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.