Amy Issadore Bloom is a teacher, writer, and blogger. She is a founder and contributor to First Person: Narratives from the Classroom for the Virginia Journal of Education. Amy lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and toddler. You can find her at www.bloomindc.com.
We had just arrived at Nana’s 90th birthday party when Cousin Harriet walked right up to me, and declared, “you’re Amy. I got a note from you. Yoooouu’re late!”
I expected the party in Florida to be like an episode of Seinfeld, but this blew me away. Someone so concerned with the etiquette of thank you cards should have known that this was not the way to initiate a polite conversation, especially with someone you hadn’t seen in twenty years.
I was happy to inform her that my son was now already a year old, and she should have received my card many months ago. But, I felt bad that I had to call attention to my sister-in-law, who was apparently a little tardy with some of her notes. Tara went back to work when her son was only eight weeks old, and she still continued nursing and pumping around the clock.
I knew she felt pressure to get those notes out, and while the comment astounded me; I could tell it bothered Tara. Honestly though, who expects a timely card from a new mother, especially a first time mother?
All new mothers (even the super organized ones) are overwhelmed and exhausted. We’re taking care of a new life, while attempting to maintain a “normal” relationship with our spouse. Most of us are just trying to keep our shit together, to fight off the depression and irritability that comes after the birth.
And still, for so many of us, those damn thank you cards sit like a nagging old aunt. They get moved from To-do lists to To-Do Soon lists to To-Do Sometime This Year lists.
I believe that we need to rewrite the rules of gift giving if we have any hopes of keeping our priorities and sanity in order. Here are some simple rules:
• Gift giving should be an act of kindness. Don’t expect anything in return.
• New mothers get a pass on writing thank you notes.
• If you get any sort of thank you, accept it graciously. This means a phone call, a photo card, a typed note, an email, or even a thank you relayed through another relative.
• Gifts for new babies should either make a baby happy, make them look cute, or make life easier for new parents. We don’t care if your neighbor spends the same amount of money you spent on their grandchild. Nor do we care about creating a registry that is ideal for a certain price point of gift giving.
• Shipping and tracking methods have improved greatly over the years. Assume the gift arrived safely. Let’s be optimists, people. There are plenty of other things to worry about.
• If you bring a small gift to a birthday party specifically requesting “no gifts please,” accept the verbal thank you as your thank you card.
• Never reprimand a mother for something as petty as a late thank you card-especially when you’re family.