Wednesday, August 17, 2016

5 Things to Remember When Interacting With Mothers of Babies and Toddlers

I have wanted to write a post like this for some time but didn't think that I should until we were on the other side of the trenches! My oldest child  is 12 now and my youngest is almost 4.  It is hard to believe that we spent the first 10 years of our marriage dealing with incessant morning sickness, nursing babies and changing diapers. I must say that even though we still have a house full of kids, things are way different now! This is the first year that I have felt we are out of the trenches. All the joys and frustrations of being a family made up of primarily babies and toddlers is still fresh on my mind though and I don't want to forget how I felt when it comes my time to minister to our kids and others who are in this stage. Empathy is a game changer!

My 4 oldest children ranging in age from 5 years to 5 months

1. Keep your expectations low or non-existent

Mothers of multiple babies and toddlers in the house can easily feel completely, utterly, emotionally and physically drained especially during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Hormones play a large part and they can easily get overwhelmed and be driven to tears. Do not ask them to bring a dish to a potluck or expect them to do anything other than get there with their children which can totally wear them out!  Remember that packing for babies and toddlers even for a day trip, planning around naps and getting the baby nursed before you go is quite a feat! In fact, don't be upset if they decide it is just too stressful to attend the event at all. If they do come to an event, let them know that you appreciate the effort it took!

2. LOVE is spelled B-A-B-Y-S-I-T 

Don't make her ask you because she will feel like a burden to you. Offer to do it joyfully and then let her know how much you enjoyed her children while she took some time to rest or rebuild her marriage. Daniel and I are to a place where we are no longer desperate for someone to babysit our children but run back the clock a few years when we were so exhausted and we would have about killed for it! Not really, but you get the picture! Being in a season of babies and toddlers can put a strain on a marriage and it is so hard because these couples are most often not in a position to shell out $10/hr for babysitting or pay for a restaurant meal on top of it to get some time away!

3. Understand that Mothers of babies and toddlers want an organized/clean/decorated home as much as you do. 

Whatever you do, don't tell her that this is just a season and that one day she can have this. She desperately craves a sense of peace and order now more than ever! Nesting urges are strong during this season because she is having to be at home ALOT. No matter what you say, an organized/clean/decorated home will be something she is constantly trying to achieve. The best thing you can do is jump in and and offer to help her with it! Can you buy some storage solutions and clean out a closet? Can you come by and deep clean a child's room? Can you take her van to be cleaned? Ask if there are any organizing/cleaning/decorating chores you could help with! A project completed will help a young mom feel encouraged and inspired! Remember that young mothers often feel mortified about the state of their house and vehicle and avoid any comments causing them further embarrassment or highlighting failure in this area. Most young mothers cannot afford housecleaning help. I remember crying some days because my house was so messy and I didn't have the energy to clean it! A good way to offer the help would be to ask what she would like help with so as not to highlight specific failures.

4. Do not give unsolicited advice

Avoid comments beginning with "You Should" at all costs! If you think you could handle life better with their number of children and their financial resources, go for it. Tell her you will move in for a week or two while she flies overseas with her husband and let you prove you can do it better than she can.  If a young mom wants advice, she will ask for it from someone and it will likely be someone who has dealt with a similar size family or who is in the trenches doing it with them. There are tons of advice articles on the web and books at her disposal these days. Unsolicited advice will only make her feel like you don't think she is doing a good enough job and she may want to run and hide from you. I remember being given the advice to have a formal meal with my children when they were little to help teach them manners because their manners weren't good enough. I was appalled! It was all I could do to even slap a simple meal on the table much less have a formal meal. I was so busy running back and forth cutting up everyone's food, cleaning up spilled drinks, picking up half the food I had just cooked off the floor and taking people potty that I couldn't even sit down to eat some nights. I will never forget what it was like for it to be all I could do to get through dinner and how exhausting it was to clean up the tornado afterwards.

5. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!

I think the main thing that plagued me more than anything as mother of multiple babies and toddlers was discouragement.  Questions often ran through my head such as...Am I doing enough? Am I a good mom? Why can't I ever get the house clean, organized and pretty? Comparison is hard to avoid during this season. Look for things that the young mother is doing well and avoid bringing up the areas you think she falls short with her children. If you see that her children are helpful, compliment her on it! If you see that her children have a heart for the Lord, tell her! Any good that you see, be quick to tell her and let her know that she is doing a good job! Let her know that you are praying for her during this season and that you are proud of the job she is doing. Love her well during this season that will be gone all too soon. May I never forget what it was like to be a mother of babies and toddlers! Lord help me to  always offer up plenty of grace for these exhausted, courageous mothers raising up the next generation!

5 kids ages 8 and under!