This might seem kind of obvious, but I had a lot of really useless (but well-meaning) helpers when the kids came home so I thought I’d write a bit about it. This isn’t meant to be angry or bitter…. Just informative.
I’ve always been super defiant and obnoxiously independent, even when I was pregnant. We moved into our current place when I was 7 months pregnant (and huge) and my mother-in-law basically had to guard me to make sure I wasn’t doing any moving or serious unpacking. It drove me crazy but I understood, and underneath my defiance I was grateful for the help. The last thing I needed was to go into labour early (joke was on me anyways, I went into early labour 19 days later…)
Once I had the kids my ego dropped a bit. I knew I needed help. Watching the state of my house deteriorate was frustrating but I could do fucking nothing about it. I was drowning in newborns! I was at the hospital during pretty much all waking hours for the first 6 weeks of my kids lives, then after that the real work began. We had a cleaning lady for a bit but then COVID hit and she had to bail. But even before that I’d have a few of my friends come over to “help.” It was super frustrating. Not only was my perfectionism clashing with my not giving a fuck, but I was also so overwhelmed with becoming a parent – to twins no less. I had zero brainpower. Plus I was going through some sort of nesting phase where I just didn’t want to see anyone except my husband and my babies. I think this is important to mention because before kids I was incredibly social and loved to be around my friends. I still do, but it’s different now. I get way too exhausted to catch up or visit.
Anyways, these few friends would come by – well-meaning as they were – and ask me what I needed them to do. All I could muster is “I don’t know. Just come chill and hold a baby.” What I should have said was “yes, please do the dishes. Cut the veggies in the fridge. Watch these kids while I sleep/shower/leave the house for half an hour to see what the outside world looks like.” Because that’s what I really needed. I was just too brain-shot and sleep deprived to realize it. My mind went blank when they asked. And then I got somewhat resentful because they put me in a position to ask for it. I’m awful at delegating. I am way better at just doing things myself. There was at least one time where I just got people to hold or watch the babies while I got up and cleaned (which wasn’t the worst thing ever because at least I felt like I was accomplishing something. I didn’t find the first couple months of being a parent to be that rewarding. More on that later.)
Moral of the story – if you have a pregnant friend or a new mom in your life and you want to help, here’s a few ideas to get you going.
- Bring snacks or prepared meals -The first 1 to 3 months of being a parent is a fucking blur. It’s hard to make time to eat, let alone put a meal together. Plus it’s nice to have finger foods or snacks when you’re living one-handed and it’s too easy to eat shit food all the time.
- Make a lasagna or a shepherd’s pie or something for the freezer. Write reheat/cooking instructions on it so no brain power is involved.
- Bring leftovers from the meal you made the night before.
- Bake mini-muffins. See above comment about living one-handed. Morning glory muffins are a good way to get some veggies and vitamins. And it tastes like cake.
- Bring washed and cut veggies/fruits. Good for the brain AND the butt.
- Bring trail mix or something
- Fuck it, bring chips and cookies and candy. Comfort food, yo!
- If you want to help clean – just clean
- Don’t ask what needs to be done. You can see what’s up, just pick a task and go to it.
- If you feel the need to ask, maybe go about it like “hey I’m gonna do the dishes, is there something else that’s been bugging you that I can do first?” I bet you dishes is going to be the number one frustration. Or garbage. Or laundry….
- Don’t be there just to chat
- This one is tricky, but I’ll put it on cuz it’s how I felt. Your friend probably loves you but is super overwhelmed. If they want conversation, they’ll probably talk to you. Otherwise maybe just kinda hang out. Or don’t.
- Help with kids (if you can/she wants you to)
- Some moms are attached enough to their kids that they won’t want anyone really helping at that point. Some kids are so attached to their moms they’ll lose their shit if anyone else holds them. But in the event that kiddo takes a shine to you, let mom go get some sleep. Or maybe she wants to go for a drive or walk or something. Offer to hang while she goes to just be her for a minute, not mom.
- Offer to pick up groceries or something for her
- If you can’t do any of these things, don’t bug her.
- Feel free to send a “hey, thinking of you” message or something but don’t expect a reply right away. The few friends I’ve had that have had babies since I had mine I specify that I am not expecting a reply at all, let alone in a timely manner. Shit is exhausting and overwhelming to say the least. I still have trouble talking to people. I just want to nest.
- DON’T buy bouquets of flowers.
- They’re too busy to change the water and they’ll likely just sit there dead and moldy for a few weeks until they start to stink.
- DON’T stay too long. Hour or so is plenty unless you’re cleaning or whatever.
- DON’T show up unannounced
This list obviously comes from my experience, and everyone is gonna be different and have a different take on it. But hopefully this offers a decent guideline for non-parents to help their new parent friends. I feel like if I had no kids I’d have zero idea about most of this. I remember when my close friend from high school had a baby almost seven years ago. I didn’t hear from her until a month or two later, and I was kind of offended she didn’t tell me right away. I actually think about that a lot lately, and laugh hysterically at myself in my head. If I only fucking knew…. If you don’t – I can only tell you that it’s an inexplicable experience. No one can prepare you for the changes in your life. It’s like a train wreck of hormones, emotions and more responsibility and work than you could imagine. It’s pretty rough for that first month or two, and stays rough for a while after. So cut your pals some slack!
Have you had a similar experience? Agree or disagree with things on this list? Comment and lemme know! I’d love to hear it.