Six gifts new parents secretly wish for that will make you their best friend.
I know that for many 20- and 30-somethings, it seems like everywhere you look, people are having babies. Pregnant women are swarming Chicago’s streets, and you can’t glance through your Facebook newsfeed without seeing a new baby (or five). Long before I had a baby of my own, when a friend would have a child, I would pop over to a baby boutique and get a cute outfit, a blanket or a stuffed animal as a gift, or if I was really on top of my game, I’d check out their registry and get the new parents something they needed.
Now that I've had a child of my own, I realize those are all viable options for supporting new parents and welcoming new babies. But what no one tells you – the gift giver – is that there is another list of great gift ideas, a secret list of things that newbie moms pine for, but more often than not, don’t have the courage to pipe up and ask their friends for.
You can’t register for these gifts, but if you could, I’m sure these would all have been at the top of my list. So, Oy!sters, I’m going to clue you in to the secret wishes of new moms, so that the next time you have a friend or colleague welcome a new baby, you can win the MVP award by offering the family one of these:
1. A home-cooked meal… or any meal that they didn’t have to cook themselves.
For the first few weeks of Colin’s life, I was proud of myself if I could manage to microwave and eat an entire veggie burger without some distraction. Cooking didn’t truly resume in our house for an embarrassing number of months, and that meant that too often I ate over-processed foods or spent far more than I’d care to admit on take-out. I had several friends who were thoughtful enough to bring food along when they came to meet C, and it was the sweetest thing I could have ever hoped for. Whether it was a casserole, a chicken dinner or a box of Chewy bars, it was all thoroughly appreciated.
If you like to cook, make something simple that freezes well. If you don’t, pick up sandwiches or even some snack food that is healthy and easily consumed one-handed, since it’s rare for brand new moms to have both hands free. If you’re out of town, send a gift card to a fabulous local restaurant that you know delivers. Bring a large enough amount for dinner for two – either her hubby will eat the other half, or she’ll have leftovers for the next day as well. If you want to go the extra mile, take the lead and establish an account on a site to help coordinate meal delivery (like Take Them a Meal or Care Calendar) and spread the word to all of the couple’s friends via email or Facebook.
2. A hot shower without the baby watching/a blaring monitor.
Visiting a new mom and meeting the new peanut is always fun. Seeing and snuggling a new baby and catching up with a new mom pal is wonderful. The only thing that could make the visit better?
If baby is sleeping when you get there, mention you would happily watch/hold him or her for as long as she needs to take a relaxing hot bath or shower. Mention, of course, that you’re not saying this because she looks filthy, but because most of her showers are rushed and she has to be attuned to the baby’s needs. Send her off and let her know you’ll give three loud knocks to the bathroom door if there is an emergency, but otherwise, she should enjoy the time to relax with baby safely cared for in the next room.
3. An hour or two of free babysitting/mommy’s helper-ing from a trusted friend.
There is nothing like an extra set of hands when you need them. While some moms are comfortable leaving their kiddo with a sitter or trusted friend right away, others are more wary, even with the most trusted of friends. Offer to watch their baby while they run an errand or two, or while they take a much-needed break for dinner with their spouse or a mani-pedi. If they aren't ready to leave the babe behind, let them know that you are available as an extra set of hands, whether it is for a trip to Jewel, a visit to Buy Buy Baby or her post-partum follow up visit at the OB’s office (you’ll hang in the waiting room with her tiny bundle of joy, of course). If she doesn't want either of these things, you can even offer to run her errands for her – just grab her grocery list and credit card and voila – best helper ever.
4. A cleaning lady.
This one is tricky because of course, a cleaning lady doesn't come cheap. I spent the first eight months of Colin’s life making pathetic attempts to keep up with the housework. I couldn't keep up with the never-ending laundry pile, the bathrooms were a fright and our floors were in constant need of a good sweep and mop. What I would have killed for (ok, maybe not killed for) was someone to come in and just do it. Finally, we gave in and hired someone to come every six weeks for a deep cleaning, but in the early days, I would have loved it if our group of friends had chipped in and gotten us a visit from a cleaning person. Or offered to clean. Or to watch the baby while I cleaned so I didn't waste precious nap time cleaning instead of resting.
5. A dog walker. Or dog sitter. Or dog entertainer.
Getting out of the house with a baby involves quite the learning curve for new moms. Add a leash with a hyped-up puppy at the end of it, and the first few weeks were truly just tough. We had a dog walker for the first couple weeks to help with the mid-day walk, but the most amazing thing one of my friends did to help was to take our dog out for a few play dates to give her some much-needed exercise that our short strolls around the block weren't adequately covering. Eventually, she started taking Kenzie for slumber parties every now and then so we could have a bit of rest from the walking and the pup got a huge dose of love and affection.
While this is not remotely the same, I can only imagine that if I were writing about a second child instead of a first, this would read “someone to take my older child(ren) for a fun adventure that is extra special for the big sibling(s).” Since I have no expertise in that department, I will just say that if my dog could notice the decrease in attention with a new baby, I’m sure that older siblings need that extra special time even more!
6. A beautiful picture of their child not taken with an iPhone.
I was so sad looking back at our photos from the first two months of Colin’s life to realize that 95 percent of them were blurry, grainy, poorly focused shots that my groggy self had carelessly snapped. If you have any photo skills, bring your camera along when you visit a new baby, and if mom approves, take some cute photos of the little one that you can send along later via email. Oh, and while I would never insist that mom stays in the picture, offer to take one of them together that you promise to share with no one but her, in case she hasn't been able to take many pictures of herself with the baby.
New and expectant mamas – if you covet any of the following things and are afraid to ask, I wrote this to give you an out. Just casually share this link and maybe your friends will catch the hint and surprise you with one of the incredibly helpful things listed. And gift givers, congrats on becoming the best. friend. ever.