So, your friend has a newborn baby…

This year has been a year of new babies in my little world. Lots of dear friends and family, both near and far, have had babies or announced pregnancies. And of course the sublime Miss Pords entered our world.

Perhaps it is because I know more babies now so I’m on the look out, or perhaps it is because there are more people writing about it (or maybe a bit of both) but I have been seeing a lot of articles purporting to explain how to behave when your friend has a newborn baby.

And it’s driving me kind of crazy.

Parents of newborns are not a homogenous blob of brainless goop, unable to exercise autonomy or say what they mean.

Straight up I’d like to say that of course if your friend has a newborn baby and is withdrawing more than usual, or you suspect that they need help that they are not asking you for, they may need additional support. Depression and anxiety associated with the transition to new parenthood is quite common and early intervention is important. This post is by no means meant to make light of that scenario.

Nor is it meant to suggest that thinking of ways to make someone’s life easier is not a worthy pursuit. The thing is, when I’m reading these lists I often find myself thinking that if my friends started doing any of those things I’d find it more stressful than helpful. And I surely can’t be the only one.

From my massive personal sample size of two, I know for a fact that the experience of parenting a newborn baby is not always the same. And from just being a person who interacts with other people, I know that people’s personalities are not always the same. What might be just right for one person, might seem like the worst idea ever to someone else.

For example, I’ve read that parents of a newborn don’t want to leave their home to see you so you should always visit them there. Actually, when my babies were newborn I’d much rather have come to your place. You could have made me a tea and then held the baby while I drank it. Don’t worry, we wouldn’t have stayed long.

I’ve read that it’s the absolute pinnacle of friendship to leave frozen meals at the door and run. Quite frankly I would never have had the freezer space. Plus I always found that bit of time in the kitchen preparing a meal was a nice break in the day. And if you’d gone to the effort to come around, I’d definitely have felt bad if I thought you didn’t feel you could knock on the door. I’d have spent the next few days agonising over how to make it up to you and probably ended up inviting you over for an ill-advised dinner party. Now, if you told me you’d meet me at the park and you brought me a sandwich, then we’d be friends forever.

I’ve read that parents of newborns desperately want your help with all their housework, but are too tired or embarrassed to ask. I was raised in a household where a clean and tidy home was a priority. The consequence of this in my life has been that I don’t like people seeing my house when it is not in order. I can cope with a mess, but not if I have visitors. If you said you were coming over to see if you could help around the house, I would have spent the preceding hours in a whirlwind of stress, making sure you wouldn’t find too much to be done. I would have much preferred you to say that you’d love to get me out of my disaster zone of a house for a while and go for a walk with me. Fresh air and friendship – always a winning combination.

Now, here’s an idea. If you are close enough the parent of a newborn to be considering visiting them, don’t worry about my story, or any lists you find online. Your friend is the same person they were before. They may be tired and overwhelmed, but that doesn’t mean that they’re planting hidden messages in everything they say. It’s not your job to second guess them. Use what you know about them, plus a generous helping of common sense, to work out how to behave appropriately.

And if you don’t know enough about them to work it out, maybe leave visits until you’re personally invited. Send them a text, or a card if you want to let them know you’re happy for them and looking forward to meeting the new arrival.

Luckily for me, either my friends weren’t big consumers of these online manuals for behaviour, or they had the good sense to ignore them. Just as you, in turn, should ignore this and do whatever feels right for you.

Do you think people need guidelines for how to behave when their friend has a newborn baby? What would you put on the list?

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18 thoughts on “So, your friend has a newborn baby…

  1. This is spot on. In my sample size of two also, I would agree that becoming a Mum is overwhelming in itself, without being lectured to about what you should and shouldn’t do. The one thing I definitely needed at that time was S P A C E to adjust, to get to know my new baby, for her sister to feel happy. I found that second time around having a baby was no bother to our toddler – our house having a revolving door of visitors all playing with her toys, staying late, distracting mum and dad from playing was way too much.
    x MMT #anythinggoes
    PS The thought of anyone cleaning my house would be hideous – everything being put in wrong places..while I sat and watched? Awkward!
    mummuddlingthrough recently posted…Pre-school Immunisations: β€˜A very naughty doctor’My Profile

    1. Haha – yes it would be so awkward that’s what I thought when I was reading that advice! You’re right space is the best gift of all πŸ™‚

  2. I’ve read a few of those posts and while some of the advice is sensible, some of it is a bit generic. I think if you are close enough to someone to descend uninvited straight away, you are close enough that they will let you know if you over stay your welcome, or they want something doing πŸ™‚
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
    Debbie
    Random Musings recently posted…Anything Goes Linky Week 16My Profile

    1. Yes! Asking is just a bit of common sense. And if I don’t answer my phone or text, it probably means I appreciate you, but I’ll see you in 6-8 weeks πŸ™‚

  3. Definitely agree with this. Everyone is different – and as you say, your friend is still the same person that she was before. I’m with you on the sandwich and the trip to the park rather than the frozen meal (that I’ll keep forgetting to take out of the freezer in time to defrost it for dinner) and I would have been incredibly embarrassed if someone had come around and started cleaning my house (unless it was my mum, somehow I never mind it when she does it!)
    Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) recently posted…Trusting the medical team and the uncertainty of changeMy Profile

  4. oooh, those early days when you have a newborn and everyone wants to come to say hi and all you can think is, arrrgg! I ‘m a mess, house is a mess, baby is screaming/vomiting/crying. I think being guided by the new mum is the best way – if she wants to meet in a cafe, do that. If she wants to meet in a park, do that.
    THE HUNGRY MUM recently posted…Easy chocolate mousse with rumMy Profile

  5. So true! I just wanted to stay at home (for 2 weeks) after my first and to get out of the house after my 2nd. I would see people at the supermarket or in town who would ask how old the baby was, and when I said “5 days”, “1 week”, “2 weeks” even up to 5 weeks they would say “aren’t you doing well to be out and about already!” No! Not really! Yes, I’m still feeling a lot of discomfort and am dosed up on painkillers, but I’d rather be out than stuck at home! And when you have a toddler you just need to get on with it and take baby too! It was probably also because my husband only got 3 days paternity leave so I had to do all the usually shopping & chores. Likewise, I am not tidy, my house is never clean, and consequently I never invite people over, and would be mortified to ask or expect anyone to help me. I can’t even have a cleaner as I’d be too embarrassed to let them come I to my messy home! Like you say, everyone is different!
    The Lazy Housewife recently posted…Sisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardMy Profile

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