The early days leave you little time to update your Facebook status, let alone go to the bathroom, says writer Lucy Mangan
The first three months with your newborn are meant to be bliss. Some will call it your ‘babymoon’ – even your health visitor if she’s particularly cavalier with the truth. In reality, it’s usually something between war and penal servitude.
Think disrupted nights, four-hourly feeds, 300 loads of washing a day, an apparently unbroken chain of dirty nappies – and all while you still try to manage a few of the basic necessities for yourself. ‘I have to go to the loo, too!’ I remember telling my weeks-old infant as I slung another nappy at the bin.
Friends who deliver
Is it any wonder, then, that the visitors upon whose necks we fall most sobbingly gratefully are those who come armed not with flowers, but with weapons to help in the ceaseless fight against disorder? I speak of those bounteous friends who turn up with food. Whether ready-made by the supermarket or home-cooked meals, the new mother cares not. If it’s something even the most hapless husband can bung in the oven and render edible, it is very manna from heaven.
And, even better than that, is the friend who comes in, briefly admires the baby, casts a swiftly appraising eye around the house, then rolls up her sleeves and gets to work on the most pressing problems. It might be washing up, emptying the dishwasher, doing the laundry, tackling the ironing, pushing a vacuum around (if the baby’s awake!), wiping down surfaces sticky with substances long past recognition, or just tidying things up so you don’t risk a fatal fall as you pick your way across the detritus-filled floor with your babe-in-arms.
These are the friends you swear to cherish all the days of your life – and to repay the favour as soon as your life gets back to normal, or they need help in a nursing home, whichever comes first.
Muck in, people
You see, the rules change when you have a baby, especially the one about a woman’s home being her castle. In the usual run of things, you don’t – ever – comment on the state of another’s home. Even noting that it looks clean throws up the unspoken fear that every other time you’ve come round, you have secretly been thinking the place could double as a set for Steptoe And Son.
But, once the domestic overseer is pinioned beneath maternal cares, the game changes. If you smile and go about making things look good/smell good/work, she’ll love you forever. Until my dying day, I’ll never forget the friend who told me to go for a shower while the baby slept and who, by the time I returned, had transformed the welter of coffee mugs, stained bibs and dying flowers back into the lounge it had once been. When she needs someone to take her to bingo in that nursing home, I’m there.
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Lucy’s new book Charlie's Chocolate Factory: the Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket and Roald Dahl's Greatest Creation is out on September 4th.