The Real “Rules” of Visiting New Parents

Babies make people crazy. Everyone says babies make the parents crazy (and they do), but they tend to make rational family members and friends go a little nuts as well. So if you’re someone that wants to know how you can remain sane in the eyes of the new parents or be helpful during your frenzy, I have a list of things you can do to make sure you’re a helpful visitor. And helpful visitors get more invites back, in case that helps pique your interest.

As far asI know, there aren’t any rules you have to follow to visit a new family, and even if the new parents do lay down rules they aren’t always followed by visitors. I say this because this list is a result of experience. Some were helpful things my friends or family did, while others are things I was not fortunate enough to avoid experiencing.

  1. CALL FIRST– or text, or email, or message the new parents via social media. Don’t ever just show up to their house. If you have an open door policy that’s great, but not everyone does. If THEY have an open door policy, check that the policy is still in place as a courtesy. You do not want to walk in on a new mother trying to figure out breastfeeding in late August, wearing nothing but hospital diapers. Calling ensures that the parents are dressed, home, and for you to have the best experience. Because if you think your lunch time is the perfect time to just stop by without calling, you may be surprised to find out that Mom may be spending a majority of your visit in the nursery breastfeeding because babies hate covers and you came at a bad time. If only you had called…
  2. Ask if There’s Anything You Can Do or Bring– If you don’t have a lot of funds or time, that’s not a problem. This is just a nice thing to ask if you want to be helpful and CAN be helpful in this way. You’ll probably encounter the mom that will lie through her teeth before admitting that she needs help, but it’s good for her to know that she has your support. If you know one of these moms and still want to get a real answer from her, try instead to make suggestions. “I was thinking of holding the baby while you took a shower, I really don’t mind.” Or “I can bring you some (food that’s easy to reheat), I made too much last night, interested?” Or “I’m stopping at store for some soda, do you need any milk or frozen dinners while I’m there? I can save you the trip!” Or “I wanted to see how you’re doing and if you need any help. I see you have some dishes/laundry/other stacking up, do you mind if I help out and start on those for you while you tell me about whatever new thing baby is doing?” These suggestions tell the parents that you’re not inconvenienced by doing these things, that you were willing to do them, and that allowing you to do them is in no way crossing a line or impolite to accept.
  3. Don’t Wake the Baby– People wake a baby because they want to see them smile or their eyes, or they want the baby to meet them. Unfortunately, by waking them in the middle of their nap you’re more apt to piss them off, and now the parents have to soothe a screaming infant while biting their tongue so as to not ask you what kind of dolt wakes a sleeping baby. The other part of this rule is to not make loud noises when the baby is sleeping accompanied by the comment “you should always be loud when the baby sleeps so they learn to be a hard sleeper.” And yes, there are people that will wake sleeping babies and then blame the parents for not being loud enough and teaching the kid to sleep through it.
  4. Don’t Visit if You’re Sick– Newborns don’t get all of their shots in one visit. The really important TDaP hospital visitors are asked to get isn’t given to the child until they are 2 months of age. There are other shots they won’t be old enough for even then, and their immune systems are not at par with your own. You may have only the sniffles now, but do you really need to see the baby so badly that you would risk giving them the same thing you have when they can’t even blow their nose to ease the frustration and discomfort? Just stay away, the parents will thank you.
  5. Don’t Stick Around for Hours– Newborns tend to be able to sleep through a lot, but because they’re up so frequently don’t think the parents are sleeping as much as that well-rested babe. Pay attention to any hints the parents may be dropping, and limit your time to a couple of hours so that they can get back to some semblance of a routine for wind-down time before bed. *NOTE* This does not apply to visitors that have been invited to stay over. Some family lives further away and will stay a day to a week or more. The next item in this list applies to these visitors.
  6. Be a Helper, Not a Guest– Most visitors can get away with being a guest. The parents will ask if you need anything and forgo their own needs to make sure your brief stay is enjoyable. This attitude should be thrown out the window for extended guests. Especially if you’re staying for 3 weeks to “help” with the baby. If you’re there to help, then HELP. For some parents this means holding the baby while they clean, but that is their call, not yours. Do not say you’re here to help, then claim cuddles for yourself and expect to be waited on. Clean up after yourself, take the time to learn where things are so you can grab your own glass of water, and ASK how you can be helpful. Because not all moms are going to think you holding a sleeping baby is that much help. They make millions of baby products to hold sleeping babies, and sometimes the most helpful thing a person can do is let the parents enjoy those cuddles while someone else cleans or cooks. Being this guest gives you happier, better rested parents, and when they have finally relaxed I bet you will get your fill of baby cuddles.
  7. Don’t Be That Guy– Don’t use your first visit to purge every “fact” you know about babies onto them. New parents are flooded with advice from every angle, they have heard what you’re telling them before and they’ve probably even heard the contrasting opinion about it a couple of times. And some unsolicited advice IS expected, just remember it’s called unsolicited for a reason. Should they ask for your opinion or advice then advise away.
  8.  Please Do Whatever is Asked of You– If the new parents ask you to wash your hands before holding their child, just do it. It’s 60 seconds of your life. If they ask you to call beforehand, do it, they probably want fair warning that you’re coming so they can look presentable.

Number 8 is the most important rule. I believe some new parents will be very nervous to tell you what they expect of you and will allow you to control how the visit goes. If they specifically ask you to do something or to not do something, you are messing with their comfort level if you disregard their wishes.

You really only need to hit a couple of things on this list to be awesome, so don’t think you’re expected to go all out or be barred from ever visiting the new parents again. That being said, some of these things are super easy and polite, and you should do at least one of them instinctually. These “rules” listed above are in quotation marks because they are more suggestions than rules. They are not rules usually laid out for visitors, but just because they aren’t rules everyone knows and follows doesn’t mean it shouldn’t become the new normal for people to visit new parents with a couple of these helpful rules up their sleeves. Be a helpful visitor, they get more invites for baby cuddles.

 

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The Real “Rules” of Visiting New Parents

The Crying Baby Card Prank

An article popped up on my news feed today, and I remember having been annoyed at this specific one the last time I saw it probably a year ago. It’s called “This Baby Shower Card is Pure Evil Genius.” It goes on to talk about this card that you can purchase for $11 that cries for 3 hours no matter what you do. You can’t stop it by pushing the button again (mind you, it doesn’t warn you that the button will cause crying, it looks like it will play music), closing the card, tearing it up, or even crushing it. The article says that pushing the button again will actually cause the card to cry louder, and isn’t that just hilarious?

My least favorite part about this “prank” is the line from the article that says “it’s a good lesson for new parents to have. Real babies cry. Better get used to it now.” This blurb bothers me on a couple of levels. First, it implies that all new parents are naive enough to believe that their child won’t cry, and that if you hadn’t given them that card they would be so surprised to bring the child home and realize that the child has this weird noise it keeps emitting and you can’t stop it. Second, it is claiming that a month or so before her due date is the best time to “surprise” the new mom with this information, tell her to get used to it, and that you think the greatest joke in the world is to ruin her baby shower with something that she should get used to now, rather than enjoy her last party and her last month before she really does have a crying baby to deal with.

The other thing that the author (and a lot of commenters that also think this card is hilarious) doesn’t seem to understand is that the guests of the baby shower will not find this funny after the first ten seconds either. The author says “it will just keep crying. Meanwhile everyone in the room will laugh and laugh.” I can only imagine that someone that finds this funny is the type of person that thinks hazing new moms is the only joy in life now. Apparently, these types of people think they are the majority and that anyone that doesn’t think that hazing a new mom is fun should lighten up. I cannot see myself enjoying this card as the receiver or anyone in the same room as this card. I have a hard time understanding why so many people think that a card that cries for 3 hours will be entertaining to ANYONE, especially when, if you think about it, giving this card at a baby shower is likely only going to end one of three ways:

  1. The guests start leaving ten minutes after the card was opened (probably giving generic excuses so as to not upset anyone) because they have other, better things to do than listen to this crap
  2. Someone takes the card outside to the trash, the cops are called, and your shower is ruined because someone thought there was a baby in the trash can or
  3.  The only thing you can think to do is tear the card apart, frantically trying to save your shower and finally find out that the only way to turn the thing off is by submerging it in water- Something the article does not tell you, it’s simply something I found in the comment section and I hope it works because otherwise this outcome is even worse than I originally imagined.

Not only do all of these options totally suck for the pregnant lady, but the only option that SAVES the party is the one where the guest of honor- whom is likely already sweating just from the effort of bending over a bowling ball on her lap to opening gifts- has to act like a crazy person to get the crying to stop, all the while eliciting remarks from the guests that do find the card funny such as “this is what you will want to do to your child but can’t,” “I hope that isn’t your solution for baby,” and “if you can’t handle this now, you are in for a real surprise when baby comes!”

A lot of comments have people saying that you could muffle the sound, put it in the fridge, put it outside, or something else. While these may work, it does involve the pregnant lady having to think of these solutions under pressure and then leave her own party to take care of this problem. Hopefully for her she’s at a house where she can do that, but sometimes you have these parties outside under canopies, and so you actually would have to walk to the closest bathroom or your car to muffle the card. My cousin’s baby shower was probably 200 yards from her house and car. Disposing of this card, she would have been waddling for a good ten minutes to dispose of the darn thing before waddling another ten back to her own party.

Not only should the new mom not be obligated to silence a card that YOU brought to save her party, but YOU are the only one that should. If you bring a crying child anywhere, you are the one responsible to soothe that child. You do not hand the child off to someone and laugh at them while saying “get used to it! Also, nothing you do will get it to stop crying except three hours of your life!” No, if you bring the card then you had better be the one to say, “here, let me take care of that.” Because otherwise you’re now making someone else try to decide between letting it cry, asking someone to muffle it, leaving, or tearing it up like a crazy person whilst listening to your family and friends mock you.

What really bothers me about this card is that it is the epitome of the Gotchya Mom. The Gotchya Mom is the person you are probably fairly familiar with if you have ever been pregnant unless you are very lucky. She (usually a she, but some males have been known to do this as well) talks about how great parenting is and maybe even pressures you into answering questions about when you plan to have kids and then tells you to ‘get on with it already’ no matter what answer you give her. Then when you are pregnant she may as well jump out of a cake, throw confetti in your face and say “GOTCHYA!” Because from now on all you will hear from her is how terrible pregnancy is, how terrible being a new mom is, how you will never sleep again, how you better enjoy pregnancy now because soon your life will be over. She gives you terrible advice that you don’t ask for, tells you things you already know, and then when you invite her to your shower because you have to as she’s your aunt, cubicle mate, or whatever, she decides to give you one last slap in the face by giving you a card that cries for three hours and says “it’s a good lesson. Real babies cry. Better get used to it.”

The Crying Baby Card Prank

Leona’s Hope Chest

Hope Chests aren’t really done anymore. My mom had one, but even for her generation she said that was unusual. My Mother-in-law said that she didn’t have one as her parents did not want to “encourage her to marry young.” I’m not sure if that fear is one of the reasons the Hope Chest has faded out of fashion, or if the wedding shower has made them irrelevant. Perhaps it’s because Little Women being one of my childhood favorite books, but I always looked at the Hope Chest as more of something you got as you were “coming of age.” It wasn’t dependent on marrying, which is an idea I love because not only does it mean it would celebrate a different type of achievement, but the things that go in to it do not necessarily have to be all about the future housewife role.

I want a Hope Chest for my daughter, something to hold her toys as a child and turn into something she puts her hopes and dreams into as she gets older. We would slowly fill it over the years with things she would pick out along with some gifts that would be provided along the way to help get her started. I’m working on a list to help us work off of, so it’s not complete, and some things may drop off depending on what she really wants, but here is what I have so far:

Family Photos/Scrapbooks

Family Recipes

Baby items such as her memory quilts

Tea Set

Set Dishes

Glassware

Family Movie Favorite

Hand Towels

Bath Towels

Christmas Ornaments

Heirloom Items

Pots and Pans

Kitchen Utensils and Silverware

It will be interesting to see what we can fit in the chest as well as what she will choose. It would be optimal to fit everything she needs in the chest so that she could take most of what she needs to college or her new living arrangement in it. I’m sure she’ll end up with more boxes for her clothes and whatever else, but I like that this is something she can work towards. It gives her responsibility, shows her that her choices matter for the future and it will make her move into adulthood a little easier.

Leona’s Hope Chest