by Jessica Martin-Weber
this post made possible by the generous support of Beco Baby Carriers
Not sure what to get the smart, hard working, dedicated parent friend, family member or partner in your life but you want to give them something? Do they mean a lot to you and you want to express that through a gift but haven’t found just the right thing? After all, they already have “everything” in their children, what could add to that? I asked the Leakies over on The Leaky Boob Facebook page what they would want to receive to take the guess work out of how to find that perfect gift for any parent with young children. Their responses were fantastic and creative, here I broke them down into three main categories to fit different budgets and time.
Just costs a little time (and maybe some common supplies you’d already have on hand).
In today’s hectic pace of life, time sometimes seem more valuable than money even more than the saying “time is money.” Nothing communicates care, love, support, and value like investing time in someone. Most of the gifts in this category were ones that obviously held a lot of value to those moms with infants young children posting.
Sleep. This was the most mentioned suggestion. Parents, particularly parents with young children want sleep. Partners, this could be an easy one to give, depending on your schedule. You each could give each other the gift of sleeping in once a week on a set day. It can work out to be a great benefit to all of you, special time with the kids for the partner getting up and catching up on sleep for the partner sleeping in. Naps and early bed times can be helpful too and don’t have to come from the partner. A friend takes the kids to the park, a relative comes over in the middle of the day, or a trusted neighbor bakes cookies with the kids for an hour. A little bit of extra rest can go a long way.
House cleaning. So many moms posted they’d love someone to come help with some house cleaning. A load of dishes, run the vacuum, sweep, dust, even fold some laundry. Not every woman is going to want someone to come clean their house so be sure you check with them or know them well enough before gifting this. Pull out all the stops and send the whole family packing for a day out while you attack their house, they’d get special family time and come home to a tidy place. And partners, unless it is clear between the two of you that cleaning is her job or you have designated household chores, you gifting cleaning is like saying “here honey, my gift to you is to help with the responsibility of caring for our family. I wouldn’t give her that unless you’re ready for your next gift to be “I gave birth to our children.”
Playmate for kids. Could be you or someone you know. Some older kids can do the trick too, my 10 year old can be incredibly interactive with younger kids, she gets so into playing with them in a way that makes me question my attention span and wonder “how can she keep going like that?” This could be free or very inexpensive, a neighbor child or older child of a friend would be happy to play for a couple of hours in exchange for a few dollars or trip to get ice cream. Having that arranged for them could make that mom or dad’s day and give them the chance to read a book, clean without “helpers”, or maybe even shower.
Shower or bath. The key to this being a real gift for the parent of young children is one word: “uninterrupted.” Entertain the kids and protect that bathroom door and the parent gifted “one uninterrupted shower” will feel like they won the lottery. Ramp it up with a prepared bubble bath with candles, snacks, a book, warm towel and robe, and a glass of wine or a cup of tea and you’ll make their year. Gift this as a regular thing once a week or so packaged in a simple basket of homemade sugar scrub, a special candle, and bubble bath and watch as they become a more relaxed, centered version of themselves again. And cleaner too.
Massage. Not everyone is a professional masseuse but a little bit of an internet search can give you some techniques for a truly relaxing massage. Shoulders, feet, head, back, or whole body, a massage that’s expectation free *cough* not expected to lead to sex *cough* not only feels good but communicates wanting to be close just because. Ever held an average diaper bag, unfolded a stroller, or moved a car seat? Moms and probably dads too end up with a lot of muscular tension from the small people they love so much needing to be held, picked up, played with, and the giant juggling act that comes with caring for a family.
Childcare. Be it one time or reoccurring, if you are a trusted friend or family member and know that you deserve being such, your gift of babysitting so the parents could go out or stay in would probably mean more than words could express. Date night, girls night out, time to grocery shop alone, or pedicures, it’s a gift of time and very possibly sanity. But this isn’t just a gift for the parents, it’s a gift for the family. Parents that have time to care for themselves and their partner if they have one tend to be able to find the energy to be the kind of parents they want to be. When parents are stressed and don’t get down time it can be challenging for the entire family. Plus, those children get the gift of another trusted adult relationship in their lives, an invaluable contribution to the people they are becoming. If this gift is politely turned down, please don’t take it as a rejection, it may just be they aren’t ready to leave their child or feel their child isn’t ready to leave them and it’s likely not about you anyway.
Elving. This goes with another one of the gifts suggest above. When you spend time with the kids so the parents can have some time, take the opportunity to help guide some creative expression for your little charges if they are old enough. A hand print picture or other kid craft or art will have a lot of meaning when someone else helped them do it and it will genuinely be a surprise.
Clean out the car. As parents we worry about things like projectiles in the car but it can be difficult to keep on top of cleaning our vehicles out. Maybe it’s just a vacuum or maybe it’s going to take a trash bag, cleaning out the space where many moms and dads spend a good chunk of their time can mean more peaceful drives.
Help. In parenting fantasy land, relaxing may only come at the end of the day when everyone is in bed. Reality though often keeps this fantasy just out of reach with dinner clean up, dishes, preparing for the next day, house cleaning, and maybe that elusive shower if they’re lucky. By the time they do get to sit down for a moment… they fall asleep in some awkward position. Having help for even 30 minutes in the time between dinner and bed time could mean the difference between the parents getting an hour to sit and focus on something that nourishes them.
Notice. This one is simple and not really something you can package specifically until you know exactly what it is. Pay attention. What does this parent regularly end up dealing with that could be frustrating? For many moms with young children and particularly a breastfeeding child it’s things like not having the chance to eat a hot meal because they end up getting up and down a lot through the meal to meet everyone else’s needs or, because breastfeeding babies have radar for “mom is getting to eat!” and have to breastfeed. Getting to eat a hot meal and sit through it could be just what she would enjoy. But whatever it is that the parent you want to get something special for would really appreciate, you’ll have to pay attention. My husband made me feel really special when he saw how frustrated I was with how my closet and dresser were (not) organized because I hadn’t found the time and one day while I was out grocery shopping he got the kids involved in tackling organizing my clothes. It may not be exactly how I would have done it myself but it is much better than it was and I really appreciated it. It also meant that all my “pretty” undergarments were easily accessible. 😉
Understanding. It is easy to feel like we’re not doing good enough for our families, friends, society, and ourselves. One Leaky shared that she would love to not feel rushed, punished, guilted, or resented for doing something for herself. Whether that is coming from her partner, other family, friends, her children or even herself, having someone understand and care could be the difference between her constantly feeling depleted and having confidence and energy. A little bit of understanding, compassion, and support can go a long way and the pay offs are significant even if they take a while to be evident.
You. We didn’t do it often but my friend Monette once suggested that I come over to her house or she to mine after the kids were in bed. We loved it. It meant she showed up at my house at 8.30 with a bottle of wine and a bar of fine chocolate to share. She would leave by 9.45 but that hour and 15 minutes was cherished time. Find ways, get creative, and don’t be afraid to make suggestions for simple and short ways to connect.
Coupon Book. This one is particularly good for partners to give but good friends, siblings, parents, and even kids would be appropriate givers of such a gift. Fill it with all the good stuff listed above, cheap and easy, just takes some effort. You could include some more simple coupons such as “good for 10 back scratches” or “make the bed.”
Many of these would work well from one mom-friend to another. With my kids, bringing another child or set of children into our home often ends up keeping my own kids entertained and while it can be some extra work too, it’s nice for my kids to be busy with someone else. I often find I end up with the gift of going pee all by myself because the kids are too busy with their playmates to accompany me.
Homemade and inexpensive
Unless you make it expensive
Printed snapshots and family photos. Not necessarily professional quality as that can become quite costly, but if they have an Instagram account or share photos on Facebook, surprising them with a curated selection of their family photos would be quite meaningful. If you have the time, organizing them into a photo book or scrapbook is very special.
Homemade freezer meals or a meal delivered hot. Some communities are great about this after a baby is just born or illness has hit a family but imagine getting a meal just in the middle of regular life? Or having someone make several for the freezer, even better if they just get thrown into a crockpot for cooking all day. A relaxed dinner party to share the meal together is also a way to gift not only a meal but the gift of your time together. That’s not a gift of just food, it’s a gift of time!
Food in a jar. With everything premeasured, a mason jar with all the dry ingredients and the recipe is a delicious gift of one worry-free meal.
Just about anything handmade. Parents understand how time becomes a hot commodity when you have kids. Knowing you took the time to make them something is touching. Useful items such as slippers, hot pad holders, dish towels, bath salts, etc., become not only treasured handmade items but every day reminders of how you thought of them.
Get your shopping on
Online, in a boutique, the grocery store, or the mall, it will cost as much as you’re willing to spend.
A bathrobe. This is especially nice if you’re going to help him/her make sure they has time for a shower or bubble bath from time to time. A Leaky shared:
“As corny as this is going to sound, my husband let me open one of my presents last night and it was a soft fluffy bathrobe. It’s probably the best present I’ve ever gotten and I almost cried thinking that he paid attention more to unspoken wishes than things that are said.”
An experience. This may require childcare but the gift of an experience outside of their normal routine can be refreshing, energizing, and provide perspective. Be it something extravagant or something simple, an experience is a wonderful gift. A friend once gave me the gift of going zip lining with her and that 45 minutes flying through the trees that day was cleansing and revitalizing to my weary spirit at that point. I will treasure the memories and time together and now I can’t wait to regift that experience to her. For some, getting a pedicure or some spa treatment could be all the experience they desire, but anything from a gift card to go shopping alone for a couple hours or a night out bowling or tickets to MommyCon, to a groupon for paddle boarding or zip lining or tickets to a show, to a luxurious weekend getaway, an experience is never forgotten.
Jewelry. I used to hate the idea of getting jewelry as a gift but then my husband surprised me with a pearl necklace I would have never selected but I ended up loving. One of my favorite things about that necklace is I would never have had the courage to pick that out for myself but I love it, even more so because he got it for me. Now receiving jewelry from him and even others has broadened my appreciation for styles I previously would have dismissed as not suiting me. I love that these pieces always make me think of the giver.
Comfortable footwear. Slippers, socks, even a comfortable pair of shoes (could be partnered with a shared experience of shopping to get the right size) are great for parents. We’re on our feet a lot and having footwear that makes that a little more comfortable is a great thing.
The arts. Be it to hang on the wall, play on the stereo, watch on the TV, read, or attend, the arts speak in ways we can’t manage on our own. When my husband had the print of my favorite painting framed that had been stuck in a tube for years waiting for the right frame, I actually cried. It meant so much to me. A collection of beautifully bound poems by one of our most loved poets whom we had often read together when we were dating was equally moving, then there was the time he was thrilled I took him to the symphony when they were performing the piano concerto that made his heart flip, both of us have found ourselves inspired when given a beautiful journal, and more recently tickets to a musical I’ve been dying to see made me do a little dance in excitement.
Activity and engagement. Encourage physical fitness with a gift that will get them moving. When you’re a parent of small children it’s easy to forget to get moving more than trying to keep up with our kiddos. But since modeling is the best way to teach our children, being intentional about being active is worth the effort for the health of the whole family. A bike, a yard game to play as a family, or accessories that compliment whatever activity they are already enjoying communicates support in the endeavor of family health. One Christmas we were given a bike trailer that hitched to one of our bikes for the little ones and suddenly we were more than happy to ride more including trips to the grocery store. Our overall health benefitted.
Something practical. For the kitchen, the house, the car, the yard, technology, or just for them, a gift that they can use that simplifies every day life is often greatly appreciated. Pay attention though, be sure it’s something they need or want and you’ll make their day.
A couple of quick “don’ts”
Hint. Gifts that are meant to be a hint are more hurtful than meaningful. That fancy new vacuum cleaner you think they could use because it looks like their vacuum cleaner must be broken or that high dollar blender you were eyeing so maybe they would be inspired to cook more or, heaven forbid, that gym membership you think they could/should really use when they have never expressed an interest in joining a gym could come across as critical. Not only may they not be appreciative, they may be hurt even though that’s not what you intended. A carefully planned conversation could help you suss out how such a gift would be received, if you’re not sure, maybe pass and if you realize you are considering a gift as a way to drop a hint maybe one of the best gifts you could give is to drop such passive aggressive strategies and work on making your relationship authentic and healthier.
When in doubt, don’t. One of the most mentioned dreaded gifts from the Leakies were clothes that weren’t useful, weren’t their style, or the absolutely worst, don’t fit. Unless you have overwhelming confidence that you know their size and style, gifting just about anyone clothing is like navigating a minefield. Proceed with caution and a gift receipt.
Have strings attached. Ever. To anyone, parent or not. Reminding people of the gift you gave them as though they owe you or need to continually wallow in appreciation just kills relationships. Give, no strings attached. It’s ok to remind them if they seem to have forgotten you gave them the gift of babysitting or your time otherwise though, they may have either forgotten or felt like it was too much to bring it up themselves. Just no strings.
Take it personally. If your gift isn’t a huge hit, don’t take it personally. Maybe their tastes changed, maybe they are insecure, maybe they are just really tired, who knows. But don’t assume it’s about you. And if you never see them use it, just let it go. Gift giving can feel really great but ultimately once we give the gift we have to let it go.
What would you like to receive? What’s your favorite gift to give to a parent?