Relationships require a lot of TLC to stay strong to begin with: communication, effort, energy, among many other things. I mean, I watch a lot of So You Think You Can Dance so from what I understand, it's a lot of the same things that make a great dance routine work. Add a baby and your partnership still requires everything it once did, but now you have another responsibility that takes up all your time. It's like doing a tango while simultaneously attempting to handle an ill-mannered chimp. So there are things every new mom wants from her partner; for herself, her baby, and her relationship. (So, in a sense, it's really in your best interest, too!)
A lot of factors outside of a couple's control contribute to the problems new parents face, chief among them unfair family leave policies in the U.S. that don't give new moms a chance to heal or get a handle on things , and often don't exist at all for non-gestational partners (usually fathers) and force a mother with maternity leave to take on the lion's share of parental responsibility. So essentially what is already a complicated and stressful situation is made worse by sociopolitical circumstances (that we really need to fix, and quickly).
Still, complicated and stressful is not the same as impossible. In fact, some of these things aren't all that tough to manage and a little effort can go a long way. So what are the things new moms need from their beloved partners? While everyone is different and each romantic relationship will require different things, here's a pretty standard set of necessities, to get you started:
This isn't a request to give new moms free reign to be a hot mess of a raging trollop. It is, however, asking you to acknowledge that we're feeling a lot of feelings right now and to please take them all into account. If we're short with you, more hormonal than usual, frazzled, forgetful, weepy, clumsy, or exhausted, please treat us with a little more graciousness than perhaps you normally would. We don't get to be mean to you (and if we are, we still have to apologize), but if you could cut us a little slack that'd be great. We've got a lot going on.
A Little Babying
This is especially true if we've given birth and have physical recovery to cope from in addition to all the beloved chaos of a new little human. So if you don't normally, say, give us a quick shoulder massage, or make us a cup of tea unprompted, or bring us pillows so we don't have to get off the couch, maybe give it a go for a little while. We'll really, really appreciate it.
Because, like I said, there's a lot going on in our brains and bodies right now that is making us feel pretty fragile at times. Maybe conversations about feelings aren't your thing, but please, please try, because we sort of need it right now. Sensing that we're understood and validated as a new mom? That counts for a lot and the best part is that the more we feel understood and validated, the less intense emotional support we'll actually end up needing.
Again, if we gave birth, there are going to be things we physically cannot (or should not) do. But even if we didn't bake our buns in our own ovens, one needs more hands than an individual person has to do everything that needs to be done for a baby, a home, and oneself. So the diapers, baths, cleaning, cooking, all that jazz? We need you.
A Chance To Sleep
You really don't know what regular sleep deprivation can do to a person until you live it. Even people used to little sleep are not necessarily used to the consistently broken sleep that comes along with a new baby. So we new moms should not be the only ones getting up with the baby. Sure, in the case of breastfeeding mothers we're going to be the one to get up more frequently, but when baby is waking for a non-feeding issue? You can handle some of those at least. Yes, even if you need to work in the morning (because so do we, regardless of where). Yes, even if we are staying at home (permanently or while on maternity leave). yes, everyone has their own thing to deal with during waking hours and so everyone needs sleep to recharge.
Don't worry: I promise that this does get better, eventually. It's best not to think about exactly when.
If we are on maternity leave or we're a stay-at-home mom, this is particularly important, since we likely haven't been in the presence of other adults for anything close to a significant amount of time or throughout the day. Remember that Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, where he's stranded on an island and makes friends with a volleyball named Wilson? That's actually a really good metaphor for new parenthood: a new mom is Tom Hanks and the baby is Wilson. Wilson is great. Wilson is comforting. Wilson can't really talk and he sometimes drives us crazy. We need you, our beloved partner, to rescue us from the island.
We don't care how you get it to us — cook, take out, delivery, unwrapping a granola bar. Literally anything will be awesome as long as we don't have to cook it or get up from under the baby to retrieve it. Food is one of the last things on our minds right now, but is still extremely necessary so if you could be in charge of that for a while we'd appreciate it.
"Wait, didn't you just say that you need adult conversation?"
We do indeed, friend. But sometimes we also need a little bit of time to sit in monastic stillness and just revel in our own brain for the first time all day. So thanks, darling, for just being comfortable with us in the quiet for a bit.
An Uninterrupted Shower
To a new mom, an uninterrupted shower feels like a day at the spa. Seriously. So if you could do everything in your power to hold down the fort (and its tiniest inhabitant) while we're "at the spa" that would be wonderful.
Time To Heal
This is kind of a dainty, demure way of saying "Please don't push us for sex before we're ready." Seriously, it's a dick move (no pun intended for you male partners out there) and besides, if we're not ready, we're not going to want to do it all that much and it's going to have the opposite of your desired effect. Give us time, talk to us, and, once again, have patience.
A Shield From Visitors
There's a pretty good chance, especially if this is our first baby (or your first baby, or both) that there will be a long line of would-be visitors clamoring to cuddle the wee one and dote on our new family. This is lovely and we know everyone means well and is motivated by love, but there are only so many visitors a new mom (not to mention new baby) can take in a day or a week or a month.
We're exhausted and preoccupied so we need you to be our home's bouncer. We know it's hard to stand up to (and potentially disappoint or even hurt) loved ones who want to visit, but we need you on our side for this one. Please respect our desire to not be overwhelmed and convey our decisions to those well-meaning family members and friends. Assure them we will eventually be happy to have everyone over, we just need time to rest first.
Love And Kind Words
Because loving words and kindness from the person we love the most are something we need anyway. So thanks in advance, dear partner; we know you're up to this challenge.