So your sweet little cherub finally came into this world and has subsequently turned it upside down! You’re not sure what time it is, let alone what day. You think you showered yesterday but can’t remember for sure. And those leftovers in the fridge — are those from two days ago or two weeks ago? You know that you should sleep while the baby is sleeping, but if you could just wash the dishes flowing all over the countertop everything would feel a little better.
You finally lie down, mentally calculating how much sleep you will get if you fall asleep instantaneously (I call this Sleep Math), and your phone rings. You’re immediately annoyed because who has the audacity to call a new parent who is trying to sleep?! Then a heavy dose of guilt shimmies up your spine because it is your wonderful auntie who would like to come and meet the baby. “Sure,” you sigh, when she asks if now is an OK time to visit. “Can I help with anything while I’m there?” she graciously offers, because although it has been many years, she too was once a new momma.
Any savvy new parent understands that they have in their home something powerful: a baby. Like a moth to a flame, friends and family flock to the sweet smell of a tiny baby head. Many members of our “village” are undeterred by sleeping parents and feeding schedules; they are jonesing for some time snuggling your new bundle of joy.
While I always advocate for healthy boundaries in the postpartum period, I believe this is a wonderful opportunity to harness your power! Now is the time to leverage it to help meet your needs. Enter the “Baby Tax” List! Believe it or not, this very simple concept can pay huge dividends for new parents.
In a visible place in your home (like a chalkboard or a piece of paper on your fridge), write down some things that you need done. Think of this as a chore list where your visitors earn the reward of time spent with you and/or your baby. In other words, your visitor pays you a “baby tax” by folding some laundry first before getting to hold the baby.
This is a handy tool for everyone involved. In the early postpartum days, many members of our support network make offers saying things like, “Let me know if I can help,” and “Call me if you need anything.” But in our foggy, sleep-deprived, new parent minds, it can be hard to ask for help. Plus, we want everyone to know we’ve got everything under control, right?!
The reality is life postpartum is really difficult and it is in our (and our babies’) best interest to access and use our resources. It is OK to accept offers of support! A Baby Tax List takes the awkwardness away from asking for help. In fact, the really savvy members of your village will see the list and complete some items without having been asked.
You’ve got a lot on your plate, friends! Share the burden of your load and you will appreciate the small reprieve. Besides, that sweet auntie of yours wants to help. If you think about it, you just might be doing her the favor.
Here are some ideas to get your list started:
- Bring a healthy prepared or frozen meal
- Order carry-out
- Make mom/dad a hot meal and let them eat it while it’s hot!
(**Bonus points if the visitor makes a hot cup of coffee too.)
- Take out the trash
- Launder baby’s clothes or help with other laundry
- Wash the dishes
- Sterilize bottles and/or pump parts
- Shovel the drive/walkway (Ugh! Winter is here.)
- Walk the dog
- Clean the bathroom
- Change the bedding
- Rub mom’s feet
- Hold the baby while I shower/sleep/read/eat bon bons in the closet
- Take big brother/sister out for a special treat
- Hang out with baby while I go for a walk alone
- Let me go to the gym without the added workout of carrying a car seat
- Pick up ___________ from the grocery store (Insert 1 or 100 things that you need/want)
- Run errands
- Fix the leaky faucet in the bathroom
- If you love me, let me nap!
As you can see, the list is only limited by your own imagination! The Baby Tax List is a light-hearted, cheeky way to remind our friends and family that we love them and we need/appreciate their support. What would you like some help with? Add it to the list and share this with all the parents that could use some help.
– Nichole Enerson is the Parenting Program postpartum adjustment coordinator in Royal Oak. She adores her teenage children who finally sleep more than she does. She survived postpartum anxiety through the support and grace of her beloved husband and family!