Monday, April 19, 2010

Accepting and organising help with babies

The lovely laidback PJ (sooooo not like me which is why I love reading her blog LOL) is expecting twin girls and asked a question on her blog:

what helped you the most when family came to "help". Did they do dishes, diapers, feedings? Some of everything? and... how did you schedule it? Was it one parent at a time? Did you stagger them? Did it add to the stress of newborns, or did it help to alleviate stress?

It is infinitely more frustrating for me to have people around not doing anything (this is a big weakness of mine in that under stress I often see people as resources and not as people) than to be alone and do it all myself.

This is why some of my friends might remember me saying, "rather pay for a nanny/ maid so that you can boss them around without any guilt" LOL

I felt more frustrated in that first month alone with the babies because my mother was there but also I had to ask for help (another one of my big weaknesses).

Once the nanny started in September (babies were 8 weeks old), things calmed down a lot. She knew she was there to do x, y and z, and I didn't feel the slightest bit guilty about telling her what to do.

There are already some GREAT comments on her blog.

This is what I wrote:

Oh wow - what great comments.

My advice is to discuss with your hubby what kind of help you need and then clarify that with all your visitors right now.

This will change once the babies are there and you actually know what it's like (LOL) but at least the discussion has been opened.

This whole thing was a complete disaster for us which is why I speak from experience.

We ASSUMED my mother would know what to do - well, I moaned at my sister that she was doing nothing and my sister said she probably didn't want to interfere! So then we started saying, can you give K her bottle or please hold C while I do x.

For the next visit, I resorted to my normal bossy self. I did my menu plan and said I'll cook on these days, will you cook on these days?

And so on...

D's job was to boss his mother. She stays in the city but he would say, if you want to visit you have to do everything so had her changing, feeding, bathing, playing with babies. Even I *blushed* at the bolshiness!

All that to say this:

1. clarify expectations upfront
2. farm out things you're comfortable with (I did all their bottles myself because I'm a control freak) - like laundry and cooking
3. keep communicating
4. for other visitors, tell them to bring a meal or pick up muffins/ croissants on the way - then you don't have to worry about feeding them. Schedule visits around feeding time (if you're bottle feeding) so a visitor can feed a baby - they take forever in the beginning, not a 5-minute job like it is now

and above all else, they are YOUR babies. You're allowed to ask for what you need (sleep, etc) so that you enjoy them better.

I ended up making bottles up to 10 am (I still do so today) so that D and my mother could do the early morning and I could sleep in.

Email me for more specific things - I have TONS more but am already hogging comments.

Like have less clothes because it means less laundry! Forces you to not procrastinate and useful for "Oh, the babies are nearly out of babygrows, can you do a load?" LOL

P.S. What is your motherstyle? (my blog from Friday)

My question to all of you is similar but I want to know this -

What did you do that had the best results and what would you absolutely never, ever, ever do again?

Mine? I would definitely not assume that what we were thinking and what the visitor was thinking was the same thing with regards to "helping out with the babies".

I've realised since that what most people mean about "helping out" is holding a baby but STILL expecting us to "entertain" them (offer food and drinks and have us make it all).

What I now tell people is to be upfront and say, "please help yourself to tea/ coffee and muffins. I really need to get started with the laundry" or similar.

The best thing I did was make a list of meals and who cooks what, when. Eventually after about two weeks, my mother and I fell into a routine of me putting on the laundry and her hanging it out.

It happened because she thought using the tumble dryer was wasteful (true - but I was just trying to survive, not trying to be green or save money, and the tumble dryer was the quickest thing with the least amount of effort).

What did you do with close family visitors that had the best results and what would you absolutely never, ever, ever do again?

P.S. I loved a commenter's suggestion about getting grocery gift cards and handing out shopping lists with a gift card to people who offered help! BRILLIANT and gets them out the house for an hour or so :)


  1. Thanks for your nice comments about my little ones :)

    Going through all of this now, obviously, and also have a hard time with others helping me. I have actually avoided having people over to "help" because I fear they would just get under my skin if they are just "hanging out" because my husband, in particular, as nice as he is, would feel like he needs to entertain them. When they leave it's like needing a vacation from a vacation. My mom did come this weekend for a day and we (DH and I) ran errands for a couple of hours. It was quite nice. For now, I'm taking it one step at a time and will just ask for specific help when I specifically need it, rather than have them come over just because. Not sure if it will work, but here I go!

  2. LOL I saw visitors/family as resources too. Oops. But seriously? WHO ON EARTH expects to go to a house with newborn(s) and be waited on hand and foot? Did our mothers do that? Surely not. I love the gift card idea... but I wonder if control freakishness would mean that I wouldn't trust the shopper to get it right? Or maybe newborn fatigue would step in and I wouldn't care as long as it wasn't cereal again :)

  3. Saffy, what is your motherstyle?!

    Seriously, it has been pointed out to me as a weakness by D MANY many times!

    I would be ultra specific, like Sunlight dishwashing liquid 750 ml, etc.

    Um, well, my MIL until D told her they (she and SIL) can only come over if they're going to "work" LOL

  4. My sister Allie was the biggest help - she knew enough to bring ME food while I was trying to BF. If your friend is BFing then all her time and energy will be spent doing that so someone else should be doing the cooking, laundry and cleaning. With baby #3 we won't have our baby nurse so I'm on my own and I'm hoping that my twin experiences will get me through it!

  5. What I'd do again? Invite my in-laws. What I'd not do again? Invite my mother.

    I know, it's terrible to admit that, but it's true.

    I didn't know what I needed or how to ask for it, but my in-laws did. They helped out with all the non-baby stuff so that we could establish nursing and bond with the babies. My in-laws took care of laundry, cooking, making sure I got enough water, had diapers at hand, and all the nitty gritty. Hubby had to leave on army assignment before the babies came home from the hospital, so it was just my father-in-law and me, and he was wonderful. He'd just quietly take care of things around the house, offer to change a diaper here and there, and let me know that if I wanted to sleep through a night feeding, he was ready with a bottle. He didn't take offense when I refused the latter, and was completely supportive of my efforts to breastfeed.

    When my Mum came, she did want to help with the cooking, but that meant telling me that the babies and I couldn't leave my room for the FOUR hours it took her to cook a meal, after which I had to clean the kitchen. (She thought it would take two hours, and nursing two babies made me so hungry that I broke the rules, came into the kitchen, and made myself a sandwich while she was still over the stove.) At that point I finally got firm with her and told her that she could no longer interfere with our routine or take over our home. I appreciated the effort, but it was not helping. We went back to eating meals I could put together in 10 minutes or less. She then lost interest in helping out, but honestly that was easier, since she'd panic (hyperventilating, hand-wringing, unproductive panic) any time both babies started crying, which left me with three babies to care for.

    It was just easier to get her out of the house and entertain her. Mum doesn't drive, and there's no public transportation where we live. I spent 3-4 hours each day playing chauffeur. Fortunately, she came when the girls were 8 weeks old (just past their due date), so I was confident enough going out with them to be able to manage it.

    During the period in which we thought Melody might have been born with cancer (false alarm), we didn't even tell Mum, because the last thing we needed was her to panic because we were close enough to it ourselves. My in-laws, though, knew everything as soon as we did.


Thank you so much for leaving a comment and filling my love tank. I appreciate it!

I'd love to answer your email so please make sure your email address is enabled. In Blogger, go to Edit Profile, and under Privacy, tick the 3rd block and then Save Profile :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails