I have a lot of people asking me how they can help when my baby gets here. As I’m writing this, he’ll be here in 2 days (yay!!!), but by the time it posts he will have already arrived.
Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote an excellent post on 20 different ways to help. Read that article! It’s fantastic. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, so I’m just going to hit on what I think are the top 5 key ways to help out.
1. Ask what you can do, but don’t make things more complicated. It’s better to do nothing than to bring any extra stress, no matter how small. If the new parents aren’t able to articulate what they need, just figure something out. Don’t give them options and expect them to answer. I know that after having a baby, my head is full, and the last thing I want is to have to think about much of anything outside of my new baby, nursing, healing, and my current kids.
2. Bring food for the whole family. Ask before the baby arrives about any strong preferences, allergies, or aversions. Make things that are already frozen, or can be frozen. It’s a good idea to put them in disposable containers so they don’t have to worry about returning your stuff. Meals are wonderful, but don’t forget about snacks, too, especially if they have kids.
3. Hire a cleaning lady, or do some cleaning yourself. My mother-in-law got us a house cleaning the week before baby got here. It really took a lot of stress off of me. I think that going in with a couple of friends on 3 months of bi-weekly cleaning service is an excellent baby shower/new baby gift. If that’s not in your budget, or you’re not comfortable with it, then when you go to visit, wash some dishes, do a load of laundry, or clean the bathrooms. Don’t ask! Most moms (I know I would) will refuse or say, “Omg, don’t worry about that.” But if you show up and just do it, I’m not going to be mad! (Don’t mess with their stuff. Stick to the straightforward tasks like dishwashing. You wouldn’t want to go in their bedroom and start reorganizing…)
4. Bring activity bags for older siblings. This one is directly from Dionna. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it’s brilliant. You could make the activity bags with things like a felt book with characters, or give them a kit, like for bracelet making. Just find something cool that will occupy kids for hours. If they are into video games, you could even buy them a new game. Just be sure that if there’s more than one kid, you get a multi-player game. I don’t think the parents would appreciate you setting up days of fighting. ;D
5. Take the siblings out for fun, and offer to drive them to their activities. This one is probably the biggest. First of all, it can be daunting trying to plan how to get kids to their piano lessons, and other weekly activities. By offering to do such, you take a lot of stress away. You can take even more away by picking them up and taking them to the park, or over to your house for a play date. Don’t go overboard by trying to plan a weekend away or anything. The family bonding is still really important, but a few hours here or an evening there helps not only the parents, but the kids as well. They still have energy to burn even if their parents are exhausted!
BONUS TIP: Keep visits to their home short. I’ve been telling people 30 minutes to an hour in the hospital (and we’d better be close if you’re visiting me in the hospital), and 1-2 hours tops if you’re visiting me at home, less if you bring a kid. Not all new parents are comfortable enough to articulate that, but trust me, you can wear out your welcome fast. They are exhausted, and they are living in a bubble those first weeks.
BONUS TIP 2: Don’t take it personal if they turn down help or tell you they are not up for visitors at any time. It’s not personal, and good for them for speaking up for themselves. I’ve had people offer to come and stay with me in the hospital to take care of my needs, and I say no. I don’t want it. I have my husband there, and the hospital staff. What I need is space and quiet. Even if you’re my parent or my best friend, I appreciate your thoughts, I even want you to visit me, but you’d better keep the visit short and sweet, and you’d better not expect anything from me. That’s just me though. Different people have different needs, so it’s good to ask ahead of time, just don’t get offended if the answer isn’t what you were expecting.
Like I said, those are just the top things that I find the very most helpful, but you should really check out Dionna’s post with 20 ideas. There are some really good ones.
And remember that if you really want to help, anything you do will make a difference. And if you are not in a position to do much, simply sending them well-wishes and happy thoughts in the form of a nice card or even an email is a beautiful thing to do and will be appreciated.
Thanks for the great suggestions!
I agree so much with the “just do it” message. If your help will require the new mom to supply you with details or to answer questions beyond “what day should I come clean your kitchen?” it isn’t help! So many great ideas. Love it.