If someone dear to you is having a baby or has just had a baby, chances are that you’ll give her a gift. Perhaps you wonder how to make your gift one that counts.
As a fiscally minded father of three little ones, I can provide some particular gift-giving insight.
“What will the young couple need when the little one arrives?” The answer in short is loving support and time.
For the entirety of human history, the proverbial “village” provided both of these commodities. Support came from grandmas and aunts who were willing to stay up at night with the new mom and help and guide her in how to care for her newborn.
The village also provided a means for the parents to experience a bit of time each day to themselves, without the incessant demands of an infant. For instance, other children of the village would be around playing during all waking hours. There is not much that catches the attention of an infant more than other children playing.
Finally, those same grandmas and aunts would have lived so near to the newborn parents’ home (or with the parents) that they would help wash the newborn, prepare meals for the new family, clean, and do any number of things you might imagine would be attention-grabbing for the infant.
Compare this with today. The newborn is nearly alone with mom from morning till night, and then from night until morning. Dad goes to work, often exhausted from the nighttime sleep interruptions. Who does mom have to help her entertain her newborn, make meals, and clean up around the home? Often, there is no one.
And bless the single parents who don’t even have the support of a spouse. In modern society, we must find ways to overcome the fact that our parents live in another state, and our best friends are a 30-minute drive away, at best.
Where in our modern culture is our daily support system? Where do we find the necessary time for peace?
Common baby gifts include brightly colored plastic toys with irritatingly repetitive jingles. Unfortunately, the novelty wears out quickly. Think twice before putting these toys on your baby-shower lists.
Some of us are lucky enough to have a live-in grandma. Others can hire help. For all others, the following gift suggestions will be all the more appreciated.
1. Loving Childcare (No cost)
In the world of postpartum parenting, nothing is more needed than the loving donation of your time with the infant. Tickle the baby, change the baby, make funny faces, crawl around on the floor, make strange sounds, and do it for long periods of time. These silly things are imperative for the infant’s development. And new parents can get burned out in the imagination department.
A great gift idea is to make a booklet of coupons. Each coupon can have phrases like “good for three hours of quality, loving childcare” and “to be arranged in advance with Aunt Debbie.” Add some humor with “not transferable for cash.” Once gifting these to the young couple, each coupon can be submitted back to you in exchange for a two-, three-, or four-hour block of childcare with you.
2. Overnight Assistant (No cost)
Are you a night owl? Do you like sleepovers? If so, consider spending a night awake (more likely waking up as necessary) to bring the newly nursing mom a fresh diaper, a glass of water, a late-night snack, or just a compassionate companion to listen and chat in the wee hours of morning when no one else is there.
One day, 20 years from now, this night will be one of the most memorable and priceless nights of your lives. Consider this option especially for close friends.
A great gift idea is to make a gift certificate for this one-time service. You could use a phrase like this on the certificate: “This certificate entitles [Mom’s name] to a personal assistant for one entire night.”
Then list some of the chores that you may want to perform for her, from changing diapers to fixing food, and the like.
3. Food Shopping and Preparation ($20-$200)
Are you handy in the kitchen and supermarket-savvy? Shopping and preparing food for new parents is a memorably loving gift.
Quality food is a necessity, especially for new postpartum parents who are entering a new level of stress. These parents need quality nutrition to help them boost their immunity so that they can be awake at night and in constant demand during the day.
Unprocessed vegetables and meats, fruits, nuts, rice, beans, and eggs bring tremendous health benefits in the form of vitamins and minerals.
Be particularly mindful to choose foods that don’t have pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, additives, sugar, and other artificial ingredients. Healthy parents will have more patience and energy for their newborn, and healthy moms will have better nutrition for breastfeeding their babies.
A great gift idea is to present a certificate or coupon book. Fill it with phrases like “good for one free meal.” And if you want to spice up the deal, consider using phrases that boost the value of the meal they are getting, like “100 percent certified organic ingredients” and “guaranteed to boost your parenting skills.”
If you know the couple’s schedule well enough, another option is to surprise them one evening by showing up with groceries.
4. Prepared Food Delivery ($250+)
Have the money for a great gift but maybe not the time? Want to leave a gift they’ll never forget? Have five days of food delivered to their door. All Mom will have to do is put it in the fridge and warm it up as she pleases.
The critical factor here is that you will be saving these new parents an entire week of food shopping and preparation. This is an incredible timesaving gift.
Again, you’ll want quality foods that add to the health of the new family. An incredible option is HealthyChefCreations.com, whose mission is “to prepare great-tasting, all-natural, wholesome, organic cuisine and deliver the meals fresh to your door.” The options are diverse and include the ability to check off foods that you don’t want to include in the week.
5. Paid Day Off ($?)
Perhaps a bit of a wish, I admit that this one is a bit selfish. In order for me to hang out with my kids, I must cancel a client or forfeit income-producing time in some manner.
The cost-benefit is constantly being weighed in my household as we strive for balance. Should we go to visit the parents this holiday and lose income? Or shall Daddy stay home and work while mom and the kids go away? The latter is what often happens in our family.
What if a well-meaning wealthy individual handed me a wad of cash with these conditions: “Just take two days in a row; cancel clients; hang out with the kids; send the spouse to yoga?” And what if the condition explicitly said that I am not allowed to use the money to pay off bills or fix the roof?
I think I’d do it. I would cancel clients, cancel other scheduled events, put an auto-responder on the email, and change my voicemail for 48 hours. And then I would take a big sigh of relaxation and give thanks to the person who funded that sigh.
In the modern world of parenting, as traditional support systems disappear, loving childcare and healthy food donations will always be beautiful gifts.