Guess Who Shouldn't Be Coming for Dinner: Etiquette Tips for New Baby Visits
An offer from friends to deliver dinner following the birth of her now 4-year-old daughter sounded fabulous, Jaimie Franchi recalls. But the enticing promise quickly morphed into a culinary disaster, not to mention a major Ms. Manners faux pas.
The "chefs" showed up at her front door sans piping hot meal and promptly headed to Franchi's kitchen, raiding her cabinets for pots and pans and turning what she had envisioned as a simple hot casserole doorstep delivery into a two-hour meal preparation, leaving her sink filled with a giant pasta sauce mess.
"It was a nightmare," Franchi, a Montreal writer and single mother of two, tells ParentDish. "At 9:30 p.m., after sitting down to eat what they cooked, they got up and said, 'OK, since we did all the cooking, we'll leave the cleaning for you.' I sat there with my newborn, exhausted beyond belief, watching these people walk out the door and thinking what a massive inconvenience their 'help' was to me."
Welcome to the front lines of "New Baby Meets the Invasion of Clueless Visitors."
Think "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," when Cousin Eddie and his wife pull up in an old clunker of an RV with their children Rocky and Ruby Sue and Snots, the family dog. Only worse, it's your mother-in-law, the entire clan and some random neighbors with infectious diseases who feel compelled to race to the hospital nursery when the first tweet announces your contractions are five minutes apart.
Or, they camp out in your living room for the duration of the postpartum experience "helping" you by sneezing all over your infant and raiding your refrigerator, sleep time and patience.
Just ask Rebeca Simpson Holloway. She vividly recalls when, less than 12 hours after her son was born, all of her in-laws "descended on my tiny hospital room all at once," she tells ParentDish.
The roster included her mother-in-law, her second husband and his 3-year-old grandson, her father-in-law and his second wife and her husband's cousin and her husband -- all arriving for an impromptu bedside visit.
"I was less than thrilled," says Holloway, an Indianapolis mom of two boys, ages 3 and 3 months, who runs the website The Average Parent.
"The trend," of unannounced arrivals seemed to continue for weeks, she says. "Considering that I was recovering from a C-section, I was a bit peeved by their lack of consideration."
Holloway says it would have been helpful if "they came with meals or stopped by the house to help fold laundry or something. But, essentially, all they did was sit and occupy precious time that could have been spent sleeping."
To help make new baby visits less dysfunctional and allow for more precious moments, ParentDish asked new parents and experts for some advice.
1. "Wait to be invited," etiquette coach Constance Hoffman tells ParentDish. And, "don't ask personal questions regarding the birthing experience."
This is the Golden Rule, Richie Frieman, the Modern Manners Guy, tells ParentDish.
"Do not do the old drop-in by landing on their doorstep and saying 'Hey, I was just in the area and thought I'd stop by.' Not only are drop-ins improper, but when it comes to the chaos of dealing with a new baby, timing is key. Plus, you do not want to be the one that rings the doorbell and wakes the baby up."
2. "Make visits short and sweet, knowing ahead of time that you will stay no more than an hour," Franchi says.
3. Know stuff happens. "Expect the unexpected -- body functions that is," Frieman says. "Don't think that the baby won't throw up, spit up, sneeze or mess their diaper when you are holding them. If you can't handle some spit up, you might be better off Skyping."
4. Offer a hand. "When you have had less than two hours of sleep in the past week, you'll need help, and having a friend or family member willing to lend a hand by making a meal, bringing something in or just running to pick up their dry cleaning, will make you a real champion in their eyes," Frieman says.
Lisa Mirza Grotts, an etiquette columnist for The Huffington Post, says getting lunch on the table or just being present to be a good listener is worth a lot.
"When my sister had her twins, I would go to her house and watch them while she was home just so she could take a bath, or do her nails, and have a little free time," she tells ParentDish.
5. Seal your lips. "Keep unsolicited advice to yourself," Franchi says. "Please, just don't do it."
Finally, it's up to the new parents to make rules and enforce them, experts agree.
When Holloway's second son was born, she armed herself with a list of regulations for visitors.
"I made a rule that nobody was allowed to visit until we returned home, and they had to call before coming," she says.
Looking back, she says she also would have included the following rules: Don't smoke on your way over, or right before seeing the baby. Volunteer to occupy the older child. And, "for God's sake, leave an empty chair for the woman who just has major surgery."
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.