Helping Hands

The four things that really make a difference to new parents….

We have been overwhelmed by all the kindness and generosity we have received since having the twins. Family and friends have rallied round us with touching regularity and sensitivity, and the difference they have made to our day-to-day existence has been immeasurable.

There are lots of ways to help new parents, but these are the ones that have made all the difference to us.

Home-Cooked: Mama’s gotta eat, and for those who are breastfeeding it’s more important than ever. Several of our friends have turned up with home-cooked meals – from individually-portioned lasagnas and quiches, to apple crumble and rocky road – and all of them have been more than welcome. Evening meals that can be easily reheated (and eaten with one hand) are a godsend, while simple puddings and cakes that can be munched on throughout the day are a treat all tired mummies and daddies could do with. Help with the shopping has also been invaluable, and turning up with a little bag of essentials is so welcomed. Milk, eggs, salad, tomatoes, fresh bread – these are all things that tired parents can’t drag out of a freezer at the last minute and might not have time to go out and buy. I am always thrilled when someone brings these over.

Days Out: Someone once told me that having more children is really just a case of having less time to look after your first child, the others just all fall in line. And even with twins, while their needs a bit less acute, Elsa has needed plenty of attention and time. The childcare and distractions provided by both family and friends has been so welcome – from invites for playdates with her little friends and sleepovers at Grannie’s, to trips to Peppa Pig World, a dinosaur exhibition at Gloucester Museum, the model village at Bourton-on-the Water and The Tiger who Came to Tea at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre – she has been treated with such kindness and given so many lovely treats. Not only does this give us much needed time to concentrate on the twins but it’s also lovely to know she’s having a whole day dedicated to her.

Kind Words: Sometimes it’s the less tangible things that make all the difference. I’ve been so touched by every well-timed thoughtful text, every kind word, every positive note. Nearly everyone that has come to see us has had nothing but positive, kind things to say about how well we are doing, how good we look, how happy our boys seem. These might seem like trite, simple things to do or say, but they mean such a lot to a tired Mummy or a stressed Daddy. Don’t ever under-estimate the power of a kind word or the reassurance it gives parents to tell them they’re doing a great job.

Beautiful Things: Presents are still something that make people happy – and we have been very blessed with many lovely things since the boys were born, especially some beautiful clothes and hand-knitted or handmade pieces that have completely blown me away. I’ve been most touched though (obviously) by the presents for Mummy – from the bottle of wine plonked unceremoniously on the table with the words: “I tried to think what you needed most. I decided it was this.” (She knows me so well), to lovely scented candles, beautiful hand-creams, posh chocolates and gorgeous flowers. I love ALL these things and these were the little treats that made me feel normal again. (Also major kudos to the friend who toyed with a Dominos voucher as a gift – I think she might know me a little too well…!)

All these things have been so important to us and so gratefully received – though, it’s important to note, that I think we’ve played our part too. There’s a certain skill to really letting people help you. When  Elsa was first born there was a tendency to try and cope without help, to soldier on without family support, to tell friends we were doing fine, all was ‘normal and well’. But that way lies misery, and eventually leads to two very burnt-out parents. This time around, I have worked hard to really let people help – when they offer to swing past the supermarket for me, I take them up on it; when they offer to take Elsa out for icecream, I say ‘yes’; when they make me sit down and bring me water and coffee, I let them; when they insist on putting a wash on for me, I point them in the direction of the machine. People want to be helpful, but you have to let them do it – and that’s the hard bit. And once you let go of what it means to accept help, it can be a wonderfully positive force in your life.

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