I was thinking today (as I was contemplating the full-to-the-brim washing line outside and the enormous dry pile to fold inside) about the things that are the most helpful when you have a newborn baby PLUS other children. Is it just me, or do you think people fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, she has other children so she'll have everything she needs and will be managing fine. She's well-practised!"
Well, let me tell you, I don't have everything I need, and I may be well-practised but help is still 1000% appreciated!
Here, in no particular order, is my list of the things I think are most helpful when a Newborn-Mama is up to her ears in newborn goodness, toddler tantrums, kindy drop-offs and school prep.
Cooking will be the last thing a busy Mama has time for. Eating will be something she is desperate to do when breastfeeding a hungry babe. Drop past with a meal, either frozen for a busy day later, or hot just at dinner time (or lunch time!). Just be sure to let her know earlier in the day so that she (or her wonderful man) won't have something else
Anyone who runs a household with small people ( or multiple big people!) will know that washing is a time-consuming, never-ending task. Call Newborn-Mama in the morning and tell her to put on her machine and then go and hang it up for her an hour later, or for bonus points, stop by and pick up a basket of dirty washing, then wash, dry, fold and return it! Wonderful friends have done this for us in the past and it is such a lifesaver!
3) HELP OUT WITH THE BIG KIDS
This will look different depending on how big the 'big kids' are. It might mean reading them a few stories so Mama can have a shower, taking them for a walk so Mama has some peace, picking them up for a few hours so Mama can sleep (cha-ching!), or doing a school run or kindy drop-off/pick-up so Newborn-Babe can keep sleeping. I'm sure there's more, just ask Newborn-Mama what's most helpful.
4) USEFUL GIFTS
This will be my fourth baby so I certainly have all the 'things' I need, like a car seat, toys and sheets and blankets etc. However, it is always nice to receive gifts when you have a baby! I reckon the best things for a Newborn-Mama-With-Other-Children to be given are things like newborn-sized nappies, nappy cream, baby body wash and... Actually, that's all I can think of right now. Baby Brain moment. (Mama's with other children, what do you think? Leave a comment.) **Edit: Bibs! They get stained and old. New clean ones are so good! (Thanks Anneke!)** Basically I'm thinking of things that get either used up or worn out - bibs, burp cloths, new fluffy towels. If it's a family with all (or nearly all) boys/girls, a nice little something for Baby to wear could be a nice idea - clothes can get a little washed-looking after going through three or four little ones!
5) DON'T WAIT FOR HER TO ASK
It's not always easy for a Mama to ask for help. Even if you're willing to do something for her whenever she needs it, she might not be able to ask. It's good to say, "If you need any help, just let me know!", but follow it up with a phone call or text later offering (or asking for) something specific.
TIPS FOR THE NEWBORN-MAMA HERSELF
When you lay down for a nap with your precious Bundle, take the phone off the hook so that all these lovely people ringing you with help won't accidentally wake you up. Having learnt this one from experience, it's hard to keep the annoyance and/or grief that your nap's been disturbed out of your voice when you answer the phone...
Do ask for help! If you're blessed enough to have people around you who are willing to help, they will be happy to hear from you. And most people will say no if they really can't do something that day, so there's no need to fear being an inconvenience.
Take your time. Your little one is little for such a short time, so take as much time as you want to soak it all up. The dishes and vacuuming will always wait for you. (Or a helpful visitor!) Read some stories to your big kids, rough and tumble together, do their homework with them, something each day to help them remember they're still important too.
Motherhood is such a juggle. There are constantly multiple balls in the air. But you know what? It IS okay to drop a couple. Someone else will kindly grab them for you, or you can pause and reach down to pick them up yourself when you can, no harm done.
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Every baby is exciting, not just the first and second. If you are lucky enough to know someone having not their first but their second, third or more Baby, you can be such a blessing to them with just a little effort and thought. I am thankful to all the people who have helped our family over our 'child-bearing years.' The support of family and friends really does make what is a challenging time so much richer.