Few people today end up living in the same town where they grew up. We move states and countries away from our families for jobs, climates, and "livability". The distance from family can make holiday get-togethers logistically tricky and can be almost debilitating when a new baby enters into the picture.
We all know that new babies, while precious and heart-warming, bring a myriad of challenges from non-stop crying to exploding diapers to seemingly endless nursing. And with many spouses needing to go back to work after a week or two at home, the majority of newborn care falls on the mother's shoulders, regardless of how prepared she may feel for this new role.
Need I mention that our proud United States is tied with Papua New Guinea for the least supportive maternity leave laws? This leaves mom at home grappling with motherhood while knowing that she will likely have to go back to work soon if her household relies on her income to stay afloat.
Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, and aunts - what can you do to help when you are too far away to step in with laundry and meal preparation yourself?
Here are 5 ways a long-distance family member can help out:
1.) Send a care package with healthy snacks that can be eaten with one hand, light-hearted movies or tv series, lip balm and nipple cream, magazines, a HUGE reusable water bottle (preferably with a straw), assorted tea bags, and chocolate.
2.) Get a pizza delivered. No one ever says no to free pizza.
3.) Hire a postpartum doula. Many doulas (this one included!) offer gift certificates so loved ones can send a new family some support.
4.) Call, text, Skype, FaceTime, email, send a carrier pigeon - whatever your favorite way of checking in is, do it! If the new mom is stuck at home all day with a baby, she will welcome a friendly conversation. If you're concerned about waking a sleeping baby, send a text before calling.
5.) Check to see if they have a registry on Amazon or other websites for last-minute baby needs. Often accessories like a Moby Wrap or Sleep Sheep don't seem necessary until deep in the trenches.
Even if you can't be there in person, your thoughtfulness can go a long way in supporting the new family. And remember - thinking about it doesn't count in this case. Don't wait for them to have another sleepless night without help - do it now!
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.