When my friends had babies I would always go visit them – sometimes in the hospital, sometimes at home. I would show up with a gift for the baby (sometimes), sit around and chat with the parents, hold the baby, then leave. Of course I wanted to meet the new baby and snuggle it but mostly I needed to fulfill my obligation as a friend, right?
Wrong. So wrong.
I can’t believe how completely backwards my thought process was. After having a child, I realize how rude, selfish, and annoying my visits must have been. Unfortunately, most people without children also think this is proper protocol.
When new parents have several visitors on a daily basis from the day the baby was born it becomes a burden. They are now hosting friends and family who sometimes expect to be fed while they lounge around holding the baby. All Mom and Dad want to do is sneak in a nap, maybe a shower, and spend some quality time alone with their new little human.
For those of you visiting new parents, I’m going to give you some strict rules. Follow them! For new parents, I’m going to give you some suggestions as well.
- Never come empty handed. If you want to bring the baby a gift, that’s great, but what the parents really want is something useful, like food! Or maybe a bottle of wine.
- If you do bring baby a gift, get it off the gift registry or ask what the baby needs. The last thing new parents want is more clutter. When you bring over a gift they don’t need (or like) this creates work for them because now they have to make the time to return it.
- If you bring food, make sure you know if there are any allergies or dishes they don’t like. Also, find out if they need a meal to eat that night. If not, bring something that freezes well. The best thing for new parents is a freezer full of food. All they need to do is thaw and reheat!
- If you didn’t bring them anything or just stopped by last minute, don’t worry. There’s always work to be done. Ask them if you can help clean, run an errand, or hold the baby while they shower.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. If they are yawning or start making comments about the baby needing to eat, take the hint and hit the road.
- When you leave, ask if there’s anything they need help with. If they take you up on your offer, make sure you follow through. If you say you’ll bring them dinner next Thursday, do it. If you say you’ll pick up their organic veggies for them tomorrow, do it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you have visitors, tell them up front they can come but you could use a meal, and then ask them to clean up the dishes afterwards.
- Don’t be afraid to say you don’t want visitors yet. If you need some time alone, that’s okay. Take as much time as you need. This transition can be extremely difficult, and adding visitors to the mix can make it worse. Give yourselves time to adjust before you open your home.
- Make a list. If you feel uncomfortable asking people to help, make a list and leave it out on the counter. When they see it you can tell them those are all the things you need to get done or need help with in the coming days/weeks. More than likely they’ll say they can help with something.
- Get lots of rest. Don’t schedule so many visitors that you can’t get in a nap, shower, or relaxation time.
There’s one incident that always sticks out in my mind after I had my baby. A friend called and said she wanted to bring me dinner after she got out of work that evening. She arrived late (I was starving already) and on top of that showed up without food! After an hour passed, I realized she had no intention of leaving anytime soon. I couldn’t wait to eat any longer. I ended up making dinner myself and she stayed to eat it.
If you’re one of those people (like me) who have completely failed as a friend in this regard, don’t worry. Now you know! From here on out, you can be the best guest ever. No more do-nothing baby-holding for you.
And if you’re a new parent, congratulations! Remember this is your baby and your house, so you make the rules. Nobody (including your mother-in-law) can tell you otherwise.
* I’m thinking of marketing doormats like the one above for new parents…yeah?