By Adrienne Buckingham*
Everyone descends on new parents to meet the newest, smallest, most malleable member of a family. This is wonderful. And exhausting. And it doesn’t last long.
Here are some helpful tips for those participating in the tidal wave of affection … 8 ways you can help out a family who’ve just welcomed a new baby into the house.
Do not descend immediately
Clearly this advice does not apply to siblings, parents and best buddies. Consider this, though: After the birth of my first daughter, I was visited by every Tom, Dick and Harry I had ever worked with in about the first fortnight of her life. By the time her one-month birthiversary rolled around, I was hanging out by myself most days. Once I was well rested enough to comprehend this trend, it made me sad. Had I been a bad host? Probably, because I was distracted by the huge new responsibility of being in charge of another being’s life and my ability to make conversation was greatly diminished by the pain I was still experiencing from my stitches.
After the birth of my second daughter, I thought I could control the masses. Only my sister-in-law, closest friends and parents were invited to the hospital. Visiting hours started at 2pm. By 2:05pm, I had 8 people (who didn’t necessarily know each other) crowded around my bed. While I was happy to see them, I was also overwhelmed and my loving urban family probably sensed this.
By 2:30pm, my baby and I were alone. And she was asleep.
One of the best things that happened though, was that one of my colleagues and his wife visited my daughter and I for the first time, three months postpartum. The tardy couple were embarrassed it had taken so long. I was thrilled! All the excitement of people I like gushing over my baby AND I had the energy to enjoy it! I also had had enough time away from work that I was desperate to catch up on work gossip.
Every new mother has her own timeline but it’s worth asking her what it is!
Easy and obvious.
Lots of people will bring sweet treats (and who doesn’t love cake?!). True friends will bring milk, fruit, cheese, and/or bread. And superstars bring homemade lasagne, a bottle of wine or pay for pizza to be delivered during arsenic hour.
Make your own cup of tea
And while you’re at it, make one for the new parents. They need the caffeine more than you do. As they gratefully lap up the first hot drink in weeks, this is a perfect opportunity to …
Offer to hold the baby
If the answer is no, do not be offended.
If the answer is yes and baby cries, offer to return the baby. On second thought, also offer to continue holding the crying baby because that can be helpful, too.
If the answer is yes and a parent is not clamouring to have their child returned, encourage mum to get into a hot shower, take her time and shave her legs if that was part of her normal pre-baby practice.
Of the parents and baby. Together. And then get one printed for the new family. Not many of these exist.
Laundry is a never-ending cycle. Hopping in at any stage is the easiest way to improve the ‘feel’ of tidiness in a house. That or dishes. Wash and put away some dishes!
These options are also not as gross as scrubbing toilets. However, if you want to prove your loyalty and earn that honorary ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’ title, getting on your hands and knees will definitely help your case.
Leave within the hour
You have 60 minutes from when you enter the door to when you’re officially outstaying your welcome. Taking off your shoes and jacket? 59 minutes.
Extensions are possible if:
You are holding baby and mum is still in the shower.
You are holding baby and mum is asleep.
You are cleaning any part of the house.
A shortened 30-minute rules applies if:
Baby is less than a week old.
You did not bring food.
You do not know both parents’ middle names.
This is your first time at the house.
And the final suggestion … Please come again!
You are important. You are loved. You are part of the village that is raising this child, so keep showing up long past the ‘new’ phase.
*Adrienne is a mother of 3, step-mother of 1, educator, coach and occasional blogger. As a well-being and positive psychology enthusiast, she truly believes that "We are each other's environment". Find her work at www.adaptinbrains.com and her flippant blogging at http://loudmouthblabbing.weebly.com/