Over the last week or two, we’ve received a lot of wonderful gifts from our friends and family and our daughter now has a mountain of clothes to cover the next … year or so of her life. She has a wonderful handmade quilt to wrap herself in, too.
However, the gifts that really were useful to us came from each of our parents. My wife’s parents made a whole bunch of food in advance, brought it, and deposited it in our deep freeze. My parents basically moved in for several days and took care of a whole ton of little tasks around the house – for instance, my father mowed the yard and did some other miscellaneous yard work (like trimming the edges) and my mother washed every possible stitch of laundry in the entire house, folded it, and left it out in neat stacks on our dressers. Both sets of parents shared in babysitting our son as well, meaning that we could focus heavily on bonding with our new arrival.
Here’s the scoop: if you are close enough to new parents that you would consider a gift for them or for their child, strongly consider a nontypical gift instead, something that would save some time for the new parents who are going to be incredibly busy and almost overwhelmed at first with the changes in their life (even if it is a second or third – or more – child). Here are some suggestions for how you can really help out new parents without stretching your pocket book too much.
Do some housework. Go over to their home and do some vacuuming. Clean up around the place. Take out their trash. Clean out their refrigerator. Vacuum. Mop the floor. Mow the yard. All of these tasks are things that anyone can do, but are especially valuable to gobsmacked parents.
Make some food. Prepare some meals that can be stored in their freezer. On their first day home, actually cook a meal for them to eat. Most importantly, clean up everything you happen to use in this process – don’t leave them a mess.
Be a babysitter. If they have other children, offer to babysit them for a few hours or even for a full day. Take the child (or children) to the park or a similar activity and give the new parents time to breathe and bond with the new child.
Offer to run errands. If they need groceries, be willing to get the groceries for them – just get a list of what they need and some payment for the items. You may also want to help with the addressing and preparation of birth announcements and so on.
Of course, this is not to say that gifts of clothes or diapers are unwelcome. This is particularly true for a first child or a first child of a specific gender – quite often, in both cases, clothes will be helpful. However, don’t be afraid to look for such clothes at thrift or second-hand shops for good deals – remember that such clothes are only worn by the child for a very short time.
The best gift you can give new parents are things that give them more time to bond with the new baby and more rest. This is a gift of a true friend and one that will mean more than any other – even better, it’s not one that requires you to whip out the plastic.