“Once postpartum, always postpartum.” It’s a saying that is foundational in my work with women all along their motherhood journey. No matter how old your children are, you’re still postpartum and therefore deserve support, care and your village all along the way. Postpartum care should not end at an arbitrary deadline of six weeks or three months; it is your whole life long. No matter where you are on your motherhood journey, you deserve more postpartum support.
This is an absolute mindset shift that my clients initially are perplexed by when they come to me for motherhood therapy or coaching. Yet once we unpack it a bit more, the load they are carrying feels lighter and they begin to deconstruct what they’ve internalized as their sole responsibility as mothers.
Big sigh of relief.
We’ve come far (yet still have a long way to go) in acknowledging that new mothers need some serious TLC those first few months postpartum. Conversations in the motherhood realm still focus on the birth of the baby, and leave much to be desired when it comes to conversations on postpartum support, care and health for the new mother.
We plan for the birth of our baby, but we rarely plan for the birth of the mother
Culturally, we’ve got some tried and true tricks up our sleeves that we offer the newly postpartum mama. We organize a meal train, drop her off groceries, offer to watch her baby while she showers. We check in on her a bit more frequently than we did when she was pre-baby, but then…suddenly, once she hits that finishline of those six to twelve weeks postpartum, we often “forget” about her, her new life in this role and the fact that she too, was just born as a mother.
- The mealtrains stop; they take a lot of work to coordinate and she “should” have a flow by now.
- Our busy schedules keep us on the go; she’s busy now too, juggling her career and motherhood. We don’t want to “bother” her.
- Her baby is a bit older and she probably has her own routine now for when she showers.
So we pull our support for the new mama. Not intentionally or drastically, but because life goes on for all of us and just like we all have to do…she should figure it out (on her own).
But should she really have to figure it out all on her own? Should you have had to? The answer is a whopping no.
No mother should have to go through postpartum—or any part of motherhood alone, villageless.
So how do we actually foster that same postpartum support years into motherhood? How do we create that village that everyone keeps referencing but no one shows up for?
It takes a ton of patience, organization and willingness to put yourself out there, but if you’re like 40% of moms who say more support would improve their positive feelings around motherhood, then it’s time to become a community organizer.
Here’s how to foster postpartum support beyond the early days
1. Organize a local meal train with your neighborhood families, church families or friend group
Start cooking in larger batches and coordinate a weekly drop-off schedule. Or have bi-monthly potlucks, picnic style, in your backyard. BYO blankets etc., and rotate who brings the paper plates.
2. Bartering used to be commonplace, way back in those village days
“I’ll give you ____ in exchange for ___.” We all have strengths to offer to others and we all have areas where we need some extra support. Start putting your list of “offerings” together and share this concept in your friends circle. Maybe you can be the go-to date night sitter or the grocery runner. Maybe you need someone to help you get a grasp on your laundry or meal plan with you for the week. Sometimes, asking for help can be daunting. So offering support in exchange might take that initial pressure off.
3. Save on babysitters
A friend of mine was recently quoted $45 an hour for a date-night babysitter. She turned them down and they haven’t had a date night yet. Hearing this, I immediately offered to be her babysitter. Our children are friends; movie night anyone? I’ll take your kids this weekend, and next month, we can swap. The offer wasn’t just a kind gesture; we booked the date nights then and there.
4. Build a shared friends-circle errand list
We all have a running to-do list that makes getting the kids into the car a circus. Why not consolidate? “I’m running out. Heading to the dry cleaners, hitting up the pet store and swinging through the grocery store. What can I get you?” Thank goodness for Venmo—we can pay it back right away.
5. Get to know your neighbors again
I remember growing up, when my mom needed an egg to finish the cake, I ran and asked our neighbor for one. It wasn’t even a thing. We can bring that back too; that’s just friendly, neighborly stuff. Bake some cookies, drop them off and introduce yourself. It isn’t a prerequisite that they’re parents themselves; that’s just a bonus.
6. Shop small and support local mom-owned businesses
Where you put your money counts. Hire the house cleaner who is a mom. Buy flowers from your local florist. Give businesses helmed by women your support whenever you can.
7. Have mom friends at all stages of motherhood and use one another to learn from
Maybe the 13-year-old of a mom friend needs a summertime gig and you need the extra help around the house. Perfect! A mother’s helper. Maybe your neighbor whose kids just left her an empty-nester is feeling lonely. Invite her for dinner and have her share a favorite dessert recipe.
8. Join a virtual village of like-minded women and mothers like yourself
There’s many great options available these days, some that even include in-person meet-ups. I started a “modern day” village myself, because the need I was seeing in my practice demanded some bigger system work.
There is no quick-fix to bringing back our village in the way we once used to have it; gone are those days. It’s now about making what we have work for us and therefore, change the way we do motherhood in our modern culture.