Faraway mom friend and newborn: how to help?
January 31, 2016 10:04 PM   Subscribe

One of my best friends from childhood just gave birth to her second child, a ten-pound boy, in an ice storm. Yikes! We've been texting, and she's had a challenging time with it so far. What can I do to help?

I'm no parent, but it sounds really hard to work with an older child (a toddler) who's adjusting, and a newborn, all while being sleep-deprived. Her difficulty isn't extraordinary--they're fairly well-off and healthy, and have a strong support network with family and church--but I want to send her love and support and do something to lighten her load. I live several hours away, so it's not as simple as dropping by with flowers.

If I asked her directly, she'd brush it off and say "oh no, we're fine, just give a shout next time you're in town," and I don't know her church friends to get on a meal/casserole-planning schedule. I knit, so I could make something for the baby or the toddler, but is that really helpful? I also have a little bit of disposable income, so ordering/mailing something is an option. What can I do to be a good friend right now?
posted by witchen to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does she have a cleaning service? If not that is a great gift.
posted by k8t at 10:14 PM on January 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was thinking along the same lines, but with child care.Do you know if her husband/family/church friends are pitching in with child care for the older kid...or if they have a nanny? Maybe fund a treat day for him/her.
posted by brujita at 10:18 PM on January 31, 2016

You can send take-out one night! That was much appreciated by us when we had kids. But also sending fun stuff might useful. For example, someone gave me this book when I was a new mother, and it just made me laugh and feel normal. (It really isn't as cheesy as it sounds.) I think self-care is really hard at this time, so anything nice for her that isn't time consuming would have gone over well with me.
posted by heavenknows at 10:32 PM on January 31, 2016

How about planning a visit in the near future? Since it sounds like much of her material needs have been met, I think it'd be the biggest and most appreciated treat. If that won't be possible, I'd keep checking in with her via text or a call: she may not have time to respond right away but will surely appreciate your thinking of her!
posted by smorgasbord at 10:48 PM on January 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Care packages? Trinkets for the toddler, trashy magazines and lighter graphic novels for your friend, gift cards for local takeaway, random tat like better lip balms and fuzzy socks?

Knitted garments made from acrylic are not very useful; they are scratchy and they fit for a week and a half. A larger knitted blanket made from a soft cotton, or a softer wool backed with cotton flannel, the sort of thing that can have a good shot at being The Blanket, is a nice thing. Or, slipper boots?

Casseroles from neighbours seem to me to be a throwback from a time when every other local supermarket didn't have a respectable take-away counter and you couldn't order from seventy-two different restaurants on-line in a few clicks. It's thoughtful and homey, but unless finances are tight and the home cook is a first-rate one who also knows the family's tastes inside out, self-selected Stouffer's is probably as desirable or better than a neighbour's chili.
posted by kmennie at 12:27 AM on February 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for these suggestions! I would love to send help with childcare or cleaning, but: how? She doesn't live in a large city, so we lack services like Taskrabbit or Care dot com (I don't think that's really taken off where they are). Is there a way, from out of town, to find or vet someone good to do that work?
posted by witchen at 5:06 AM on February 1, 2016

You know, if she's already said she doesn't want anything, maybe you shouldn't send a stranger to her house to clean it or watch her children. You said she's well off; for all you know she already has people who do this for her (or, if she wanted to have someone do it, she could easily do so).

That "no, please don't do anything" response can be reflexive sometimes so I think it's reasonable to ask one more time and be more specific, e.g. "I remember you saying how much you love the takeout from X Cafe and I'd love to send your family a great meal on Friday night. Can I order a meal for you?" or "I heard about a great cleaning service in Your Town, can I send someone out to the house this weekend around 10 AM?"

If the answer is yes, great! If not, I would stick to sending a gift, either something handknit for the kiddos or a self care present for the parents (fancy bath stuff, candles, etc). There's work involved in accepting certain kinds of gifts -- takeout food that has to be eaten or stored properly, cleaning people who have to be tolerated in the house -- so if your friend says no I think you should respect that.
posted by telegraph at 5:24 AM on February 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

Send her something for herself... a nice water bottle, slippers, a open cardigan (they are great because you don't have to worry about fit), a few magazines she may like.

Also, occasionally just text her and ask, "How are you doing?" if you don't already. With kids texts are super easy to respond to, but you often don't think in the rush to reach out for that nice adult contact. She'll likely respond with a few texts then get wrapped up in the chaos of children, so don't be offended if it's short.
posted by typecloud at 5:48 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would send a box of small wrapped gifts for the older child-nothing obnoxious, but things like board books, drawing materials, a stuffed animal-things that might entertain the child, make them feel special, and not require a lot of work or clean up from mom. Then I'd throw in something nice for mom-maybe a gift card for something to get online, or a dvd you'd know she'sove to zone out on when nursing.
posted by purenitrous at 7:15 AM on February 1, 2016

Put together a variety basket for her. Busy moms don't have the time to shop like they used to and they can sometimes miss the variety of new products. Look for oddball things that she might like. Include a couple of magazines. For a total win, send her Triple chocolate coated almonds from Wilburbuds.com. I've not met a single person who doesn't love them, and very few people outside of the area are that familiar with them.
posted by myselfasme at 7:58 AM on February 1, 2016

Be available for middle-of-the-night text conversations. Being up with a baby and no adult in reach (or they're asleep and you really don't want to bother them because then you'll both be a wreck) is so terribly isolating. If there's some turn-based game she likes that you could play together online, all the better. In terms of sending something, just pay attention to what she says and try to think if some material good could help. Since you're not a parent, boning up on baby recommendations might help (Lucie's List is good), or you could ask other friends (or us!) if they have ideas. It's much easier to grapple with a specific issue like "Toddler gets jealous of baby nursing" than "what might a toddler possibly need".
posted by teremala at 10:44 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

A hand knit shrug is nice - mom feels like she has a blanket around her and can keep breastfeeding, but it's fitted and not so loose or large she has to worry about accidentally covering the baby.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2016

vitamin d lamp maybe? I remember a dark winter contributing very badly to PPD.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:14 AM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation as your friend (minus the ice storm and the church) and I really appreciate texts and emails from friends (not phone calls, though, synchronous communication is hard with two little ones around). I love to hear what they're up to, get links to interesting or cute stuff, support and compassion etc., all with the understanding that I might reply late if at all. I just got a packet today with little infant toys and I got another with a game for the toddler, so nice. If she's breastfeeding, she might appreciate tips for what to read or watch (hormones are strong, no violence, injustice or even misunderstandings, if she's anything like me right now, especially nothing where children come to harm). If she's bottle feeding she might need a supportive voice to counter all the pressure to breastfeed. If you want to knit something, warm socks for her could be nice. I've been shuffling about in thick warm socks since coming home from the hospital. Any gift that might result in work for her, even just figuring something out (especially figuring something out) is a burden, even if the effort seems small to people who haven't just given birth and already have a toddler. Energy is ridiculously limited.
posted by meijusa at 12:04 PM on February 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you know if there's a Pizza Hut in her town? This sounds totally crazy but someone I know likes to send her faraway friends the occasional treat via Pizza Hut delivery. You can order online, specify her address, and send her some chocolate chip brownies. (Maybe text to warn her though, as I've heard of the recipients getting confused and trying to refuse delivery of something they didn't order.)
posted by meggan at 11:55 AM on February 2, 2016

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