I realize I always should have just appreciated what single or solo parents do, and on some level, I always have. However, we often don’t tend to truly appreciate certain scenarios until we find ourselves in them.
My husband recently moved to another province for a new job. The opportunity came out of nowhere and was too good to pass up. He’s enjoying it, and I’m so proud that all of his hard work has paid off in the type of job he has always wanted. In the mean time, my son and I, along with our pets, have stayed behind until we sell our home. Once our place sells and we buy one there, we will move and join my husband (and while I can’t wait, I also kind of dread moving provinces with a toddler and 3 pets).
That means, until we sell this place, I have to try and keep it “ready to show” at any given time. With a three-year-old, two cats, and a dog. Just thinking about it makes me tired. I’m forever grateful for all the help of my mom, who comes up at least once a week to hang out with Cub so I can work my two jobs (more on that below!) and also does so much to keep our house clean and looking beautiful. My husband did a lot of the cleaning when he was here. One of the many reasons I miss him.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I work another part-time job in addition to being a postpartum doula. I’m a web and social media editor 15 hours a week for an Indigenous newspaper. And then I’m obviously a mom full-time, and most of the time, it’s just me.
As such, here are the first four things that come to mind that I appreciate even more about having another parent around:
- Mealtimes. My husband would always make breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Oh, how I miss this. Maybe I was spoiled, but it was really nice having those two days where I could wake up and not have to worry about making something to feed myself or my toddler. I feel more relaxed on the one morning a week my mom is here, even if I still make myself and/or my toddler breakfast, just because I know someone else is here to help and can play with him while I get some other work done.
- Company. Even if I do most of the care for our child, it is really nice having someone come home at the end of their work day and be here for the evening, particularly on days when my toddler doesn’t want to leave the house. While those days are relaxing, they can be quite lonely. I love my boy, but we don’t have the most in-depth conversations, even if he does like looking up random animals and places from atlases. In addition to someone to talk to in the evening, it was someone who helped during mealtime, bath time, bedtime. And it was someone home with our son so I could occasionally go out to yoga, which leads me to….
- Self-care. We like to throw this word around to moms who are tired or stressed out. “Find time to do something for yourself, even if it’s something little.” I’ve realized I’m guilty of this: no doubt I’ve said something similar to single moms or moms who are solo parenting while their spouse is away for long periods of time. I’m sorry for that now because it probably came off as naive at best and annoying at worst. By the time my toddler falls asleep (which isn’t that late – usually between 8 and 9), I am too tired to do anything like yoga, even if my body is screaming at me to do it, and even though I know I’d likely feel better for it. All I want to do is have a bath, zone out on social media, and go to bed. But what I’ve noticed is if I don’t find time to do something for myself, my patience wears thin, and I get short and angry at my toddler for things I know I should let go. It’s true I now need to find self-care in different ways: the odd yoga stretch here and there if I can’t do a whole practice, listening to a relaxation recording before bed, a cup of tea I like, or an outing we both enjoy. I have managed to incorporate short yoga practices once he goes to bed and I’ve started meditating.
Self-care: standing pigeon pose while the toddler has a bath. Take what you can get.
- Getting s*** done. I mentioned above I work another part-time job. I sometimes felt completely overwhelmed by this when my husband was still here, so now it can feel even worse. Somehow I do it because I have to, but it isn’t always easy. It was definitely easier when I had a partner in crime who could play with and parent our child so I could do my work. Now I do it when my mom is here or when my son is watching a video or playing a game. Now household chores are also entirely my responsibility, although my mom helps a lot when she is here. However, that’s one or two days a week so the rest of the time, it’s on me. I follow the advice I give other moms: I let go of what I can (most housework, to be honest), and I try to do work when my toddler will watch videos or when he’s in bed if I must.
After a visit to the art gallery and river walk, I felt invigorated. I kept telling my son how much fun I had with him. Getting out can make a big difference.
These are just the 4 that come off the top of my head, but I know there are more. As the saying goes, you often don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I half joke that being apart has made us realize how much we love and rely on each other. Not that we didn’t know before, but you really don’t fully understand until you’re apart. I know my husband and I both eagerly look forward to when we are reunited as a family, and I know not every mom who is solo parenting is that fortunate.
So if you have a friend who is a single or solo parent, help her out. Offer to pick up some groceries for her when you’re out. Drop by for coffee. Take her a meal. Play with her child so she can do a quick yoga practice alone in her room. What might seem small to you will be huge to her.
Recently I was asked by a mom of a newborn and toddler what exactly is it I do as a postpartum doula. The conversation made me think this would be a good time to do a blog post! While I list what I do here on my website, I thought I’d write about what I’ve specifically provided for different clients, because everyone’s needs are different, and I tailor my services to their needs.
I recently served a couple who had their first baby. They did not have a lot of family living nearby, but saw the benefits of mom taking it easy after birth, like moms do in other cultures. When I would visit their home, I didn’t actually spend a lot of time with mom, who had created her own little nest for her and their baby upstairs in their home. If she and baby weren’t resting when I arrived, I would check in with them to see if she needed any help or a drink or snack. Then I would spend the majority of my time in the kitchen, where I cooked meals: I would make recipes we had agreed upon before my arrival, and often more than one, so that there were both meals and snacks available to mom and dad. I would also then clean the kitchen, I often cleaned the upstairs washroom, and I would take out the garbage and recycling when I left. During one visit, I cleaned out the fridge and threw away any condiments that had expired (I joked to my husband that in the three years we’ve lived in our current home, I’ve never done that!). Over the course of my visits, I helped with breastfeeding, bathing the baby, sterilizing breast pump and bottle parts, and I put together a Mamaroo.
Mmmmm banana walnut muffins. Easy to make and great for moms to have on hand. One of the snacks I made for a client.
Another client I served gave birth to her second baby, who arrived earlier than expected (aside from being early, baby was and is healthy and continues to do well!). While I normally visit clients once a week, she and her family had more immediate needs in a shorter time period, so we made arrangements for me to do multiple visits during a week. On my first visit, my main task was to rearrange the living room furniture to accommodate a bed so mom wouldn’t have to go upstairs. During another visit, I picked up groceries and a prescription for mom. (Kind of funny story here: she gave me her card to pay, and when I went to tap it, it didn’t work. Since I didn’t know her pin, I pulled out my debit card. The clerk was looking at me strangely, asking, “You don’t want to try your pin?” Um, no, I don’t….!) During another visit, I played with her toddler and organized all of the new baby’s clothes and folded and put away laundry. I probably did other household tasks I don’t recall: I always try to take out the garbage when I leave and to leave the home tidier than when I arrived, even if it’s just something small like wiping down counters or picking up toys.
This mom had support: her husband is extremely helpful in that he does a lot of the cooking and laundry. Her mother was also visiting for an extended period of time. After my first visit, mom texted me to say she could just feel the relief in her partner and her mother. During one of my visits, the grandma called me an angel. I was touched beyond belief! Sometimes I wonder how much I am helping people, but help comes in many forms, and you can never have too much support. Everyone needs a break at some point and having a new baby is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining on everyone to some degree.
Here is another scenario: mom and dad are having their second baby, and they know from their first experience that they would like some additional help for mom, who suffered from postpartum depression. I met with them in advance of baby being born, and we actually talked through and developed a postpartum plan. I really recommend this. As the dad said, it helped keep him accountable for what he said he would do, but it also meant mom couldn’t get upset with him if he wasn’t doing another task. It puts mom and dad on the same page, and it provides them with resources ahead of time so if mom is having a bad day after baby comes, there is no scrambling for help: resources and numbers to call are listed in the plan.
My visits with this family are different each time. I have sat with mom and listened to her share her birth story; I have held her newborn so she could take her older child and one of their dogs for a walk, so she could take a blissfully hot shower and do her hair, so she could take her eldest trick-or-treating, or so she could run an errand child-free; I have showed her how to use her wrap (I can show you from my own experience as a mama, but like this mom, you can always bring in someone who is certified for more help and to try different carriers!); I have done laundry; I have cleaned the bathroom; I have played with the older child.
Win-win: I get baby snuggles, and mom gets some time to herself or time with her older child. Photo used with permission.
For both of the two previous moms I’ve mentioned, I brought them different teas to help with breastfeeding. And even though I may only see a client once a week, I am in constant touch with them if they need and want it: I try to balance being helpful without being a pest! I am always available for questions. I find mom evidence-based articles when she does have questions, I point her to more resources if she needs them, but most importantly, I am a non-judgemental ear when she needs someone to listen and to reassure her that she is not alone and that she is doing a great job. Family is a great support, but a postpartum doula is great because I have no ties to your family, I’m not part of the family dynamic, so there is no baggage or opinion there. I also don’t give unsolicited advice and frankly try to give little advice: instead I try to offer support and resources so mom can make the decision best for her.
So what I do a postpartum doula really varies, depending on what mom needs. We work that out in advance of baby being born, or if baby surprises us and comes earlier than expected, we go with the flow and plan in advance of each visit!
If postpartum support is something you or a friend or family could benefit from (postpartum support would make a great baby shower gift!), please get in touch. I would love to hear from you and hear how I could best serve you and your family. Every woman can benefit from some form of postpartum care and support.
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