven’t checked your meal train and just want to be prepared; hopefully the question might inspire them to go ahead and sign up.
-Would they be willing to help/have time to do so? And/or is it ok for you to call them before they come to grab some things at the store if needed? (Offer to pay them back.)
-Ask if they or any family has been sick and let them know your level of comfort with their answer/feel free to deny access and have them schedule a visit later.
-Let them know that you won’t be hosting, but they are welcome to come over and are invited into the reality of your life.
Stick to your timeframe:
Unless a visitor is helping out, have the gatekeeper (or you, if you must) keep time, and when time is ending excuse yourself. Whatever you do, feel no obligation to stick around if you’re done with the visit.
Some ways to politely bow out:
- "I need to feed the baby, and it’s a whole setup with pillows and nonsense/she doesn’t do nursing covers. I’ll have to do that in my room, but thanks so much for coming."
- " I really need to get a shower before the baby wakes up/eats, so I should do that now. It’s been great seeing you, feel free to let yourself out."
- "I’m not feeling the best, I should go lay down and sleep for a bit. Thanks so much for your visit."
By giving back, making your needs known, and having a set timeframe, you'll be able to make the most out of postpartum visits without the headache, exhaustion, and hosting that often goes along.
Does this list make you uncomfortable? New momma friend, THIS IS THE MOST RIGHT THING. You need help. And you should have it. You have a pass- the minute you contributed to the forwarding of the human race with your very lifeblood, you got a pass. Use it. Your guests will be grateful to you for giving them the opportunity to help (ok, some will just be grateful that you set out coffee for them. Invite the helpers back; the others can get more coffee elsewhere.) Your body and mind will be grateful for the time to recuperate.