08 May What New Mothers Really Want: The most desired gifts for new and not-so-new moms
What New Mothers Really Want: The most desired gifts for new and not-so-new moms
Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and you may have started to plan what to do for the mom who is dear to your heart.
You may have thought about booking a brunch or a dinner at her favorite restaurant, bought a card or planned to present her with a lush bouquet of flowers, jewelry, or a gift certificate for a SPA.
These are all quite thoughtful and are likely to make Mom happy. But here’s the secret; what moms really want cannot be bought but would mean a great deal more to her than any of the above. If you give them on a regular basis and not only on Mother’s Day, she will be eternally grateful to you.
- The Gift of Sleep. How basic and how simple is this and yet so essential and does not cost a dime. Mothers of young children are always tired. The constant care, chores, mental load (see gift no. 6) and multi-tasking tends to take a toll on their health and mood. Often, they are sleep deprived and function with little energy, which may result in grumpiness, impatience and even anxiety or depression. Sleep is precious so, if you can help Mom get more of it, she will thrive and be very grateful. Fathers sometimes take on a feeding and allow mother to have a longer stretch of sleep at night or they may go out with the baby or children for a couple of hours to allow Mom a couple of hours of rest during the day. You could brainstorm with your loved-one the most doable way to achieve that. She is bound to greatly appreciate that.
- The Gift of Non-Judgment. Our society is very quick to judge mothers. People will comment on just about anything that a mother will or will not do for her children. Mother-shaming is also common, especially, but not limited to breastfeeding. Moms unfortunately are experts on self-judgment, often being their own worst critic. They struggle to always do the right thing and be perfect. They do not need judgment from others.
This is a gift by omission, but if you can offer Mom your non-judgmental presence, it will sure go a long way.
How might you achieve that?
Simply by avoiding criticism, scrapping comments starting with “you should or shouldn’t,” not dismissing her concerns or unfavorably comparing her to others.
If you already do that, then you are one step ahead of the game!
- The Gift of Empathy. The word Empathy has been thrown around a lot in the past couple of decades. But what does it really mean and how can it help, you may wonder.
Empathy is the ability to sense and understand other people’s emotions. Expressing empathy is the ability to convey your understanding to the other person, not trying to change how they are feeling, dismiss their feelings or try for them not to feel their feelings.
For example, if a mother tells you she has had a difficult day, an empathic response could be “Sounds like you’ve had a rough day. I know it can be hard.” If you add “I’m sorry you’ve had a rough day,” then you would be adding sympathy to Empathy. Sympathy means conveying your own feelings about the other person’s situation vs. Empathy, where you express your understanding of their feelings. It is also important to avoid jumping in with solutions. These may have a place later. But what moms really want first and foremost is to be understood.
- The Gift of Recognition and Appreciation. A mother’s work is often invisible unless you observe her all day long. Between feeding, changing diapers, rocking the baby to sleep, taking care of other children if they are around, preparing meals and snacks, grocery shopping or lists, doing the laundry, making and going to appointments, responding to calls or e-mails and trying to take care of herself while she is doing all that, a mother never has a dull moment. Notice that even when children are napping, Mother is still “on call” and rarely has a real break.
Mothers often need and want practical help, but recognition and appreciation are precious. Examples of words of recognition and appreciation are: “Thank you for taking such good care of our child,” “I really appreciate how you manage everything so well,” and “I’m amazed at how patient you are with the kids.” A word of advice here: Make sure your words of appreciation are genuine. As tired as Mom might be, she can probably still detect an ingenuine comment.
- The Gift of Reassurance. Mothers commonly experience self-doubt, especially if they are first-time mothers. Babies do not come with a manual and expert opinions differ greatly and change constantly.
Mothers are frequently being advised to follow their instincts but then may be judged and criticized for their choices (see gift no. 1). That is a mixed message that many mothers receive from society. And while mothers try to do their best for their children, they do not always have the reassurance they need and would likely appreciate.
A simple way to reassure a mother would be to simply say “You’re doing a great job,” or “Look at this baby, they’re lucky to have you as their mom.” I personally have seen mothers burst into tears of relief and gratitude when I have reassured them that way.
- The Gift of a Lighter Mental-Load. Here is another term that has come to our awareness in recent years. Mental Load refers to the invisible, yet very real cognitive effort involved in managing all of one’s responsibilities. In simpler words, Mental Load is the weight on a person’s mind related to their multiple responsibilities.
Examples of such responsibilities are booking appointments, paying bills, thinking about needed groceries, renewing insurance or subscriptions, phoning your aunt on her birthday, organizing get-togethers, ordering your special vitamins online, remembering that more diapers are needed, just to name a few.
Studies have repeatedly shown that mothers experience a heavier mental load than fathers do, whether they work or do not work outside of the home. Even in couples where house-chores are shared 50:50, the bulk of Mental Load often falls on the mother. Unfortunately, a heavy mental load may take a toll on a mother’s physical and mental health.
So how can you give Mom the gift of a lighter mental load? Simple. First, you must understand what it is made of. Remember that Mental Load is invisible, so you may need to ask her about it. Second, you need to discuss with your partner what you could take off her list or simply take the initiative to do it. You may choose one thing at a time or something that you take care of on a regular basis. A lighter mental load is bound to bring more smiles to mom’s face.
- The Gift of Quality Time. When you have young children, you may struggle to spend quality time with your partner. Quality time is different than spending time under the same roof. It is a time of mindful connection, where the two of you pay attention to each other and express understanding, gratitude, and affection or just have fun together. I know you’re overworked and tired and probably have a million things to do, but spending quality time is a great relationship booster and a great gift to both of you. It does not have to be expensive because the main idea here is to connect. So, get off your phone or whatever your eyes are focused on and look at her lovingly. She is going to treasure it, I assure you.
Does this sound like a lot of work to you? It Absolutely is! Do you have to do it all at once? Absolutely not!
Start by becoming mindful of these precious gifts and then ask Mom what she would appreciate the most. She might be happy to create her own priority list. She is likely going to appreciate your intention and commitment to making it happen for her.
Next, work on becoming more familiar and more comfortable with the gifts one at a time. Some are bound to be easier and seem more natural to you than others and that is understandable. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification or guidance if you need it. Your care and true intention could be a great start.
A final word: Gifting Mom does not mean that you must give up on your own needs or wishes. There can be no happiness in a relationship if only one partner’s needs are being met. Finding a balance is the recipe for mutual happiness.
Dr. Michal Regev is a Registered Psychologist, a Marriage and Family Therapist and an Adjunct Professor (Emerita) at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. She has been practicing since 1995. For more tips and advice visit her website at https://drregev.com