Coping strategies and help from-a-distance for a small family stretched thin by a few curveballs?
May 22, 2012 2:39 PM   Subscribe

What can I do from afar for a bedridden SAHM of an 18mo, and in general for their stressed-out family? Looking for anything and everything---advice, care basket ideas, childcare options, cleaning services, etc.---in the Echo Park/Silverlake/Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.

Two weeks ago my pregnant sister-in-law was put on bedrest for the next 3 months to help carry to term. She has been the full-time stay-at-home parent for her 18mo son. My brother is "out of commission" in his own way: working full time, commuting, house-hunting, and now the household responsibilities my SIL can no longer do. I'd love to do a number of things for them, but I'm on the East Coast, along with their other relatives. Specifically:

- Leads on local meal prep or food delivery options? They eat all kinds of foods and loads of ethnic cuisines, but I'd like to do something more regular and healthy than weeks of take-out.

-Suggestions for easing the change for the 18mo? The care-givers where he's been for the last week say he's been withdrawn or despondent all day (8hrs) when he's there, and have gently suggested it's too abrupt or not a good fit. He's also been rejecting or ignoring his Dad at pick-up time. (Psych 101 tells me this may be normal, but it is very hard on them all.) Ideas? He's generally a very engaged, active kid but is used to a lot of direct attention from Mom and Dad.

- Or places to look for mother's helpers and/or nannies? Right now I'm trawling for them, but if there are other local options, that would be helpful.

- Recommendations for economical weekly cleaning service? Are Yelp and/or Angie's List active/dependable/practical in LA?

- Low-energy ways to maintain the bond between the 18mo and Mom & Dad during this time? I've suggested going back to co-sleeping as long as everybody can get enough sleep, and 15-20 minutes of exclusive, fun activity with Mom in bed when the 18mo gets home. Other ideas?

- Items for care basket for my SIL? She's a reader, musician, has her finger on the cultural pulse, and misses her son very much. I've been pregnant but not bedridden. What would help? (I see a number of previous questions about bedrest, so I'll go read those too.)

- Other words of wisdom?

Muchas gracias aMEFIgos!!
posted by cocoagirl to Grab Bag (15 answers total)
Can someone from your family fly out to LA and stay for a while? This is the ideal solution, as that someone can take over part of the childcare, and chores, and be company for the both of them.

How flexible is her husband's employer? One of my co-workers and his wife were in a similar situation very recently, although she did have family nearby. My co-worker just dropped in and out of work at various points during the day to pick up/drop off his daughter to a daycare (they did half days). It sounds like that might suit the 18mo better, if its feasible to find care for the other half of the day. Can her husband work from home?

I don't know your SIL's views on TV, but this is one of those extenuating circumstances type situations where I think its totally OK for everyone's sanity if the 18mo snuggles up on the bed with mom (or the sofa with dad) and watches a little TV each day in order for everyone to recharge their batteries, or get some chores done, or whatever.
posted by Joh at 3:22 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know about Los Angeles, but where I live there are a couple different food delivery services that aren't take-out. Instead--from what I can tell--they work with local restaurants, call in your order to go, then the guy drives it over to your place, but it's not just pizza and Chinese delivery, it's name restaurants and stuff, too. There's usually a small delivery fee on top of the food price, but it's worth it to have something a cut above.

Or if you want really healthy stuff, can you sign them up to a CSA so they get food and vegetables delivered on a weekly/2 weekly/some interval that sounds good basis? I know some people are grateful to get it and some are annoyed because they have to figure out what to do with 2 pounds of rutabagas, but on the other hand, not having to go grocery shopping and having a crate of fresh veggies (and some offer meat, eggs, and other grocery items, too) appear on the doorstep every week may be a relief.

If she's a reader, a Kindle or some books she'd enjoy would probably be welcome. Though I'd keep it light, considering.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2012

Actually, on thinking about it, their grocery stores may have a delivery service of their own, so you could send care packages with fresh food and stuff.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:51 PM on May 22, 2012

This does seem like a ideal situation for some well-chosen DVDs. I highly recommend The Backyardigans--the animation isn't great, but the writing is witty and charming, they have all kinds of fun world music, and there's nothing scary. Plus, there's a bunch of episodes available. My Neighbor Totoro is also good for small kids, and deals with a sick mom in a very sensitive way.

If they can afford it, an in-home caregiver is probably better in this situation than daycare. Going from staying at home with mom to 8 hours away is very stressful.

I bet your sister-in-law would really enjoy some audio books. Try could get her a membership, or several books you think she would enjoy.

If she's crafty, she might also like a kit of some kind. Needlefelting, crocheting, and knitting are all good activities when you're stuck in bed. Or you could put together a shrine/altar kit--I like Terra Maya on Etsy.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 3:55 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

How long has the 18 month old been at the daycare?

I think it's perfectly reasonable for an 18 month old who has spent all his time before at home with mom to have an adjustment period of several weeks. I knew one girl who entered daycare for the first time at the age of 2, and it took her nearly two months to be happy there. The caregivers were loving and providing and didn't do anything to push her into anything she wasn't ready for.

And you know what? Once she got used to it, she LOVED IT.

So unless the 18 month old is going to be with a nanny at home all day instead of mom (you said you were looking), I'd press the caregivers on giving him some more time to warm up.

One week is not nearly enough time for some kids to get used to a place, let alone love it. I'm even appalled the providers are saying it may not be a good fit because the kid is sad he's not with his mom.

That said, in addition to Sitter City, there is, which is the same idea. Some areas seem to use one more than the other. You may also try reaching out to area Mom groups or look into the possibility of hiring a post-partum doula to do some things, well, pre-partum.

I'd also maybe think about planning a Skype schedule, if she's up for it, so you East Coast folk can check in with her regularly and she has regular face-to-face contact (even if the face-to-face is over the computer) with the outside world.
posted by zizzle at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might call Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock and see what they could do regarding food delivery.
posted by jann at 4:00 PM on May 22, 2012

Grubhub has good listings of restaurants that deliver, search by neighborhood names. A friend has used Farm Fresh to You ( no link, on a phone- for delivery CSA. And Von's grocery store which has lots of locations in Los Feliz/Silverlake delivers too (order online, and they have some prepared meals too).

I also live in Los Feliz, and got lots of help from mefites while dealing with medical stuff a few years back. I'm out of town until Wednesday night, but would be happy to buy & deliver stuff to them/make a vegetarian meal and deliver it this weekend or next week if they would not find it too weird. Memail me if you want.
posted by holyrood at 4:01 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, on thinking about it, their grocery stores may have a delivery service of their own, so you could send care packages with fresh food and stuff.

Vons supermarket has a pretty good delivery/web ordering system.
posted by cecic at 5:08 PM on May 22, 2012

You can send full meals at regular intervals using a meal delivery service. Here is one example that should serve that area. (Not a recommendation, just a possibility.) This kind of service is regularly featured on Groupon and Living Social.
posted by caclwmr4 at 5:35 PM on May 22, 2012

Could you spring for a maid service to come by? Even just once would be helpful I'm sure.
posted by kat518 at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2012

There's a place called Dream Dinners where you order what food you would like, how many servings and you go and assemble meals from their pre-chopped ingredients. They're meant to be frozen and defrosted and popped in the oven for when you need them. Typically it comes out to about $4 per person, per meal which isn't that bad when you consider the cost of take-out. I've heard nothing but great things about them though I haven't been myself. It looks like the closest location might be Pasadena. If hubby or a friend is not able to go assembling meals for them, they also have an option for the store to do it for you for a fee. You could have a whole freezer full of food for them--this is something I would have LOVED (actually I'd love it now).

Also you may want to join and post your question to an LA yahoo moms group to find a nanny or a house cleaner. This one is primarily for West LA though there are many people from all over LA on there because it's so active. You'd probably get some good suggestions there from moms who've been on bedrest. This one is for attachment parenting but says it covers NE Los Angeles. I'm thinking that finding a nanny who also does a little clean-up would be good for day-to-day stuff. My friend has a nanny who is wonderful with her two year old, takes her to the park and also does some light cleaning for when she gets home.

As far as things for mom and the little guy to do together--does he like be read to yet? You could send him a big box of books to put next to mom's bed/couch. Or make a shelf of toys near her. A play tent. Mainly I would just schedule extra cuddle time.
posted by biscuits at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2012

Food and housecleaning. Grocery delivery of staple items with a few treat and frozen meals and some fresh fruit and veg would be a wonder. If you can spring for a housecleaning service twice a month or even just once, totally awesome. I like the idea of a regular Skype. Once baby 2 comes, it will be nonstop activity but she needs some sanity and connection now.

Also, send some postcards, a few letters. Funny photos. Stuff to liven up the day.

My daughter is 18 mo and she has moody weeks and is often very mercurial. And I bet your SIL is feeling very protective and anxious about this transition. No matter what, just be supportive. Your words of wisdom on repeat: "you are doing a great job. This is a tough time but you will get through it." Don't add fuel to the anxiety.

And send a gift here and there for the kid. Stuff my daughter loves right now: stuffed animals (loves her stuffed dog that is just the right size to tuck under her arm), board books and blank notepads of cheap drawing paper and washable crayons.

You're awesome!
posted by amanda at 10:33 PM on May 22, 2012

If she's on bedrest, there's a significant chance she'll be delivering early, so bear in mind that she will need help for the next 3-5 months, not just the immediate bedrest time. Having someone in the family come out if that's possible would be really helpful.

What kind of bedrest is it? If it's the total kind where she can only leave her bed for 20 minutes to shower sitting down, then a really nice thing is to get her a good bed laptop table so she can work lying down. A friend of mine used heaps of pillows to work lying sideways with her twins, and I had this metal contraption that held my laptop at a bizarre angle over my belly so I could type. She can probably get a lot of the online ordering done herself, but needs help unpacking and sorting etc.

Something like TaskRabbit might be helpful, or you could help advertise and screen some occasional household help from craigslist, someone to run errands and come to the house a couple of hours a day or week to just fold laundry and pack things away etc. A maid service would be excellent.

I love the idea of sending occasional gifts to the little guy - you could put a book or toddler craft things in. This is a time of lots of upheaval so it would be weird if he wasn't quiet and worried about things, but he'll adapt.

Netflix, the local library on ebooks, something she can do lying down craft-wise if she likes them. I knitted and embroidered, read a lot, and most useful of all, played Civilization on the ipad like an obsessed fiend because I could pick it up and put it down and it was a huge stress reliever.

On the bedrest forums, some mothers are really happy about getting a haircut/manicure arranged to be done at home.

Offer to set up a blog or facebook group so that she can post what she needs that day/week and news about the baby and family without having to email round to people. A friend who's moving countries is doing that with a facebook group of family and friends, and it's amazing how quickly everyone's able to co-ordinate things like rentals and furniture and travel arrangements with very little tech overhead.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:45 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh, this must be so hard for Mom and 18-mo-old. 8 hours a day is a lot of time all at once. If they could find a full-time sitter, the routine wouldn't be disrupted, and the baby could see his mother during the day whenever he wants, even if she can't leave the bed.

Summer is upon us, so I wonder if there are college students who might be looking for a 3-month stint as a full-time babysitter. My thinking is that your sister-in-law doesn't have to be quite so careful as someone who's hiring a full-time sitter when they're going to be out of the house -- she'll be able to at least hear what's going on, monitor interactions, etc. and might be used more by people looking for a long-term arrangement.

The education department at a local university let me post a listing for a sitter on their job board. Maybe their local universities would let you do the same?

Another idea: my sister just found a sitter through the director of an on-campus religious organization. They tend to know a lot about the students who frequent their events and also to be willing to lend a hand.

It seems like summer is a time when there's all this 18-22-year-old labor floating around....

And it would be so, so helpful if a grandparent could give up 2 weeks to be with them while they get a sitter sorted out. Or two grandparents, a week apiece? When I've had my mom's and mother-in-law's help in the first postpartum days, they've been able to count that as family medical leave with their employers, rather than vacation time. Might be something to look into, if that's something holding family back from being able to help.

Best of luck to them, and good for you trying your best to help from afar!
posted by palliser at 8:12 PM on May 23, 2012

Thank you so much everyone. I do hope to head out there, but I'm also a SAHM to two, and school is about to let out, so I'm not sure how to swing it logistically. I've got a couple of care packages started (bed tray, books, toys for the little guy), and really appreciate the local recommendations on food delivery and prep. I will look into those and see if there are some local friends who could contribute or pick up. I didn't know about TaskRabbit, so that sounds awesome for immediate needs that I could just take care of for them in the background.

The 18mo has only been at daycare for a week, but my brother felt he was getting a strong message that either the 18mo wasn't ready for it, or the center wasn't ready to devote the time and attention to getting him through the transition. I agree it takes time to integrate, but even with all the other stress, having a chronically despondent son isn't one they want to shoulder right now. They think a four day nanny will run about as much as the daycare, so that's their next plan of attack. I'll let them know about, too.

Thank you again everyone!
posted by cocoagirl at 7:48 AM on May 24, 2012

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