Just because you have done it before doesn’t mean that you have it all together. You may have done it before, but you’ve never done it before with this new baby or with this amount of kids. You deserve help too.
I have 4 kids.
When my youngest was born 3 years ago, my oldest was 5. I had been in the thick of pregnancy, babies, and toddlers for over 6 years. A lot of that is now a blur and my memories of that time are definitely not as clear as I would like them to be. I often find myself wondering if that would be different if my babies were spaced further apart.
One thing I do clearly remember, however, is how I felt after having my third and fourth. After my second, I felt cocooned in support. Folks bringing meals and checking in on me. Family that stayed to help out for the first week. Being checked in on often by people I loved. I felt supported. After my third and fourth, some of that support dropped off.
Don’t get me wrong – I felt supported. I just also felt like folks thought I knew what I was doing and that I didn’t need as much help. It probably would have helped had I actually asked for help when I needed it. Instead, I struggled through a lot of the daily activities that I had to do and felt overwhelmed and exhausted.
“I don’t know how you do it all.”
As my babies grow, I often hear the same comment from folks – both strangers and loved ones – “I don’t know how you do it all.” Well, newsflash folks, I do not. I’ve learned that it’s simply not possible to “do it all.” My laundry stays unfolded far too often. I’ve given up making sure my kids have matching socks. I am very picky about what activities my kids do outside of school. I make choices every day about what is important for that day – and then I let the rest of it go.
Sometimes people just say this instead – “I don’t know how you do it.” And here’s where I don’t really have an answer because you just…do it. It’s not really an option. You go from activity to activity from job to job and eventually the day is over and you have managed to keep everyone alive, fed, and (hopefully) mostly happy. When you have four kids, this is a feat in and of itself!
But the one thing I don’t hear much of is offers of help. And with four kids, I often felt bad to ask people to come help with the things I really needed help with. I mean, four kids make a lot of laundry to fold and can be pretty overwhelming for someone not used to it. But after my fourth, I realized that I needed so much more help then than I ever did after my second.
“I don’t know how do you do it all.” Well, newsflash, I don’t.
I struggled through a lot of my early parenting journey alone, without any outside help. And I gotta tell ya, it’s not easy to feel like you’re all alone and have to do everything in the postpartum. It can be so overwhelming. Add in a few more kids and suddenly you are juggling being postpartum with keeping half of the starting lineup of your very own basketball team alive and well, the overwhelm takes over.
Like how the heck does one do all the postpartum healing and recovery and newborn stuff AND still keep 3 other kids between 1 and 5 years old alive?! (HINT: Telling people when I needed help was a HUGE part of how I did it).
But when you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to find the energy to ask for help. Sometimes it just seems easier to struggle through on your own. That’s why I strongly advocate for making a postpartum plan in pregnancy (check out this link for a workbook to make this an easier process for you!).
But why do we always place this task on those who need the help? Why can’t we be the ones to reach out to our families and friends before they’re overwhelmed? I know I am guilty of this in the past. I have assumed that if they haven’t asked, they don’t need help. But I learned the hard way how wrong that assumption is.
We can reach out to them. And we should.
So, if you have a friend who is expecting their third, or fourth, or fifth child please, please, please listen to my plea:
Check in on them.
They need your help. They may not ask for it – but they need it. They may tell you they’re “fine” but don’t believe them. They may know how to do all the basics, but they are still a “new” parent. They are still going through all the changes that come with the postpartum time. They may not be a brand new parent, but they have never been a parent to this new child before. When I had my fourth, I had never been a mom of four before. It was an entirely new experience.
Bring them some coffee. Bring them some food. Do some dishes. Play with the toddlers so they can have a few moments of peace. Bring them some toilet paper. Take the big kids to the playground. Recognize this big change they are going through and truly see them. Don’t assume that they don’t need help.
I promise you even if it looks like they “have it all together” they will appreciate this more than you know.
Love Sarah XOXO