The Gift of Not Being There

Apparently my friends think of me as some kind of Baby Expert, because now Sara has a question for me (and you) about how to help out when a friend has a second baby. Although since the closest Sara comes to babies is when she scowls at them in the street I guess I AM an expert by comparison. Ha ha, just kidding. Sara only scowls at babies in restaurants and elevators like all normal people.

Here’s the question:
So my cousin’s wife (We’ll call her M to make this easier) is having a baby next Tuesday. My cousin is the one who does my taxes, so I owe him, like, an enormous fruit basket or a kidney or something. They have an almost-four-year-old daughter. What can I offer to do to help? Make food? Take the older kid to the museum for a few hours? If you or your hordes of minions have suggestions for how to help out the second-time parents, I’d appreciate it.

Here’s my advice:
Take the older kid. Taker her far far far away. Take her to a museum and to lunch and to a big space where she can run around and burn off energy. An almost-four-year-old should be a fun date for half a day or so and M will definitely appreciate being able to rest – a newborn is CAKE compared to a toddler. Food is good too, but I would suggest a pizza gift card or a delivery of something like brownies or, well, a fruit basket instead of a frozen meal. Big casserole trays take up a lot of space and if M has done any pre-baby cooking herself her fridge and freezer might be full. You could, of course, call ahead and say “Don’t make dinner Tuesday, I’m bringing something over” and deliver a fresh made meal (or maybe have a nice local Chinese restaurant deliver a fresh made meal) because that saves on both the trouble of making dinner AND the sink full of making-dinner dishes – for some reason, dishes are the absolute hardest thing for me to stay on top of as a mother of 2. Even worse than laundry.

Here’s the important part: when you DO go over to deliver food/pick up their child/offer a kidney, DON’T STAY. Keep it to 2 minutes tops. Don’t sit on their couch, don’t use their bathroom, don’t stay for a meal, don’t so anything that would require M to feel the need to apologize for her unwashed dishes and dirty floors and sweatpants. As much as I loved having people stop by to visit I died a little inside every time the doorbell rang because of the state of my kitchen counters. They were SHAMEFUL. I was even more ashamed of my dirty kitchen than I was of wearing pajamas at 3 pm and no makeup and greasy hair – because what was I doing with my time if it wasn’t making myself presentable OR loading the dishwasher? I AM A LAZY FAILURE.

So. In short: help with the older kid. Drop off fruit basket. When you see M, say “You look so great! Your baby is adorable! Your toddler was SO well behaved at the museum! She clearly has awesome parents!”

Personally, I would find that even better than a kidney. And that’s coming from someone who could actually use one.

How about you, friends? What was the MOST HELPFUL thing someone did for you after having a baby?

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16 Responses to “The Gift of Not Being There”

  1. Cole says:

    Mommy seconds the fruit basket – we always send edible arrangements instead of flowers for a new baby; flowers are work – you have to trim the stems, get them in a vase out of toddler’s reach, and remember to toss them before the become a desiccated mess of twigs on the dining room table (not that we know from personal experience or anything). Fruit? Easy, just enjoy!

    And we never let anyone in unless they brought food or offered to do laundry. :)

  2. Susan says:

    I concur with your idea of taking the older child for an outing. Take the time to find out what they enjoy and then do that with them. You’ll not only be giving the new parents a break, but you will also be lavishing attention on a child that up to the arrival of the baby was used to being the center of everyone’s attention.

  3. Joanna says:

    Oh my. Can you send this to all of my friends and family towards the end of May ;-)

  4. Suz B says:

    Thanks for doing this post! As someoen who’s not yet a mom, I’m always wondering this too! Oh & usually when I go visit a new baby I’m too busy oohing & ahhing over the baby to notice kitchen counters if that makes you feel any better. :)

  5. Robyn says:

    i didn’t have the forethought to premake dinners before having my first, and probable won’t before my second, so i was grateful to friends that brought dinner. i much preferred that to cookies or desserts or anything. i liked not having to think about dinner at all, and just having it handed to me. if you offer to take the kid, just make sure the mommy is the type who would be ok with that, because i wouldn’t…but then again i am extremely possessive, as i have major working mom guilt.

  6. sarrible says:

    This is awesome. Thank you! I’m having a snow-postponed lunch with my cousin today, so I will try to make arrangements to take their daughter off their hands for a little while in a couple of weeks.

  7. raincheckmom says:

    As far as the meals go I really like the idea of calling early in the day and offering to cover dinner by delivering a freshly prepared meal – ready to eat (homemade or take-out). Especially if there are no helping hands (i.e. Grandmother) around to thaw and heat the meals from the freezer (which, by the way, are terrific too). The Mom is essentially brain-dead and thinking ahead about dinner is difficult.

    The fresh fruit is also a wonderful healthy choice for the whole family to enjoy.

    Taking the older child out for several hours is a great idea! Before I had children it never occurred to me to offer! That would have been much appreciated…

    • Jennie says:

      I like the fresh prepared meals too. I do it for all new Moms in our “circle.” (being we are in the service, that’s pretty much anyone I can throw a rock at!) I go so far as to bake it in the disposable bakeware, and deliver it with paper plates. I usually add a salad and some kind of dessert too (usually ice-cream). That way they can eat it, and throw away. Yummy food, easy clean up that even a Dad can handle.
      I had a friend bring me pizza once too. And on my third child, not only did my girlfriend take my oldest for a sleepover about a week after the baby came, she also stayed with my children while I was in labor and cleaned my kitchen.

  8. Kim says:

    Awesome,awesome, & perfect! And if you bring food, make it toddler friendly. There were nights we were too tired/frazzled to think through a meal for ourselves, but the toddler needs to eat like clockwork. A cousin brought us a big dish of chicken cutlets and Mac & cheese, and JD lived off that for days!

  9. bellegourmande says:

    Food!!!! Definitely bring food. That was a lifesaver for us. Also, helping wish dishes, laundry, or any other housework you feel comfortable doing is always appreciated.

    I don’t have a second one yet, but I’m sure that taking the toddler off the mom’s hands for several hours would be wonderful for her.

  10. Abby says:

    All of the above. I had my MOMS group friends bring me over dinner every day for ten days (AWESOME.), there’s an organized program that they have when someone has a new baby, surgery, etc. It was wonderful having fresh dinners, yet not having ten casseroles crammed in my freezer. Also, my best friend came over a few times in the first month to do little bits of housework…she did the dishes, cleared the countertops, gave the house a quick once-over until it was at least liveable. And perhaps the best thing was when someone would take my 3 year old for a few hours! Or, would come over and hold the baby for a few hours so I could have some one-on-one time with my older girl.

    Really, you are so tired the first few months after having a baby, ANY help is appreciated!

  11. Miranda says:

    My department at the school has 13 women in it. There was a steady stream of food into my house for 2 weeks! It was fantastic. Even though I ended up not being able to eat half of it because of the dairy allergy :(

    But the biggest, nicest thing someone did for me as a mom of one? My best friend and her mother came over and brought me Subway. Then Karen (the friend’s mother) proceeded to stand up and sway with Joshua until he was conked out. And then she held him while he slept so I could have a couple of hours without a baby in my arms.

  12. Brigid Keely says:

    After I (the oldest) was born, my parents literally did not leave me alone with anyone else until I was 3 years old, when my mom got pregnant again and needed to take lamaze classes, so I had my first ever sitter.

    When my son was just a few days old, my MIL tentatively offered to take him over night with a bunch of caveats about how we could come get him etc etc etc all and check on him etc etc.

    I jumped on that like a cat on a cricket. Oh my GOD. I slept ALL NIGHT. Now, apparently, I’m some kind of weirdo because I had no qualms about letting my precious infant son bide his time in somebody else’s clutches… but seriously. The woman raised 5 kids. I trust her. And I do love my sleep.

    That is the best gift ever.

    That, and my brother coming over to help me carry laundry baskets to the laundry room (I had a C-Section, and could barely manage stairs; my husband worked during the hours the laundry room was open so couldn’t do laundry). He also drove me to a local thrift store (I don’t have a driver’s license) and was cool hanging out literally for two hours while I browsed and shopped, glad to be out of the house (SO GLAD!). That was really awesome as well. Best gift.

  13. Londonmum says:

    i love this post and am seriously considering sending it all my friends and family. With my first, none of my friends had kids and so bless them, sent flowers and arrived for extended visits laden with toys suitable for a 3 year old. Not one person brought food or offered to actually help out. I even ended up making cups of tea for everyone whilst totally wishing i had managed to have a shower in the last 4 days.
    This time I wish they would turn up and take Aidan out for a walk. That would be enough.
    My family all live far away and it’s the little practical things that make life easier.

  14. Julie S. says:

    We had a lot of people bring meals, which was amazing. Also, my mom brought over a LOT of groceries so that I didn’t have to leave the house for the first couple days (which would have been impossible due to my c-section). One morning when Brayden was particularly fussy, my mom came over to sit with him so I could sleep. It was awesome.

  15. […] January I adjusted to being a mother of 2 by almost falling apart and dispensing tons of helpful advice, but I also discovered how much I LOVED having another kid. I shared pictures of Caroline’s […]

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