Less advice, more washing-up: 6 ways to support new parents

Friends, cousins, grandparents; lend me your ears!

Hurrah! Your daughter or son/brother or sister/cousin/friend has just become a parent. You are likely to be very excited, and so you should be! Frankly, if you weren’t I would judge you. However, in your excitement over the baby you may not be quite up on your new-parenting etiquette. You will no doubt have the best of intentions. You will want to swoop in and lend a hand, maybe give a few hints and tips if you yourself have had a baby, or, like, read about it online. This is all good stuff, but it may need a little moderating. Remember, these people you have known for years have suddenly been handed the biggest responsibility of their lives, whilst also being sleep-deprived. This is not a combination that serves sanity at all well.

But do not fear! I have coined 6 simple rules to avoid any baby-related faux pas. (you’re welcome).

 

1) Become a Yes Man.

People we are close to are often the ones we’re most honest with. You know, like if a colleague at work says something you disagree with you let it fly, but if your sister says it you have a 30 minute stand-up row with her. (How dare she say Kim and Kanye’s love isn’t for reals??) It’s hard to tell a stranger when you think they’re wrong, but much easier when it’s your best mate; the person who has held your seventeen-year-old hair back in the loos after misguided boozing. This honesty is a sign of your closeness in itself, right?

Well, yes, but for now, just give it a rest. It doesn’t matter what they say, your new-parent friends/family are RIGHT. If they think it’s time for the baby to eat, they’re right. If they think it’s too cold to go for a walk, they’re right. Basically, unless they suddenly announce that they’ve decided to feed their baby McDonalds’ strawberry milkshakes instead of breast milk/formula, then they are right.

When baby first arrives on the scene most of us are one massive ball of doubts. Should I put an extra layer on him? Oh, but maybe he’ll overheat. It’s only been an hour, but I think he’s hungry, should I feed him? Is this okay? Is that okay? Arg *minor brain implosion*

So, when we actually make a decision, the last thing we need is to be told we’re wrong. Smile and nod. Smile. And. Nod.Oh, and say how well we’re doing; everyone likes that! Got it?

 

2) Sometimes advice is ill-advised.

There is one, simple rule for giving advice to new parents, and it is this: wait to be asked. Just. Wait.

Have you any idea of the level of advice-saturation a new parents’ brain is under at any one time? They are likely to have been to birthing-classes, read books, talked endlessly about babies with the world and his wife. They will know a lot. And even if they don’t, within a month of socialising with other mums your daughter/sister/cousin/friend will be well aware that there are 50 different ways to do everything. And all of them are the right way.

So just be patient. You may be itching to tell your loved one that it’s easier to do it this way, or to try this little trick you learned from a friend. But if you can manage it, keep it to yourself. If the baby is safe and the parent is okay, then what’s the harm? You will see when they’re struggling; that’s the time to tentatively offer suggestions. Just suggestions, mind you. e.g. you could try this, rather than you should try this.

The problem with advice is that to a sleep-deprived, doubting, first-timer it can often sound a lot like judgement. However nicely you put it, your words of wisdom may only be heard as You’re doing that wrong, I know how to do it better.

 

3) Be negative – in a good way.

I remember when my Bubs was tiny small. There he’d be in his little chair, with his chubby cheeks and sceptical facial expressions, and all my visitors would be cooing over him. “Aw, he’s soooo cute.” They’d say. And he was, obvs. But some days I just couldn’t see it. I was tired and emotionally exhausted and I didn’t have much enthusiasm at all for the little bundle that had caused these states. Of course it was lovely to be surrounded by loving people; I wouldn’t have it any other way. But sometimes, what I could have done with, was a bit of negativity.

A signature quizzical look from early Bubs.

A signature quizzical look from early Bubs.

“What??” I hear you cry. “You just told us we weren’t allowed to disagree or make judgements, what do you want from us woman???”

Well, I want you to be positive about their parenting, but just a little bit negative about parenthood. Okay, I’ll explain…

It’s is vitally important to hear that ‘it gets better’ and ‘having a baby was the best thing I’ve ever done’ and all that crap. You do need that. But. There comes a point when you just need someone else to sit next to you and say “yeah, mate, it’s shit when sometimes, isn’t it?”

Proper, down to earth, honesty. Because if you say that he’s much cuter when he’s asleep, or bloody hell that cry is piercing; I’ll feel a smidgen less guilty for thinking those things.

 

4) Ask Questions.

It is quite easy to visit someone close to you, spend hours with them and their new baby and not really ask them a single question past the obligatory how are you? greeting, which no one actually answers anyway. You will, of course, ask how baby slept last night, you might ask how feeding is going, or who’s doing more nappy changes. These are all fine, nowt wrong with a bit of baby chat. But somewhere in there, throw in a few questions to the parents. Directly to the parents.

How are you finding it? Have you seen Strictly this week? Do you want to come for lunch next Thursday? What’s been the funniest thing that’s happened since baby was born?

You know, just normal stuff. I’m not telling you to grill them or anything. But it’s amazing how little attention you pay yourself as a new parent (more on that here). It’s all about baby, so sometimes you need a bit of help to actually notice yourself. And a reminder that you are still a human being in your own right is nice too!

 

5) Remember, it’s not about you.

Of course, no one actually, consciously thinks that visiting a new baby is and all-about-me event. However, you may have imagined it in a certain way. Perhaps you wanted lots of cuddles, or a good long chat with mum/dad. Maybe you were hoping for a walk. Well, if you can, just let go of all that.

You may find that your gregarious care-free friend/son/brother has turned into a protective, cautious father overnight. He may not want you to hold the baby at first. Conversely, maybe all mum wants to do is have a nap, leaving you alone with a sleeping baby for an hour. Deal with it. And, whatever it is, try not to take it personally. You’re not being rejected or ignored, your just being included in this peculiar, mundane process we call parenting.

 

6) Do the dishes, then leave.

Make your own tea; clean your own mug (and whatever else is piling up by the sink); bring a ready cooked meal; take a load of washing. Do these things are you’re instant god-parent material. Nuff said.

 

Team Granny!  I was lucky enough to have my own personal cleaning service.

Team Granny!
I was lucky enough to have my own personal cleaning service (thanks mums!)

 

So there you have it. All you need to be the perfect visitor. Oh, and a bottle of wine never goes amiss either…

What are your dos and don’ts for supporting parents? Do you wish someone had told your loved these rules before you had kids? Leave a comment below, visit my facebook page (like me, like me!) or tweet me @aafew

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18 thoughts on “Less advice, more washing-up: 6 ways to support new parents

  1. Bring cake! Then offer to make tea for everyone and make sure there’s plenty of cake leftover when you leave. The brownies my friend brought over were a lifesaver during those ‘I’m so hungry I could die’ post-breastfeeding moments.

    Also, I think it’s worth remembering that it’s really hard for at least 6 months, in fact, the tiredness really hit a peak for me around 3 months, so keep up the special treatment even after the first few weeks.

  2. Definitely bring cake/wine/food generally. Definitely don’t say ‘you think it’s hard now, just wait til s/he is crawling/walking/teething/bringing home boys/girls…..’ Parenthood is definitely a tale it one day at a time experience.

    • Arg, the ‘you think it’s bad now’ line, what a pile of crap! Also the ‘treasure this time’ line, opposite but equally blood-boiling! I feel like both sets of people have forgotten how hard those first few months are!
      Thanks for commenting, such good points, I feel like I need to write a follow up and include the comments section input!

  3. Everyone wanted to take over my 3yo when he was a baby. Drove me crackers! I just wanted someone to swing a hoover round, not come talk to me for 3 hours whilst holding my new son. With my 1yo, I wanted people to take over her so I could play with my son and vice versa. I still got all the advice in the world with my second and it made steam come out my ears!

    • Oh my god second time sounds like a killer! Were you live “observed, he is an alive child I have already reared, I do not need your advice!”??
      Yes three hour talks whilst holding your new born sleeping baby are somewhat frustrating as well!
      Thanks for commenting Hun X

    • Ooooh, good one! But maybe you can bring flowers as long as you arrange them in yourself and come round to change the water every few days! I like flowers!
      Thanks for the comment and of course I’m with you on the chocolate!

  4. Someone told me that it takes a year for your body to recover after having a baby. That made so so much sense and made me feel so much better when I felt tired & achy several months after he was born .

  5. Oh I’m completely with you here! Just make sure you know if they have intolerance’s/allergies when providing meals. Take the washing home and bring it back clean and folded. Do the ironing, My sister-in-law did mine sometimes, what a treat! Give a mom some nice hand-cream, her hands will be washed/sanitized to pieces. Seriously we don’t mind if you vacuum the house. OK I don’t expect every visitor to do all of these, but please do pick one 😉 Mine are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2, but it still feels like now to me…

  6. Bring spare pillows. Suddenly, I only owned a quarter of the pillows I needed to prop up myself and junior effectively whenever I had to feed. One friend did this for me and I love her forever for it. I didn’t even know what was missing until she turned up with a gigantic parcel 🙂 x

  7. Pingback: Something for the weekend… | After The Rain...

  8. Such a great post! It is so true! I remember when I had my first, I was the first of my friends to have children and when they visited they sort of sat and did nothing while I ran around like a headless chicken trying to cater for them. The kitchen was a mess and no one offered to help. This post would have been fantastic for casually dropping in their inbox the next day…

  9. Pingback: 6 ways to support new parents | folks magazine

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