Kimpeturin. When I first heard that Yiddish word, I was totally confused. First of all, it sounds like a plural, but it actually refers to a woman (in the singular) recovering from childbirth. And it’s a term just loaded with compassionate implications: you take pains not to stress out this woman; she’s not expected to shlepp the laundry; and you cut her some slack when it comes to emotional triggers. Point being that new mommies can use a little (ok, a lot) of help from their friends, neighbors, in-laws, anybody! Doesn’t matter if the new baby is your first or if you have a house full of kids, getting it all together ain’t easy.
In our wonderful Jewish communities, aid comes in all forms – gifts of baby essentials, babysitting so the new mommy can nap, or help with din-din. I’ve also heard of a lady who comes over just to sort the laundry. What a G-dsend!
Whether or not you normally love to cook, it’s nice to be off for a while. So, quite often, the community steps up to the plate (literally). A kind-hearted soul organizes the volunteer services of other kind-hearted souls to bring you and your family supper. Every night, the doorbell rings and it’s a fun surprise to see what’s cookin’. This happens wherever Jewish women live: from Boro Park to Beit Shemesh, to Teaneck, LA, Toronto, London, Brussels, Sao Paolo, Johannesburg, Hong Kong. It’s what we do.
If, for some reason, such a “program” is not in place where you live, now’s the time for you to start one. If people feel a little overwhelmed – “What should I cook? What foods do they like?” – I say, stress-nisht.
It’s simple if you follow a few rules. Here are mine:
1. It’s All About the Kids
Unless it’s the couple’s first baby, the biggest help you can give is something the kids will actually eat. This is not the time to impress the couple with your culinary prowess. It’s not a help if after opening up 3 tins of miso-glazed sea bass, Mommy has to make noodles with ketchup for the kids. And make sure you find out if there are any foods you should avoid due to allergies or any other, “I won’t eat this!” biases. When I had my daughter, my neighbor, Beth, sent over pizza: she used the store-bought dough (I hope!) and just topped it with sauce and shredded cheese. And you know what – there wasn’t a crumb left! I often send over a creamy baked zitiwith corn on the cob or other kid-friendly sides. My go-to chicken isDuck Sauce Chicken or my Honey Mustard Chicken (from my new book Quick & Kosher Meals in Minutes). Fresh baked chicken that’s finger-lickin’ sweet wins the kiddies any day. Happy kiddies means happy new mommy.
2. Don’t Experiment
If you know the family appreciates experimentation, fine. (People who know me feel free to send things like Moroccan chickpea and spinach soup, baked herb and peppercorn gefilte fish, and glazed carrot soup, and I loved every bit of it.) But when I send to others, I stick to the basics like classic gefilte fish, chicken soup and herb roasted potatoes.
3. Don’t Dress the Salad
You have no clue when the family will sit down to eat. If it’s hours after you send the food, the dressed vegetables will be a soggy mess. Always send the dressing in a separate container. I even go so far as to pack all the veggies separately, so they can toss and dress to order and keep any leftovers for later use.
4. Cut Fruit for Dessert is Deeply Appreciated
The new mom is likely to be super-sensitive about losing her baby weight and loves to see her brood eating healthy desserts, so nix the brownies, cookies and cakes. I love sending over fresh cut or sliced fruit. It keeps nicely and Mom can always pack it for school snacks the next day.
5. Announce Yourself in Writing
Nothing too elaborate, just a note to let the family know who provided the meal. Often a housekeeper or visiting relative will accept the food at the door and the new mother will be clueless about who to call if she has any questions (Is this pareve? Did you know about Yossi’s peanut allergy? etc.) I usually write a little “Mazal tov from the Gellers” on the tins or bag I deliver.
Remember, when you do this mitzvah, it’s not just good for the new mom – it’s good for you. And it’s great for your kids to see you to giving back to the community, too. I usually involve my children in helping to cook or deliver the meals. It’s never too early to start training children in this easy, yet important, chessed.