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An Auntie’s Guide to Helping Mamas Through Every Age

Before I became an Aunt
Me and my mom, a few years before I became an Aunt

I have been an Auntie for a long time – we are taking multiple decades here – which honestly shocked me when I did the math. That’s a lot of goldfish crackers over the years, most of them crushed into the backseat of SUVs and minivans.

I have been to multiple school performances and competitions; one of those might have been an ice skating competition where every individual skating performance was done to either ABBA or Katy Perry. Thankfully, this was before Frozen. By the way, that niece’s performance was Olympics-worthy, I tell you.

I also have seen one of my mama friends, who’s baby I swear I just cuddled yesterday, become a beaming mother-of-the-bride to her gorgeous daughter.

All of this Auntie experience gives me a unique perspective on moms and what sort of support they need at every stage of their children’s lives. So here is my guide to caring for mamas.

I’m Pregnant! Which Leads to, Come meet the Baby! – this is a tricky, tricky time. Newly pregnant, first-time moms are going through so many changes at once. The kindest thing you can do is listen and maybe not drink wine in front of them. Now, if this is their second, third or even fourth, all bets are off. They are going to tell you about things that their body is doing that you might not want to know, plugs, mucus, leakage, just listen, but you are usually ok to drink wine or coffee in front of this mom, even though she might be mean about it.

Meeting the baby – At the hospital meeting this newborn little one, who will be wrapped up and sleeping, you will stare at this child and think, “This really is a perfect child. They are so incredibly lucky.” And, if you are lucky, you will get to hold this baby. But if this is the second or third baby, that mom will possibly look at you and say something like, “Can you go to my mom’s house, pick up those other two kids, get them home, bathe and feed them? There are chicken nugget things in the freezer and broccoli in the fridge. And make sure Samantha does her reading, she needs to read aloud for 15 minutes tonight.” At this point, do what she says and don’t forget to sign off on the homework sheet.

Also, bring food when you visit the new baby at home, in fact, just plan on doing this for the first six months to a year, possibly longer. It could be something for the freezer, our goto is lasagna. Though I once brought a ham, a whole smoked turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and/or sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls coleslaw, mustard and possibly some pea soup mix. It was a Honeybaked Ham sale people! It simply could be lunch that the new parents can have right then. Mama is going to be exhausted and focused on the little one’s feeding schedule. So, something already made that she can heat up in two minutes would be perfect. What would be even better, if you can hold the baby so she can eat with both hands.

Toddler Time! – When your friend has toddlers, you will never have a full conversation with her on the phone again. This lasts, well, until that toddler goes to college. Get used to it, it has nothing to do with you; she just is busy trying to make sure that gorgeous child doesn’t use all of the chairs in the dining room to create a tower in order to touch something. And the something is constantly changing: could be the cat, could be a shadow, could be her brother. Also, children this age are constantly sticky, they just are; keep a secret stash of wipes handy. If you are lucky at this stage, you will get to cuddle that child while they are napping, letting mom actually use the bathroom by herself.

Kindergarten and Elementary school – At this age, you would think this mom thing would start to be easier. You would be wrong. Here is why: class parties, birthday parties, soccer, piñatas, class field trips, peanut allergies, Minecraft, baseball and math homework. A friend of mine spends at least two hours a night working on homework with her nine-year old. Two hours. A night! Here’s how you help this mama out, first possibly wine or coffee, then listen and say things like, “Are you kidding me?! He’s in third grade!” Also, sponsor anything the child is doing, read-a-thon, jump-rope-a-thon, Minecraft-A-thon, whatever. (Well maybe not the Minecraft thing.) Seriously though, if you have the time, show up at a soccer or football game once in awhile, it’s only a few hours, but it is nice to be a family fan when life seems to revolve around sidelines, carpools or dance classes. Or even better, drop off a casserole the night you know they’re going to be at a five-hour game/practice combo.

Junior High – When one of my mama friend’s daughter turned 13, she called me and told me, “It turns out I don’t know how to drive and I don’t know anything about anything.” She knew this because her daughter told her so while they were driving home from school. Now, you know Mama can drive, you took drivers’ ed together. Know that it is happening; they are becoming teenagers. The smell of Axe is starting to replace the smell of baby shampoo. Reassure Mom that she is not crazy, that she is smart, that yes, you can hear her when she is talking. Buy her dinner, massages and pedicures, because high school is just around the corner.

High School – Ok, all bets are off. The college finish line is so close, but first boyfriends, Prom and AP Chemistry are still hurdles in this race. Mom is tired at this point, maybe even more so than when that baby was teething. She has been told, “You just don’t understand!” so many times she can’t count. She is just trying to keep it together until they go to Bed, Bath & Beyond to buy sheets for the dorm room. Listen to her ramble about PSAT tests or those college-prep courses, offer to go to the school play with her, maybe even offer to help take pictures before the homecoming dance. A little secret: moms are crushed when their little ones don’t make the cheerleading squads, too. So, she might need a shoulder. But, do not under any circumstances offer to teach that kid to drive, you don’t have that kind of insurance.

College Acceptance Letter – Break out the Champagne and celebrate! Suddenly Mama is going to have some time to play. Have a new restaurant you love or a weekend trip that might be fun? Start planning! That is unless, the child does a semester abroad, or goes to grad school, or med school. Then there is the first job, moving to a new city… mama might need another drink.

The secret to caring for your mom friends, besides the occasional glass of wine, bites of chocolate and the buckets of coffee: listen a lot, laugh with her as much as you can and sometimes just be there for the tears. Mamas need help too.

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About Shelle Murach

Shelle Murach
Shelle Murach has been an Aunt since 1985. She specializes in saying things like, “Should that child be doing that to her brother?” “Where did that juice box go?” "Can Aunt Shelle have some of your Cheez-its?” She is an expert at attending dance recitals, soccer games and ice skating competitions all while clapping or cheering at the appropriate moments.While she is very good at passing out cake at birthday parties, due to an unfortunate incident with a stick, her husband has made her promise to never again help with piñatas. Something about lawsuits and personal injury nonsense. She precariously balances being a full-time Aunt with a career in PR and has found that many of her client management skills can also be used on her various nieces and nephews. She is very excited to be part of Reno Mom’s Blog where she will focus on the Reno food and events scene, booster seats and face paint are optional. You can check out her blog at Care & Feeding in Reno, where she desperately needs to post some new stories and recipes. Trust me, she knows, it is on the list.

4 comments

  1. Shelle, I love this so very much. You are such a dear aunt/friend. Will you by auntie to my kids? You get it. You truly do. Your siblings and friends are very luck to call you “theirs”.

  2. Jenn

    I love the “show up at a soccer game or two” line of advice. My family lives so far away that the only ones who show up to see my boys play are us (Mom and Dad). Mom and Dad are great but how nice to have someone else show up from time to time. My boys would love a local aunt too! Something else that I’d add for Elementary School and beyond is “be there for the kids; listen; offer sound advice; keep confidences.” Even if we’ve developed strong, open relationships with our kids, there could be a time or a subject that they simply don’t want to talk about with Mom or Dad. It’s nice as a parent to know that our kids have someone else to turn to (like an aunt or uncle) if they are faced with something or need help and don’t want to go to Mom or Dad. I had an aunt I was close to growing up and I could talk to her about anything. We’re still close to this day even though she’s so far away.

  3. That is a great idea! And, I can see how babysitting and possibly running a carpool every once in awhile would help build that relationship with the kids. Plus, I now can text some of the older nephews and nieces. But I still don’t get the emoticon thing.

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