When you have a child, it’s an event. When historians divide periods of time separated by big events, they often use the term epoch. It’s a when you think of a clear separation of time before and after a big event. The arrival of a new child certainly qualifies. The time before and the time after are different.
When you welcome a new family member, there’s more to do than there was before that. It’s never less, it’s just more. Some new parents are blessed to have family willing to help. Should you accept help? What kind of help makes sense?
Where to accept help?
Here’s some ways Grandparents or other family can help along with some things to consider.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 ESV
For help that takes a financial form, communicate clearly on this question. Family and money are a volatile combination at times. The best first step with the question of direct financial help is to be clear with any offer is whether the funds are a gift or a loan. Then be clear about whether the giver has any say so on what will be done with the money. In other words, if grandma wants to help with day care, be clear if she is only willing to help if you choose the “right” day care. Do the legwork up front and then consider some of the following forms of help.
Pay for childbirth costs
The most immediate issue that many parents think about is paying for childbirth. Some families offer to help bear the cost of this event. Help with medical bills can be a great blessing given the size of the financial burden here. One thing that affects some families is the IRS taxes gifts of a certain size with a gift tax. Most medical expenses are an exception to the IRS rule. A key component if this rule affects you is the IRS makes a distinction between family writing a check to you and then you paying the hospital as compared to family writing a check to the hospital. Check with a qualified tax professional or financial advisor for more on how to get the steps right if you think this tax provision might affect your household.
Jump Start on college
Sometimes families want to help put money toward college for your new addition. As soon as you get a social security number for your child, opening a 529 college savings plan is possible. Remember, the longer you have for this money to grow before college, the more chance the gift has to compound and grow. This is another one that could have some tax implications and could warrant consulting with a professional.
Help at home
Some families will find ways to help around the house. This could paying for some cleaning help or perhaps some other household chores. Help on this front could also come in the form of paying for some items for the child. Diapers don’t come cheap.
Child Care/Day Care
If the plan for your family involves going back to work, childcare of some sort is likely a consideration. If your family decides to help financially with childcare, be clear about what that help will look like. Will you split the cost? How long will family help? If they’re offering 6 months of help for childcare, what’s your plan for month 7 and will you be able to keep supporting the cost?
Help around the house
Household chores become more difficult when you have a small person to care for. Some families offer to help with these sorts of chores. If grandma volunteers for this, think about what job she’s helping with. Is grandma volunteering to hold the child while Mom does the chores or is she volunteering to give Mom a break and do the chores. It sounds simple but talk about it ahead of time. Also, be comfortable with the help. You can say always politely decline an offer of help.
A simple trip to the grocery store with a solo adult is a world of difference compared to a grocery run with an infant in tow. Help of this kind is a simple act that can be very helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask family to pick up an extra gallon of milk to save you a trip.
Babysitting can be costly. Even a few hours can add up and a safe person you can trust is hard to put a price on. If you have multiple children, think of using babysitting time as a change to give more focused attention to older children. A break for Mom and Dad is also exceedingly valuable as well.
Some outings with a little one are required like doctor’s visits and others are fun visits to a park. The logistics of moving a small person are surprisingly complex. If a family member wants to help by playing taxi, it can be a simple but welcome act of assistance.
“A person's a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss
You make the rules
As a blanket rule for all these potential forms of help, there is a simple thing to keep in mind that many of us forget: Mom and Dad make the rules. Ultimately, you as parents are the arbiters of what will or will not happen for your child. This carries through to any form of assistance from family. Don’t let fear of offending grandma deter you from what is the best long-term decision for your family. Beyond that, be grateful when help is offered, but you as parents make that decision instead of anyone else. Not every household has the offer of help, so accept it where it makes sense and get some sleep.
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