A slightly above-average achiever's guide to parenting
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Visiting a New Mom
April 27, 2015
I will be the first to admit, that before I had kids, I didn't "get it". I didn't understand why my friends with kids wouldn't come out for drinks at 9pm anymore. I didn't appreciate the fact that my sister in law took her 7 month pregnant self and her two kids from New Jersey to Arizona for our wedding, and what a heroic effort that was. And I used to smugly refer to my coworkers who had kids as "taking time off from 5-8" before they would log back on.
Now, on the other side of things, I understand that as a parent, if you can, you might be asleep at 9pm so you don't want to start drinking at 9pm. I understand that if you travel 5 hours on a plane with 2 kids and make it through a wedding when it's 99 degrees at 7 months pregnant without killing someone, you should be given a flipping medal. And I intimately know that the hours from 5-8 are not "time off" but a slog of fighting a meltdown, cooking dinner, feeding dinner (or frankly, picking dinner off the floor), bath, stories, bed time, bed time again, and bed time for real this time, Chewbacca, I'm not kidding.... followed by shoving some kind of food in YOUR mouth before you log back on to "work" for the 3 hours you missed.
It comes as no surprise then, that when I would visit friends with new babies before kids, I often would overstay my welcome, bring stuffed animals and nothing else, and awkwardly hold the baby for like two seconds. But now, I am a pro on what to bring and what to do for a new mom. I fully plan to send this out to all my friends and family should we need their assistance with wookie #2 some day. This is what I've learned a new mom really needs when you come and visit:
When to Come:
I'm a big believer in waiting at least 6 weeks and up to 2 months to visit unless you're immediate family. Definitely let them know you're thinking of them and that you'll schedule a visit when things calm down. But those first few weeks are crazy with tons of people visiting. It's around the 6 week mark when you start to realize this new situation is permanent, and that coincides with when the sleep deprivation is really adding up. And oddly, that seems to be when people stop showing up to visit. So it's really nice to come by when your friend will need you the most. Plus, this strategy pairs really well with the "I totally forgot and couldn't get my act together to visit you for 2 months" problem I often have.
What to Do:
Stay for only a short amount of time unless you're a good friend, or if your friend insists that you stay.
Offer to hold the baby so the mom can take a shower, eat some food, or just not be holding a dependent creature for awhile. But wash your hands first, especially if you came on the T.
Listen. Even if it's about their new nursing schedule or their engorged boobs.
Be prepared with moderately interesting stories of the outside world in case your friend is out of small talk. But don't make them too jealous by talking about your nights out and the fancy dinners you've gone to.
Offer help of concrete things. Instead of saying "Let me know if I can help you with anything", offer specific things like "Let me throw a load of laundry in for you", "Can I walk your dog for you?" or, "I've made you an appointment to get your hair done while I watch the baby", (that last one is really just from Sex and the City...I've never offered that to anyone). Often times people don't know what to ask for or how to ask for it. Just make it easy for them to say yes.
If you have a overly polite friend who swears they don't need help, you can always help-ambush them by bringing wipes with you into their bathroom and giving their bathroom a quick wipedown. But this might be me just NEEDING to force kindness upon people. So proceed with caution on this move.
What Not to Do:
Linger. Mama needs sleep.
Be offended by anything the new mom says or does. She's unde-rslept, overwhelmed and not feeling like herself. She may need to kick you out, she may not be mentally able to make small talk (I know I wasn't), she may just not be herself. Don't take anything personally and know your friend will return to you.
Expect them to make you anything. Be pushy and open their cabinets and get yourself a glass of water (and them too).
Bring unnecessary or cute gifts. I promise they already have them and they've already been puked on.
Give unsolicited advice. I'm sure your friend's sister's cousin's hairstylist's baby started sleeping through the night the minute they used a white noise machine, but trust me, your friend has read about all the tips, and unless they ask, they don't want to hear about it.
No seriously, don't you dare enter that house without it. Even if you don't want to cook something, stopping at the grocery store for snacks is extremely appreciated.
Ask about allergies first. I was amazed to learn firsthand that if you're nursing, there can be a lot of things your baby won't tolerate.
If you don't want to ask about allergies, just stay away from dairy and soy (easier said than done).
Think of things that are high protein and are easy to eat with one hand. You think I'm joking, but the food I appreciated most was snack foods that I could eat while nursing.
Specific Food to Bring.
Healthy and/or protein packed snacks that can be eaten with one hand (mostly):
Ants on a log.
Washed, cut and prepared veggies and fruit. I know I'LL eat healthy if it's there, but fresh food just takes so much timmmmeee to prepare.
Granola Bars (aka something you don't have to cook)
Anything that freezes well is great. But here are some of my favorites (with a big thank you to my mama friends for passing along these recipes when I asked!)
Whatever you make, make it in a disposable container (she doesn't need to wash your stuff, she's barely washing her own stuff). Write the instructions on the top. Bonus points if you make a double dish for your own family. I suppose they'd appreciate it if you cooked them a meal too, right?