What are the best ways to help and support a young mama? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 08-22-2011, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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A little background -- my brother-in-law and his girlfriend just announced that they are pregnant. She's 18, is suppose to start her freshman year of college in a few weeks, and they've only been dating for a few months. They are both smart and sensible people, they have loving and supportive families, and by all appearances they have a healthy, respectful, loving relationship.

 

This is a challenging road they started down, though, and I need some advice on how my husband and I can best support and help them without being intrusive, or condescending or just plain annoying.

 

Can any young mamas out there tell me what gifts/advice they really appreciated during their pregnancies? Were there things that your older relatives did that drove you up the wall?

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#2 of 14 Old 08-23-2011, 02:35 PM
 
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Welcome to MDC. I can't comment on the young momma bit, as I was an inch from 40 before my two were born, but I think regardless of age:

Parents want advice IF THEY ASK. It is annoying for people to make comments, can feel like a judgement, unless they specifically ask. And I think young mothers get tons more comments than older women. 

Food is fabulous after a birth. Something pre-made they can take from the freezer and heat up. You are just soooo tired with a newborn, and an easy meal is worth it's weight in gold. Way more than material gifts. 

Ask what material gift they need. They will probably get tons of cute outfits, as that is what everyone likes to give; but they may NEED other things. 

Share this site with them. There is a due date club she could join now. There are also a Dads forum under parents as partners.

They have a hard road ahead, getting to know each other as well as a new baby soon. It's great they have supportive family around!  

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#3 of 14 Old 08-23-2011, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the ideas! I definitely don't want to start throwing unsolicited advice their way because I KNOW how obnoxious and futile that is, but I'm also anxious to make sure that they are aware of Atachemnt Parenting and all of its manifestations.

 

It was only by the barest chance that I learned about AP before my first was born and I shudder to think of what kind of parent I would be without it. I feel like I have a duty to spread the information around so that other parents know that there is another way. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of it just by being visible as a babywearing, breastfeeding mother in my small community, but I feel like I need to do more for a member of my family.

 

So, I guess what I really need are specific ideas on how to direct my BIL and his girlfriend to this website and others sources of AP info without seeming self-rightoues or interfering. Do I just continue my policy of "leading by example"? Targeted gifts? (I was thinking of something like a mei tai and a copy of Dr. Sears) Straight-forward email with a few links? ("These sites were a big help to me, maybe you'll find them useful too.")

 

Fort what it's worth, I don't think my BIL would be a hard sell, but I don't know his girlfriend very well and she's the one I don't want to offend!

 

It was only by t

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#4 of 14 Old 08-24-2011, 04:15 PM
 
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same thing recently happened to me... BIL got new GF pg, so we didn't know her at all. luckily, I just had first DC a few weeks after they conceived and she asked for a little advice. mostly questions about BF and BW but I took it upon myself to email her links to dr. sears, AP international, MDC, and kellymom. I, too, stumbled on AP by finding a forum by way of Internet search. It wasn't a long shot for me, I knew I wanted a natural birth and to BF. but I definitely may have done CIO and wouldn't have felt comfortable to co-sleep (which is a life saver since DS is not a good sleeper). I was worried if I didn't expose her to AP they'd raise the babe the way he did with his ex and they did CIO and much more. she was totally grateful (so she says) and said that she is digging the "alternative" ideas the websites have to offer.

I say, it can't hurt to shoot her an email... I also think your gift ideas are good! good luck!! you are going to be a wonderful auntie! orngbiggrin.gif

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#5 of 14 Old 08-25-2011, 02:56 AM
 
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When I had my first, people were really condescending to me, so I try hard to make new moms feel like I'm supporting them rather than insulting them. I think it's especially important if they are a young mom (which I wasn't). Here are some things that I do:

 

- I do suggest parenting advice, but never like I'm trying to teach them. My favorite type of thing to do is buy them a copy of Dr. Sears' Baby Book and give it as a gift and say "I'm not sure if you guys had a parenting strategy yet, but this is my favorite book. It really helped me when I didn't know what else to do and it made my life SO much easier. Plus, I love it because it uses parenting practices that are really gentle on babies."

 

- I NEVER tell new parents that they'll "change their mind" or things like "wait and see." Other parents still do this to me to this day and it's incredibly condescending and upsetting. If I make a parenting decision, I want people to support me, not treat me like I'm an idiot because it might not turn out the way I expect. Things don't always turn out the way anyone expects and there's no need to be insulting by stating the obvious. I just support the parent's decision.

 

- I love making new parents feel positive about parenting. Even the smallest little negative thing can have a profoundly negative affect on their parenting, even if your intentions are good. I throw in lots of things like "wow, you look so amazing," or "you guys are going to love being parents," or "you'll be an amazing mom, I can tell." Uplifting the parents has a more positive effect on their ability to parent than anything else. I feel like I would be a much better mom today if all of the other moms around me didn't drag me down from the start.

 

- Telling them things that let them know you support them is good, too. "People are going to tell you you're doing it all wrong. Don't listen to them. You'll be a great mom and know what's best for your baby. You do what you know your baby needs and screw what they think." And I have to say this knowing that I won't agree with all of their decisions, but that's all part of it. They don't have to do it the way I do.

 

- I don't know how other parents are, but I really hated when others bought me things for my baby. I don't know why. Maybe I'm nit-picky. I was annoyed at the types of clothes other people picked out (designs that I would NEVER pick out for my own child). I felt like I was being really ungrateful (and I was) so I never said anything. I just sucked it up. I'd say if you buy anything, just be sure to leave the tags on and say where you got it so they can take it back if they want to, or ask specifically what they need instead of just going out and buying things.

 

- And definitely the food idea! Offer to come over and help with laundry and cooking now and then.  :)


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#6 of 14 Old 08-25-2011, 03:15 AM
 
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+1 on everything above.

 

My niece got pregnant at 17 and by the time she was 20 she had 3 (one set of twins) under 3 and was married and divorced.  She told me that the one piece of advice I gave her was valuable beyond all others.  Like others above have said, I told her to simply trust herself.  That a lot of people were going to tell her a lot of different things (and they did, especially my sister and my elderly aunt), but that she should trust in her own instincts.  And I just said that I'd be there if she needed me.  Above all, I think support (moral or otherwise if possible) is valuable in these situations.  Young parents need to be empowered to know that they have the same parenting tools as older parents.

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#7 of 14 Old 08-26-2011, 09:42 AM
 
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What about offering to babysit? She might need some help while she does work for school.


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#8 of 14 Old 08-26-2011, 01:29 PM
 
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I was a teen mum (17) and the best thing anyone ever did for me was NOT treat me like a teen mum. They expected exactly the same from me as from any other mother. I didnt get special "teen mum" treatment. If I wanted to go out, I paid my dad to babysit. If i wanted to go to school or work I had to find daycare.

 

I saw many of my pregnant peers mothers step in and take over so thier teens could still be teenagers. Other mums I saw come in bc they didnt believe thier teen could parent without them.

 

All but ONE of those teen parents left thier kids with thier mother or the babys father to raise while they did thier own thing. And that was acceptable bc they were "young".

 

I didnt get that. The second my son was put into my arms he was my son. Period. I was no longer a teen. I was a mum. And I appreciated that more then anything. I still have my son 16 years later. He has never lived with anyone but me (and my husband).

 

So, that would be my answer. Dont treat them any different from the 38 year old mother who works as a teacher and is having her first child.

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#9 of 14 Old 08-26-2011, 02:01 PM
 
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my sister was a teen mom, then had another 10 years later.  i didn't realize until some of the conversations we had during her second pregnancy how profoundly self-conscious she was about her age while raising her first child.  she was a really great mom, but she was always afraid people were judging her and her son because of her age.  (e.g. thinking that he might not be very bright or that she was probably uneducated.)  be extra careful about helping, and as pp's have said, tell her to trust her own instincts.


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#10 of 14 Old 08-26-2011, 07:28 PM
 
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I was barely 15 when I had my first baby. What was awesome was when another (always older, because really, who was going to be younger? lol) mama just treated me as a fellow mom and not some pathetic pity/charity case. It was nice to know that I wasn't a total moron. ;) Just normal things like talking about pregnancy, birth, baby stuff etc was comforting. A feeling of acceptance as opposed to being some kind of social side show attraction. (not that I think you'd that of course!)

 

 Practical things? Hand me down clothes, sitting with the kid while I take a freakin' shower or a phone call. And what I wouldn't have given for a good example of gentle, devoted, outside the box parenting back in the day!


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#11 of 14 Old 08-26-2011, 08:37 PM
 
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I became pregnant with my son when I was 19 with a man I'd only known for about a month. Despite how it sounds he was planned. I wish I would've had more support and less criticism from people. Even when no one says anything insulting you just feel stupid walking around with a big belly and it just seems like everyone is "staring" at you. Aside from not offering advice that wasn't asked for never tell her she's young and always praise her when you see what a great parent she is. It always made me feel great when an older person would tell me what a good mom I was because I always felt judged bc of my age. I definitely second the person that said don't tell her "wait and see" or "she'll change her mind" everyone has a different style of parenting, there is no right or wrong. Don't buy any baby clothes plenty of ignorant people will do that for her. Any money you want to invest in her should go towards "needs". I had two baby showers where all I got was clothes. I wasn't working and my fiance was only making $500 bi-weekly. The only way we survived was on his student loans which put us $88,000 in debt. Ask her if she has a registry if she does let that be your guide, if not ask her what she wants. If you ever give her advice and she doesn't take it the first time DON'T BRING IT UP AGAIN! I cant stress that enough. My fiances mother brings up the same crap constantly it drives me NUTS. Something that helped us out (or saved our lives) was a goodnight trainer we bought at babies r us. After the baby is 4 months old (or 3 months if she formula feeds) you start using it. The device trains your baby to sleep in 10 nights or less guaranteed and we're the proof. It only took 3 nights for us. Diapers and wipes are always good and if she chooses to formula feed don't be judgmental and buy her some of that too. I believe bf is best too but its not my baby so I have no right to push anything, NO ONE DOES. Just be careful with how many links, books etc. you send because you may not be trying to be condescending but she might take it that way. If she welcomes the info the first time and asks for more than you're safe but if she ignores it than theres probably a reason. Most importantly be supportive and friendly no matter what. The fact that her and your BIL are in such a new relationship adds so much more stress it's hard to imagine. Also offer to take the baby from time to time when shes ready to have alone time with your BIL. They're going to have to get to know each other after the baby is born and her hormones are back to normal. I do agree with the woman that told you to treat her like an adult so I'm not telling you to be her free daycare. Although babysitting every once in awhile won't hurt her Independence. Basically treat her how you would want to be treated (if you were in her shoes) and everything will be fine!

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#12 of 14 Old 09-06-2011, 06:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello! OP here with a very belated "thanks" to everyone who took the time to share their wisdom. What I've gathered from everyone's comments is that the very best thing that I can do is to help her feel empowered and confident as a mom, to support her in her parenting decisions and to keep my mouth shut when I don't agree with them.

 

I suspected that this was the case, but I guess I needed confirmation. It makes sense that a parent who is outside the cultural norm for ANY reason would need extra big helpings of affirmation in their choices, not constant reminders (even unintentional ones) that the world-at-large expects them to screw up.

 

Many thanks!

 

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#13 of 14 Old 09-07-2011, 08:54 PM
 
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Late addition here.... offers for a simple house cleaning.  A gift card for last-minute baby items.  Another gift card for new nursing bras or new clothes as the baby belly fades (but the thighs and breasts stay!  I swear, *none* of my clothes ended up fitting me again.)   *Asking* what I needed would have been appreciated.  No guilt-trips about not being able to babysit the baby, or hold the baby or whatever.  I just wanted to cocoon and have the world get by without me.  (That was just my personality, though.  When I'm stressed I just need everyone to disappear.  That's a tall order when a new baby is in the family but a gift I would have found more wonderful than a mountain of treasure.)

 

The same for every mom, really.  From the other young moms' posts, I see that was what they wanted most.  To be treated like "every mom" and not as a kid with a kid.


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#14 of 14 Old 09-08-2011, 08:15 AM
 
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I think sticking up for them in conversations and not letting others talk about them would be kind. I'm basing this on my own extended family, which is very gossipy and judgmental.

 

Little phrases like "a baby is always a blessing" could help.

 

I don't think any body of any age really has a clue what they are getting into when they have a child. Every one goes through an adjustment. I think that with young people others are more likely to add this judgmental BS about it being about their age rather than the simple fact that raising a child is difficult. (I had my kids in my 30's)


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