A baby was born and as a well-wisher, this is your time to shine! You are a font of encouragement, registry gifts, and unsolicited advice. Oh sure, you mean well but if you really want to support a tired, new mom, please refrain from these tired, old refrains.

Cherish every moment

It took me thirty-seven days and fourteen YouTube videos to learn how to use a Moby Wrap. The first time I had the guts to try it, my tethered child experienced diarrhea so explosive we looked like one of those banquet hall chocolate fondue fountains. Have you any idea how hard it is to unfurl sixteen feet of soiled fabric from your body without flinging feces at innocent bystanders? There will be no commemorative photo of this milestone.

Sure, there are lots of great memories, but there’s a boatload of crappy ones too (PUN INTENDED). You don’t have to cherish every memory or love every minute, so let’s get rid of this unrealistic expectation and stop making moms feel guilty for having normal, human emotions.

Try this Instead: Even the best moms don’t relish every second! Keep a sense of humor, be patient with yourself, and might I recommend the Baby Bjorn?

This is your greatest accomplishment

One time I had so much Kohl’s cash and coupons I bought $164 in merch and got $1.74 back. That is my greatest accomplishment. Today my son trapped himself in a Dutch oven of his own making so yeah, the jury’s still out on where that accomplishment ranks.

Putting parenthood above all other accomplishments not only diminishes those achievements, it chips away at who that person was before they had kids. Yes, becoming a parent is a wonderful accomplishment but so is running a marathon, performing a successful surgery, or helping your third grader reduce a fraction. Successes don’t cancel each other out. You get to be the whole package.

Try this Instead: This little person is so lucky to be raised by someone so accomplished. Now, can you tell me the difference between a numerator and a denominator?

Maybe Dad can babysit?

Oh, that would be swell because Dad’s been saving up for a skateboard and some Pokémon cards! Why is it when my husband has a work trip or goes out with friends, I’m simply staying home with my kid, but when I’m angling for some of that much needed self-care I keep hearing about, I’m supposed to ask the child’s father to babysit. Say it with me, people: DADS ARE NOT BABYSITTERS. Do you honestly think I’m paying that man whose blood is coursing through our child’s veins an hourly wage to watch our kid while I run off to the grocery store?

Not only does this antiquated, unbalanced line of thinking make mothers feel resentful, it’s insulting to fathers. As it turns out, a lot of dads actually like spending time with their children and don’t expect an hourly wage. And while we’re breaking all sorts of news here, moms don’t need permission to leave the kids at home with another capable adult.

Try this Instead: It’s great to see how well the two of you support each other, but if your partner did babysit, how much would he charge?

Make Sure You Treat Yourself

Oh, but I am! Who do you think rubbed this candelilla wax on my cracked, blistering nipples? Maybe I should ask that live-in babysitter dude who bears a striking resemblance to my child if he’s free for two hours so I can spend an hour doing pelvic floor exercises.

Yes, we know we should treat ourselves just like we know we should floss and not count a roll of Berry Fusion Tums as a fruit serving. If we want new moms to treat themselves, let’s stop calling it a treat. Getting a haircut or going for a walk with a friend isn’t an indulgence. It’s a normal, healthy part of life. And you’re not tricking me into thinking bathing and rubbing charcoal into my pores is self-care when it’s regular hygiene and maintenance. I take a long, hot shower just as much for you as I do for me—trust.

Try this Instead: Childcare is handled. Lunch and pedicures on me.

Let me know if you need help

So, about that self-care. I think we can all agree new moms need help and instead of asking if, ask what or how. Putting the onus on her to tell you what she needs is just one more thing for her to do. Show up, leave food, mow the lawn, empty the dishwasher, or better yet just hold that baby and let her get a few minutes of alone time.

Try this Instead: Hey, I just dropped off everything you need for taco night on your porch. Enjoy!

Too bad you have to go back to work

You may actually think you’re commiserating or genuinely sorry when the new mom has to return to work, but there’s no winning here. Even if she were able to work from home, she may not have childcare and women are feeling like they have to choose between being good at their jobs or parenting. (Not to mention parenting during a pandemic is next level.) Either she doesn’t want to go back and your sympathy piles on the dread or she can’t wait to go back and you’re making her feel guilty for not feeling guilty.

I returned to work ninety-three days after I gave birth and loved every second of it. I also love being a mom. Go figure. Moms are complicated.

Try this Instead: There is so much you have to adjust to. How are you feeling about (not) returning to work?

Oh, I loved having a newborn!

Simmer down, Mother Goose. Hindsight is delusional at best. You only think you loved having a newborn because you don’t remember being in the throes of it. You blocked it out. That’s biology tricking you, so you’ll keep procreating. Thankfully I didn’t fall for it because I tattooed reminders all over my body like that guy from Memento. LOW MILK SUPPLY! FEAR THE NAP! SECONDARY DROWNING! Never forget! Remember, misery loves company. Channel your inner Kathy Bates, pull up a chair, and keep nodding.

Try this Instead: Oh man, this is a really tough phase and I can’t believe how great you’re doing! Did I ever tell you about that time I got trapped in a Moby Wrap?

Shelly Mazzanoble is the author of Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game and Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons: One Women’s Quest to Trade Self-Help for Elf Help and co-hosts the official Dungeons & Dragons podcast, Dragon Talk. When she’s not writing books with really long subtitles, she’s writing about her child who thankfully hasn’t added the word “litigation” to his vocabulary yet. Her work has most recently appeared on Scary Mommy, Blunt Moms, Moms and Stories, Pregnant Chicken, Sammiches & Psych Meds, and In the Powder Room. Find her on Instagram at @two_old_moms and her blog at shellymazzanoble.com.

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