For those of us that have chosen to have children the “Babies in Arms” concept is a constant reminder of our dual roles. We want to support our spouses and attend functions, but we are also full-time mothers. How do you juggle both? What’s appropriate? Where is this invisible line drawn?
For the majority of military functions: “Babies in Arms” refers to immobile, lap babies. Essentially infants through about eight months. The majority of people do not expect you to leave your infant at home, especially if you are breastfeeding. It is becoming more and more common to see new mothers babywearing at military functions. Even though you may feel rebellious by bringing an infant to an adult event, give yourself some grace and remember that most of the people in the room have children as well.
What About Other Kids?
If you don’t want to leave your other kids, especially at a longer event like a ball, consider getting a room at the same hotel that the event is being hosted. You can then go back and forth from the event to your young children who are with a relative or sitter. This is pretty common, especially when events are held farther from home. As so many of us know, your babies don’t stop needing you just because they are now mobile. If maintaining their bedtime routine is vital, or you need to feed often, this is a great option.
You may find that some hosts really enjoy having kids around, even those who are older. If they are a homeschool family or they have kids of their own who will be attending, they may even have things just for children prepared.
Are Babies Really Welcome?
This is a very common question. With each event, you have to understand the host’s expectations. Will they see my baby as bothersome? Do I really care that much if they do? Will I spend the whole time mothering and not be able to enjoy myself anyway? The truth is, that it is ok and courteous to be concerned about someone else’s home. And some hosts do not mind. As a matter of fact, many hosts would much rather you bring your child(ren) rather than not come to their party. They probably went through a great deal of trouble and planning to throw the party and need people to attend.
When considering bringing children to an in-home event, that doesn’t specify that they are welcome, do the adult thing and just ask! If they tell you “no”, then you can decide if you want to get a sitter and go without them. If they say yes, try to only bring the children that really need you that day. It is rather inappropriate to bring a 3-year-old who touches all of their belongings if you can avoid it.
What About When I’m the Host?
If you are the host, and you are including children in your invitation, how you treat, accept, and help this mother will not only reflect on you but will create the baseline expectation for building a mom tribe. It is up to you to welcome her. It is up to you to say, “Please use the guest bedroom for changing, feedings, and to escape the crowd if you need to.” Because at some point she will.
It is up to you to put her at ease with your own stories, to show her that she can and should attend events with her baby if she wants to. How you treat that mother, will determine whether she goes to another event. It will determine whether she gets a sitter for her new baby months before she ever intended to. It may push her to stay home until she’s ready to leave her baby. It may also encourage her to get out without her children.
You can never fully gauge the amount of anxiety a new mother has, but you can try to ease it as a host. Take the appropriate steps to give her the best experience possible. By doing so, you will create a chain reaction for many women to come. She will surely host something someday and remember the kindness you showed her in one of the most vulnerable times of her life.
Steps for Creating a Safe Space
- Give her a whole room. The guest bedroom, the master, or wherever, she needs space. She may not have ventured out of the house yet without help. She needs a large changing surface, a quiet space to retreat to if she gets overwhelmed; give her the room. If that room has a glider or rocking chair in it then it is even better.
- When she does retreat, check on her. Offer her a glass of water and a snack. Take care of her. Remember all the times you struggled to shower or brush your teeth while you were figuring it out? Ease that burden for her while she’s in your home.
- Offer to hold the baby in a way that isn’t demeaning. “I would love to hold the baby if you want to get some food, do the craft, or use the restroom.” Try to avoid asking “Can I help you?” Those can be scary words to a mother who already feels like she’s struggling.
- Make sure to include her in the conversations. “Tell us how you came up with the name?” “Did you have family come in to help you?” (You can insert your own in-law nightmare story here. And not just baby stories, ask her about other things that may interest her.
You may find a situation where babies in arms are not welcome. They are rare, but they do exist. The easiest way to make sure you are welcome is to ask. If they say “no,” then there will definitely be more opportunities.
As you venture out into the world with your baby, set out with good intentions. If you keep an open heart about each situation you will find events where babies in arms are welcome, you’ll also find quality people to fill your inner circle.
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