Invest in Your Community: Five Ways to Support a Family With a Newborn

August 21, 2012

It has been almost two years since our son was newly born, but I can still remember how loved and supported my husband and I felt by our community during that incredibly precious window. Those of you with children know that having a newborn come into your life is a real game changer. No longer are days split between daytime and nighttime, work and sleep, off and on. Instead, you began to operate on a 24-hour clock and sleeping at noon makes perfect sense, as does online banking and eating a hurried meal at 3:00am. The lack of sleep and the amount of care that our newborns need are challenges that we all meet as new parents. And we do manage to do it, with grace or with muscle, or a lot of both. This is also the perfect time in our life to accept offers of support, as well as to ask for a helping hand when we need it. For some of us, accepting the help of others is challenging because we feel like we should be able to do it all on our own. If this thought pops into your mind, I want to encourage you to remember something really, really important: As a family with a newborn, you and your baby are a vital part of your family and larger community. Your community needs good families and it benefits from being able to share themselves with you during this precious time, so let them pitch in and lighten your load. Here are five ways that my family and friends supported, loved and carried my family and me during our first year together. 1. Food Sharing a meal with a new family can mean the world to them. It means one less trip out for groceries. It also means that the time saved by not having to prep, cook and clean can be spent instead on showering, sleeping or family time. We had many meals brought to our home and shared with us during the first three months with our son. I think I can name every dinner and every friend who supported us in this way. Yup, it means that much to have a hot meal delivered and friends to share it with at the end of a long day. There are so many ways to feed a new family. Before the baby comes, you can help prep meals that will go into the freezer that can be warmed whenever needed. You can also help to organize a meal registry so that friends and family can sign up for a day when they will deliver a meal to the new family. Meal Baby is one free service that can help you with that. If you do not live near the new family, ask them for a restaurant that they enjoy and give them a gift card so they can grab some healthy take-out when they need it most. You can also Google your loved one's area to see if there are postpartum doulas who offer mother-baby specific meal services or personal chefs who will deliver a meal at your request.2. Laundry During those first few months with my son, it seemed like our washer and dryer were spinning constantly, day and night. One afternoon, I had no less than 5 girlfriends come to our home with food so we could share a potluck lunch, they could play with my son and help me fold ALL of my laundry. Having your own "laundry folding luncheon" means you get time to chat it up with friends, you can eat (yes, chew and swallow!) while your friends love-on your baby and buy you hours of time spent doing something other than folding laundry all by yourself. If you have a new family in your life, offer to come to by and fold laundry while you visit together and dote on the little one. If you coming by for another reason, then don't leave without folding a load that is ready to go. It helps new parents so much, plus, you can get your hands on all those cute little clothes and socks! 3. Cleaning Like with any help given in service to a new family, cleaning is a biggie. If cleaning is your thing then jump right in with two hands and bucket. And if it is not your thing, wiping off the counters and sweeping the floor is quick way to help your loved ones out. You can always gift the family with a few hours from a cleaning service too, if you are far away or faint at the sight of dishpan hands. Remember, new parents (mothers especially) are spending most of their time at home as they care for their baby and get their feet underneath themselves. Doing all of that in a clean house makes a big, positive impact on a momma's well being and her family's life. 4. Shopping I remember times when I would manage a shower,  then dress myself and my son, get my wallet and our coats, only to need to change his pants or nurse or another one of a million things that would happen while trying to get us out the door. So, if you are going to the market, offer to pick up something and drop it by. If you have more time, offer to drive along with a new mother and her baby so that you can divide and conquer her to-do list. This was always such a big help for me, because if my son fell asleep, then my friend could wait in the car with him and play Angry Birds while I ran into a shop to do my thing. 5. Heart-Centered Availability Less tangible than the other four, but so incredibly important. New parents need acknowledgment and cheering on. For most of us, we have never tried so hard at something as important as raising our babies well. We are giving them and our families everything we have--body, mind and heart. When you are exhausted and caked in spit-up, having someone tell you that you are doing great job is a bright ray of sunshine. It can quickly turn a tough day around and it can set you right again. When you are with new mothers and fathers, make time for deep listening as they share their struggles and joys with you. Give them a place to speak without judgement and help them create their own solutions for their families. Encourage parents to listen and explore what their hearts and personal insights are pointing them to. Share what has worked for you as a parent, but leave room for them to see it as a good fit for them, or to pass on it.  Hearing what had worked for a friend, partnered with their loving support, allows us all to find our way in life. It helps us develop and hear our own inner wisdom as parents, which will always serve us and our families in both the short and long run.