You’ve just brought home a baby. You’re spending the time sitting on the sofa or in bed, desperately trying to get baby to latch on. You don’t really have any ambitions for the next few weeks, apart from getting used to having this tiny scrap in your life. Preferably without anyone dropping the baby.
And then after a while your friends come round to see you and your new baby. Sometimes they have children themselves, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they bring their own children and you can have great fun taking photos of the baby next to the toddler. Some of them breeze into your house, make you a cup of tea, and give you good (and wanted) advice. But for every taking-it-in-their-stride friend, there’s one who doesn’t know what to do. Who wonders whether to move the pile of washing off the chair or stay standing. Who doesn’t know if they should offer to make the tea or whether that would be presumptuous. Who is scared of holding the baby in case they do it wrong.
So, terrified friends of new parents, here’s the definitive* list of What New Parents Would Be Really Grateful For.
- Make us a cup of tea.
- Cook us dinner. Some of the first people to see us brought a bag of ingredients, cooked us dinner in our own kitchen, did the washing up, and left by 9:30pm. That was basically the perfect evening. (These people had a toddler, and so knew exactly what we needed. They left the toddler with grandparents that evening.)
- Hold the baby. Sometimes we really want a shower, or to answer some emails, or to look for something we’ve lost. So please be happy to hold the baby for longer than a couple of minutes.
- If you’re worried that your baby-holding technique might leave something to be desired, just sit down, let us put the baby on your lap or in your arms, and keep talking. Babies love voices, so it really doesn’t matter what you say. Read the Financial Times aloud if that’s what you have.
- Bring food which can be eaten cold, one-handed, straight out of the tupperware. Our baby was at her fussiest around lunchtime, and when it was just me in the house it was really difficult to make lunch. Yes, even just a sandwich was hard – it’s impossible to cut bread and cheese with a screaming baby over one shoulder. There are days when opening the fridge and seeing a quiche or a pasta salad feels like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Cake is also nice, but something non-sweet which can be eaten for lunch definitely wins.
- Bring other food for the freezer. It can be surprisingly difficult to find time to cook something sensible in the evening. One of our friends brought a dozen frozen portions of different types of stew.
- Ask if we need any essential shopping, like bread and milk. We always, but always, needed bread and milk.
- Do the washing up. A kitchen looks so much better when the washing up is done, but we’re tired and don’t have the time. Also, we need the space for all the bottles and pumps and sterilising stuff.
- If you know us well, help with the cleaning. Hang out the washing, sweep the floor, even clean the bathroom. Or hold the baby so we can do those things.
- Ask about other jobs which need doing. My mum hemmed the curtains and my mother-in-law did some weeding. Neither of these tasks was essential, but both made us feel a bit more civilised.
- Talk to us about something not related to babies…but don’t be offended if we end up talking about the baby just the same. Sorry.
- Invite us round to yours, or suggest a trip out. It can get really dull indoors with a baby, and babies do get bored. At seven weeks we went on a canal boat, and it was probably the most exciting thing she’d ever done in her short life. We even saw another baby the same age in a canal boat going the other way.
And to the various people with babies I went to see before having my own – I’m sorry. I should have thought about it more carefully and not just waltzed up with a cake and a babygro. And I really should have made you a cup of tea and done the washing up.
* This list is obviously not actually definitive at all. More like highly personal with some input from friends.