It seems internet has lately exploded with advice for the average sleep-deprived new mom on how to stay interesting to one’s childfree single friends and coworkers. No, really, thanks – that was a pressing concern. (Actually, we love this one.)
Seriously, though, we know it’s important to keep longtime friendships alive through different life stages. But it also occurs to us here in Bunchland that there are plenty of childless folks who would love some no-bullshit advice – people who either aren’t there yet or have no plans for kids, thank you very much.
And so we surveyed the experts and compiled some great tips for the childfree, to help you be the greatest person ever for your sleep-deprived, probably overwhelmed new-mom friend. And yeah, we get that if you read Bunch you probably have kids. Just pass it along to Someone Who Needs It.
- If you’re invited over in the first week after your friends have had a baby (a privilege, not a right) do not arrive empty-handed. You might have heard this. What it actually means is BRING YOUR OWN SNACK (and enough for the parents).
- Don’t ask a new mom for a bowl for the delicious snack you’ve brought. It might be more than her fried synapses can process. Insist that she sit on the couch, rummage through the cupboards and bring it over. Hold the baby while she eats.
- While you’re in the kitchen wash a few plates. If you don’t see any, unload the (clean) dishes from the dishwasher and put them away without making a big deal about it.
- You know what parents want more than anything? Fully-prepared meals with healthy ingredients. If you haven’t been invited over yet, here’s a cool trick that will almost guarantee an invite (and if you don’t get one, you don’t get to take it personally): Drop a home-cooked meal at their door and text them to let them know it’s waiting.
- Awesome, low-impact option: call your friends in the morning and tell them you’re ordering dinner that night. Don’t get into minute detail, that’s why you’re the one arranging delivery. Get some general directions and let your fingers do the walking.
- The hours of 5 to 7 p.m. aren’t cocktail hour for new parents: they’re the witching hour. Unless your best mom-friend specifically says that 7 p.m. is a good time, avoid this as your visiting hour.
- Keep that first visit SHORT. Half an hour is Golden. Being social is exhausting when you’ve had four hours sleep in twenty-minute bursts. Make your getting-ready-to-go noises at the half-hour mark, and if she insists you stay, stay another twenty minutes, tops.
Even if one parent says it’s fine to stay another hour or so, the one who’s just given birth gets the trump card. When our baby was new, a saintly friend brought dinner for all of us. She then stayed for three hours. I was so exhausted I was near tears.
If at all possible, do not cancel your visit at the last minute. So maybe it’s suddenly inconvenient, but your visit could be the highlight of her week. Do you know what she just went through to have a shower for you? Don’t fuck this up.
- If your mom-friend is breastfeeding, bring her a glass of water before you sit down. Then get up and bring her another one 20 minutes later without asking. Feeding a bunchkin is thirsty work.
- Please don’t talk about the latest outrage in the tar sands or prorogation of parliament unless prompted. As politically and culturally engaged as your friends are, they’re preoccupied. Certainly describe the latest awesome post on the Hairpin or The Rumpus, but be succinct. Your friends can barely handle email right now. You’re there to bring news of the outside world and reassure them that a baby has only made them cooler.
- And don’t get into your latest roommate battle or outline office politics. If you know you might slip up, write it on your hand. It’s not about you, not today.
- I know I don’t have to say this, right? but don’t offer any advice, even if solicited, on how to lose the baby weight. First of all, too soon! New mothers need more calories than pregnant women. Nursing mothers are making food so that a live human being can double their weight. They don’t need to think about their own.
- You know what’s cuter than cute baby things (which they already have a lot of)? Cute nursing tops. If you know for a fact your mom-friend is breastfeeding, buy her a nice nursing tank or nursing shirt, because what happens is this: whatever clothes she finds work for her are the ones she’ll be wearing for the next eight-to-twelve-month period. And she doesn’t have time to shop. And if she does, she won’t be able to rationalize a $60 shirt. Do it for her.
- Say it’s 6 or 10 weeks post-partum and your mom-friend is still nervous about leaving home on her own with the baby. Now is totally the time to step up and be a champ. Arrange to meet her somewhere five minutes away from her house. Do reconnaissance and pick somewhere that’s not too noisy or crowded, and has a table tucked away somewhere. This is important if hasn’t tried breastfeeding out of the house yet.
- Be totally cool with whatever happens. Even if the baby screams the entire time or your friend sprays milk or gets weepy, say brightly, “it’s no big deal. Look at you! You’re doin’ it!” and smile widely. Don’t check your phone.
- By the way, it’s your job to fetch the spoon, and tidy the table afterwards without making a deal of it and pick up anything she forgets. You don’t need to do much else, and you probably don’t need to finish your story.
- If you offer to babysit, mean it. If your new parent friends don’t take you up on it remind them in three months, and then another six months. They might not be ready to leave their baby yet but when they’re ready, they’ll be SO READY and you will be their hero. Don’t expect them to pay you. You’re not fourteen.
- If your friend seems unusually teary in the early weeks or months post-partum, find out when the last time she ate red meat was. If she can’t remember what she’s been eating, come over and cook her a high-protein meal. Preferably steak in a coffee-cumin rub.
- Try not to forget your friend exists. This usually happens ten to twenty-six weeks after the baby’s born. Maybe you haven’t seen her for a while. Send her a quick text right now.
- Invite her out to something, especially if it’s close to home. We like trivia nights because you get to hang with grownups behaving childishly and there’s little small-talk (when the only place you’ve been lately is the mom-and-baby drop-in) and you get to exercise your brain.
- Even if you’ve invited your friend out six times in six months and she’s said no every time, keep trying. She’s not dissing you, she just wants to go to bed at 9:30 and doesn’t want to tell you.
- Check in with your mom-friend about this, but random, unplanned surprise visits when you’re in the neighbourhood are awesome. Text when you’re 5 minutes away, and if she panics, say you’re just going to stroll the baby around the block so she can shower. Chances are, she hasn’t.
Sure, this is the chance to blow some cash on uber-cute tiny clothing, but all new parents get tons of clothes in 0-3 month sizes and almost nothing by the time baby turns one. If you want to be an incredible human being, bring something cute and brand-new when the kid is two-and-a-half and no-one is bringing new clothes anymore.
Oh yeah, your new-mom friend comes to the door 12 days after giving birth, the right thing to say is “OMG how is it that you just had a BABY and yet you look totally hot?!” A friend of mine said this and I will love her until the end of time.
This last story of amazing friends being amazing is so sweet and touching, I’m going to let another friend of mine tell it verbatim:
I had no experience at all with a newborn and all I could remember were postpartum horror stories. When my partner returned to work after two weeks, I was terrified. Two single friends, both bartenders who worked nights, took turns coming over to sit with me for the entire first scary week of being ‘home alone.’ Knowing that they would be there took the pressure off, and by the end of the week I was confident I could do this thing.”
Helen Spitzer is senior editor at Bunch and has never emptied a friend’s dishwasher.