There is an adage that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. It is true – but the population of ‘the village’ could be less than you think.
A lot has been written about how to cope with a new baby and it is all targeted at new mothers expecting parents. But what about those who surround the family who don’t know what to do or how to help? What about the new parents who are too overwhelmed to know what to ask for?
We did not have the luxury of having ‘a village’ to help raise our baby and with another one on the way now, I have been wondering how we ever coped.
How did we cope without a village?
We had a super friend.
Here is a list of nine tips that will help you to be ‘the village’ that a new family really needs but may not be ready to ask for yet.
(Our biggest mistake was that we told everyone ‘we are fine!’ and we gave the impression that we were coping really well – but in hindsight, we really could have used a couple more helping hands – we just didn’t know how to ask/who to ask because we were so tired and overwhelmed…)
So Super-friend – here is your chance to be super supportive when the new baby arrives.
1. Allow some time and space
Whilst this blog is about all of the things you can do, it is best to check first. It may be that your super helpful skills are not yet needed and it is really normal for the new family to need some private nesting time to adjust alone. They will need to ward off visitors soon enough, but let them have a breather first.
TIP: If you haven’t already – check the previous ‘how to be a super friend during labour and maternity’ posts for tips before this quiet period.
2.. Keep visits short
When the new family is ready to let you in, make sure you keep visits short. When once you might have stayed for a few hours at a time happily drinking coffee/tea and eating cake, now is not the time to over-stay.
New mummies will be tired. New daddies will also be tired. Even short visits can be unsettling for everyone – so try to limit your visit to a short period of time (an hour is perfect – under two hours is still ok but longer might be pushing it…)
3. Add a ‘please help me with’ list to the fridge
If you add a little list to the fridge with ‘things we need help with’ – then other guests can also (hopefully) be useful when they visit too.
Things on my list would be: hanging out the washing, clearing the mail, vacuuming, walking the dogs, cleaning the bathrooms, unloading the dishwasher, folding the washing, amusing my toddler…
Although all of these little chores are small, they can add up when a new little person is taking up all of the parents’ time. If you can tick one thing off for them while you are visiting, you will be a godsent-super-friend.
It’s ok that the new parents need help and they might feel embarrassed asking for it. With a little list on the fridge, you have given them a little way of asking that does not seem like they are begging for house-slaves. (It is a weird position to be in if you are used to being self-sufficient and I know I really struggled to ask for help when I needed it)
4. Love thy kettle
Never underestimate the power of a hot cup of tea delivered to a new mummy without her having to ask for one.
Another little tip is filling a thermos with hot water so that the tired mama can quickly re-make her (probably cold from forgetting about it) tea quickly. If they don’t have a thermos – this also makes a really practical ‘welcome baby and bring on our first family picnic’ gift.
5. Feed the boobs
One of the best things that ever happened to us when I was a new mummy was my neighbour bringing over a fresh batch of lactation cookies. These are energy rich-oaty-buttery-lsa and yeast-infused cookies that help sustain a breastfeeding mama.
Feel free to contact me for an easy recipe.
6. Feed the freezer
The new family may not yet know it, but toast is going to be on the menu sooner than they think.
If you can slip something nutritious into their freezer so that they have a quick re-heat meal, you may yet become a saint.
7. Encourage rest and recuperation
One friend in particular was amazing at this and for this I will always be thankful – she came over and minded the baby so that I could go for a walk outside by myself.
She minded the baby so that I could go to the toilet by myself. (!)
She minded the baby so that I could shower by myself. (!!)
Now she is already offering to mind our toddler at a moment’s notice so that we can go into labour without worrying about him. (!!!)
She qualifies as a super friend.
(These things are worth more than you think for early sanity).
NB: New mummies sometimes do not leave the house for weeks. Encourage your friend to at least walk to the mail box every day – getting outside is good for the soul.
8. Get creative with allowing mummy some me-time
Becoming a new parent can be amazing, overwhelming and mystifying all at once.
Even though you have come to visit the family, maybe you could take the baby out for a walk so that they can sneak a little nap in.
Some other ideas might be: dropping off some books/magazines, running a bath, gifting a pedicure or a new nail polish colour, bringing over a face mask or hair treatment or dropping off a DVD…
(I remember when I was allowed to have an hour in my studio uninterrupted and I felt so rejuvenated for having had some me-time!)
9. Give words
If you don’t live near the family, you can still be a super-friend by checking in with them regularly. Send a text rather than phoning them so that if the family is napping you won’t disturb them.
Just let them know that you are there.
Encouraging words from a good friend go a long way to making a new parent feel like they have a village, even if they are mostly alone.
They say it takes a village to raise a child – but one super-friend can make a big difference too.
You might just be the difference they are waiting for.