July 16, 2010

How Love Can Trump A Lack of Sleep

We all have new mom friends - lots of us still are new moms, or one day will be. I got some great suggestions and thought hard (really hard, as my brain has made the early days a hazy clump of diaper changes and pajama pants) about how others reached out to us after Mac's birth.

A few ideas to make new moms' lives easier:
  • Give them just a moment. The first week to ten days are a flurry of hospitals, doctor visits, family, friends and, oh yes, a brand new child. Let them settle in before you reach out.

  • Offer, don't ask. Offer to do something specific - we women aren't always the best at asking for what we need or making suggestions if a friend says, "What can I do?"

  • Help with thank you notes. Can you address them? Write them out as she nurses? Stamp and mail them for her? The nicest thing a coworker did for me was pick up stamps on her way to my house; I had 20 stampless thank you notes waiting to be mailed. I just couldn't get to the post office!

  • Share food. Always a winner. Our small group used an online meal registry to coordinate suppers for us; a friend put out monthly calendars at a baby shower last year so we could each sign up for dinners. Even sending a grocery store or restaurant gift card would be appreciated - particularly if they deliver!

  • Grab store-bought food. Don't feel bad! Most new parents forget to eat anything, so don't hesitate to grab a lasagna from the Fresh Market or, as one sweet couple did for us, bring over favorite Chick-fil-A combos for the family. It's the thought that counts, not the complexity of your generations-old casserole recipe.

  • Send hand-written notes of love and encouragement. Checking the mail is always a treat when sweet cards are there to greet you.

  • Reach out regularly, long past the first week home. Another new mom would text me occasionally with messages like, "Encouragement for today: You WILL sleep again!" or "You're already doing a wonderful job." They made good days better and tough days more manageable.

  • Be sappy if it strikes you! My dad is not a gushing, emotional type; he leaves that to my mom and to me. The first month Mac was home, though, he finished an ordinary email with: "I'm very proud of you." I couldn't read anything else he wrote. It was just what I needed to know.

    If you're proud, thrilled, or even in awe of a newborn's sweetness - say it. Everyone wants to know they're loved, that others recognize the utter perfection of their child, and that their hard work isn't going unnoticed.

  • Clean. If you're a close enough friend or family member, come over and chat while you sweep. Even better, let mom nap while you sweep, wipe down counters or fold laundry. That's a gift that keeps on giving.

  • Mow that lawn! Men may not feel comfortable cleaning or casseroling (that's not a real thing), but if your next door neighbors have a new baby or are just plain under the weather, he could ride that John Deere over your invisible property line and mow their lawn too. I'm certain that would be appreciated.

  • Chick-fil-A sweet tea. My grandmother and aunt came to visit and, after eating lunch with us, left me with a delicious gallon of CFA sweet tea. I don't know why that meant so very much, but it made the next few days delightful! This could just be me, though.

  • Offer your time. Could you come over for an hour on a Saturday so mom can nap? Or grocery shop for the family? Or she and dad can talk over coffee like real adults? Just a moment without someone attached to you could feel fantastic to a new mom.

  • Want to check one more thing off of her to do list before you leave? Look her in the eyes and say, "Do NOT write me a thank you note for this. Please." Bingo.

    What am I missing?

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