New parents are a special breed. They go from reading the Sunday paper leisurely and lingering over coffee to sleep-deprived zombies who can’t remember if they’ve eaten or showered in days. Their life of lazing about is over for a time. And they may be in shock. That’s where you step in. Your offer to give them time to regroup is the best baby gift you could ever give them. Here are some ways you can offer your time and energy to those who have neither.
Offer to go over and clean their house. If you know them well (for example, it’s your sister and her husband), chances are she’ll gladly accept. Do the dishes, mop the floors, take the garbage out and clean the bathrooms. If you’re not sure how the new parents will react to your offer (for example, if they’re neighbors and might feel awkward about you seeing their mess), send over a cleaning professional from a local service for the day with your good wishes. They’ll be thrilled to have the extra help.
Throw a couple of loads of laundry in the next time you’re over. If it’s family, they’ll definitely accept your help. If you’re not so sure they’ll want you seeing their dirty laundry, you can offer to change the sheets on everyone’s beds and wash them. No one would object to that. Offer to do all the towels, burp clothes and dirty baby bibs. Make sure you take the laundry all the way through from wash to fold so the new mom doesn’t have to go back and figure out where you left off.
You can either cook meals or bring them prepared meals to eat or freeze or bring in groceries to stock their pantry shelf. Take the time to put everything away in the freezer or cabinets. This will be a great help. One thing you shouldn’t do is set up your cooking station at their house using their pots and pans and supplies. You’re trying to provide a break, not more chaos and mess. When in doubt, bring in coupons for takeout that delivers to their house so they can order meals when they need them.
It takes a Herculean effort to get out of the house with a newborn. By the time you bundle them up, pack the diapers and bottles and secure them in their car seat, you’re exhausted. Save the new parents that hassle by running their errands yourself. Pick up dry cleaning, run in for a quart of milk and bread, return the DVDs or library books, pick the kids up from school, get stamps at the post office, put gas in their car, run into the pharmacy. Help out in any way you can as there’s no such thing as just running in somewhere with an infant in tow.
Often there are children from previous marriages involved when a new baby comes. Or older siblings may feel left out when a new baby comes. Offer to watch the other kids for the day while mom and dad focus on the baby. Take them to the zoo or for ice cream at the playground. You’ll be the hero of the day in everyone’s eyes.