I can't provide you with a magic wand. If I could, well...
It's no secret that lately, my life has been a mess. While I don't expect you to soon encounter another mom of a preschooler that finds herself pregnant and going through a divorce in a different state because her baby is found to have a congenital heart defect and will require open heart surgery, I do know that there are struggles everywhere and people who need a little help.
If you know a single mom, a mom of a child in the hospital, a new mom, or even a family trudging through the aftermath of a loss, then there are a few things short of a magic wand that can ease the stress.
Here is my top ten list of often unthought of thoughtful gifts, that has been inspired mostly by my thoughtful friends.
1. Starbucks Gift card.
-I am a little embarrassed to think about how much money in Starbucks gift cards we have burned through. They just keep coming! These are especially brilliant for single or new moms. We can't afford luxuries like lattes and coffee shop treats, but thanks to the thoughtful cards that keep falling to us like magic, my preschooler and I can turn any rainy day into a special date. This time alone before the baby comes is priceless and in a world where I constantly feel the weight of the sacrifices we are making and the things we are going without, a cup of good coffee makes me feel like we have it all.
2. E-reader Gift card.
-One of the few things I didn't sell off to pay for our move, is my nook. If you know somebody who will be spending lots of time in a hospital (especially with little ones) check to see if they have an ereader and help them load it up with entertainment for those long appointments. A friend of mine gave me a gift card as a baby shower gift and I just now downloaded a few new apps and books. I can NOT figure out why I didn't take advantage of this sooner, my four year old is in heaven.
3. Fast Food Gift card.
-Yeah, I know. Gross. We too try to stay away from processed junk food but while our life is on hold, so are our strict diets. Sometimes, I forget to pack lunches for that appointment that will be all day away. The food costs add up. I know that once we are in surgeries and spending more time at the hospital, a break from the cafeteria food is going to be a blessing, even if it is a bag of salty GMO french fries.*Tip: Look up places near the hospital your loved one will be staying at. Bonus points if they deliver.
-For new moms, for grieving families, for busy single parents. For anybody you know who will be incredibly busy any time soon. Next time you make dinner, make two. Drop one off, even if it just at the doorstep. Check first to make sure you aren't poisoning anybody with allergies or dropping off steaks to your vegan friends, but don't look too much into what you make. It will be appreciated.
*If you are delivering to a grieving family that has company in town, grab toilet paper, coffee, and disposable dinnerware. These items are usually the first to run out in a house full of people.
5. Fuel Gift card.
-When you are seeing health care specialists, they aren't often right across the street. Our weekly appointments are an hour away, plus $6.00 for parking. Our entire monthly budget is less than $400.00/month. It adds up. Some people travel to other states trying to balance their time between sick children in the hospital and other children at home. Any amount helps, and easing financial stress is an incredible gift.
*If you know a family traveling further, consider donating your air miles.
-For many parents, the guilt of burdening their other children can be a major stressor. (It is one for me.) Giving your children the attention they deserve when you are juggling so many other things, feelings, and emotions can be hard. Offer to take them for a day at the park, a sleepover, or even just out to ice cream. Try to avoid open ended offers like "let me know if you ever need a babysitter." While thoughtful, it is just one more thing for a busy parent to remember and schedule. The only childcare offers I have taken advantage are the direct ones. "Can so and so come over for a play date on Monday? You can pack him an overnight bag if you want!"
Honestly...total lifesaver. For both of us. This gift is likely free and also invaluable.
7. Passes, Tickets, Memberships.
Do the research for a family. Look up indoor play areas, parks, pools, and free events. Print maps and buy them a day pass to one. (Don't forget to include parking if you want the day to be entirely stress free!)
If you are looking for a gift that will keep on giving (though more expensive) buy a zoo pass, an annual museum membership, or a few day passes to the nearest family fun center. Having access to educational entertainment all year long can mean the world to a single parent and having a day to just feel "normal" can be soothing to a family whose days are otherwise occupied by hospitals, medical jargon, and worry.
8. Family Photos
- Bet ya didn't think of that one, did ya? HUGE. This can be spendy, but is a great gift to go in on with a couple of friends for ANY occasion. As a baby shower gift for when the family grows, to a "just because" gift for a family going through hardships, especially terminal illnesses. It is hard to think about, but having high quality photos of a family as or before it changes will be a treasure forever.
- This is another don't-be-vague-gift. Avoid "Let me know if you need help with anything" and instead try "What day does your garbage need to go out? I can make sure it gets to the curb on Tuesdays."
Designating jobs like this is something that many families overlook when heading out of town for medical procedures or ending up in the hospital longer than expected.
Other jobs you can offer to take over? checking the mail, stopping by to feed the animals, stocking the pantry and refrigerator, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow. Anything that can "pile up" when not tended to regularly.
10. A Camera.
-These days, you can buy digital cameras for reasonable prices, especially when compared to the prices of crappy toys that fall apart or baby items that nobody really uses. I added this item to the list with new moms in mind, and I wouldn't suggest it for a grieving family, but it is a great "all around" gift.
Yes...most people have a camera on their phones these days, but when it comes to getting prints made, treasured photos are most likely to end up in a frame if they were taken with a real camera. I would be lost without my camera.
Do they already have a camera? Buy a simple scrapbook, a frame, or a gift card to a place that prints photos, like Shutterfly or Costco.
Clearly, I have amazing friends. There are alot of things I wouldn't have thought of had my loved ones not thought of them first.
Do you have anything to add? Is there something you hadn't thought of before, that made your life easier?
Post it in the comments!