The post about what to give when you’re not giving flowers
There are only so many flowers a person needs. Honestly. And this goes for sick people, as well as new mothers. Firstly, who has fourteen vases in the right shape and colour for fourteen different bunches? Secondly, who has fourteen mantelpieces to put them on? And thirdly, umm, who needs that many flowers? But who has the time to think of clever and thoughtful yet awesome value presents for people these days? What with full on jobs or full on children or full on both, you need some help. And they don’t call me Helpful Harriet for nothing. Actually, no one calls me Helpful Harriet but I am hoping if I use it enough, it will catch on. So here are some suggestions. Some of them might also be useful for someone who is coping with an illness, a bereavement, a break-up or a general rough time. You are welcome.
The gift of time
The classic idea is to come around and offer to do washing, clean up, etc. In reality, unless you are a relative, you are unlikely to do it because not many new mums want you fiddling about in their laundry or looking at how long it has been since you they have done the dishes. Of course you should offer but there are some other things you could do that the mum might actually take you up on. Remember, you need to get bossy with people so they feel like you really really want to help:
- Admin help: tell her you are coming around to help her address her thank-you cards. Tell her to send you a list of names she needs to reply to and offer to track down any addresses she doesn’t have.
- Girl Friday: when you go around to visit, call first and say you are not taking no for an answer and to let you know one thing she really needs that day in the way of an errand or something bought. (it’s unlikely to be flowers).
- Get out of the house: ask her to tell you a time when you can take her older children out for an outing to the park or to your house. Or to go to the park with all of them so you can be an extra pair of hands. Or to go shopping with her and the baby – giving her free arms to shop with AND some much desired adult company. Or to take the new baby for a walk in the pram. My sister used to do this for me, it was awesome.
- Get into the house: Ask her to tell you a time when you can come over and play with the baby while she sleeps or takes a bath. Bring some bubble bath and a CD that will drown out ay background noise. If you are experienced/a relative/ don’t have kids of your own, arrange a night when you do the night shift and get up and feed baby or bring it in to mum to be fed and get up to the children in the morning. If they have other children, you could arrange to come by every afternoon to help feed, bathe and entertain the other children while mum concentrates on baby.
- Insist on taking her ironing home. And do it yourself. Or send it out and drop it back to her. Make it stuff she might not always iron (which in my case is everything but let’s move on) – I would have kissed the feet of anyone who would have ironed my sheets and PJs that first month.
Everyone loves a hamper, don’t they? And the good thing is, you can personalise them and make them as simple, cheap, expensive, complicated, big, small as you like…
- The healthy hamper – fresh fruit, dried fruit, bottled water, herbal tea, cheese, healthy crackers, houmous, maybe a funny book about motherhood.
- The comfy hamper – a pair of cosy PJs, pair of soft socks, slippers, tissues, funny book, favourite DVD, magazines.
- The pampering hamper – lip balm, body lotion, candles, bubble bath, magazines, CD.
- The goodies hamper – flowers (oh OK, but it had better come with a vase), brownies, wine, lollies, magazines, crisps.
- Movie night hamper – favourite movie or TV series DVD (Mad Men? Modern Family?), chocolate, crisps, popcorn, wine, soft socks.
- The morning tea hamper – some posh teas, biscuits, hot chocolate, nice coffee, magazines, and a big coffee mug.
- The ‘now-you-are-not-pregnant’ hamper – coffee, soft cheeses, champagne, pâté.
It might be just me, but good presents generally feature food don’t they?
- Leave a whole meal at their front door – dips, crackers, ingredients for a salad, pasta sauce, pasta, chocolate pudding. You can make it or buy it from a lovely deli if you’re busy/a crap cook. They’ll love you either way. Lunches are also good – quiches, soups, crusty bread, French butter, a cupcake.
- Do some batch cooking for your friend’s freezer. Label them and include a copy of the recipe. If they have other children, maybe some small versions for them.
- A package of all the menus from the good take away restaurants in the neighbourhood and a gift voucher to the best one for a home delivered meal.
- A family breakfast in bed one weekend morning. Agree a time and come with the whole shebang in a basket – leave it and run. Pastries, fruit, take away coffees, the newspapers. Maybe even a pot plant if you can’t resist the flowers. You could even become their favourite person in the world by taking their children away for an hour while they enjoy some silence and omm nom nom nomming.
- A homemade date – arrive with dinner and let them enjoy it while you babysit/get up and down to the baby. Make them put on a CD so they can’t hear the baby.
- A gift certificate to a lovely ready meals program. Not a diet one – that would not be kind to a new mum’s self esteem.
If you have plenty of cashola (or are the father/grandmother)
- A gift certificate to a spa or certificate for an in-house massage, manicure or pedicure.
- A lovely new bathrobe
- Pay for a cleaner for a month or gift certificate to a home helping service so they can use the help for whatever they like.
- If they have other children, pay for a home helper to come by every afternoon to help feed, bathe and entertain the other children while mum concentrates on baby.
- Cable TV subscription for overnight feeding sessions
- A ‘night nanny’ for a night or a couple of nights – a professional who will come in and take over the night shift – possibly just bringing the baby into mum to be fed (or fed using expressed or formula milk) so mum and dad can have a night’s rest.
Oh, and send her a link to www.onedayyoullthankme.com. What? I’m just saying….