After my first son was born, I couldn’t wait to feel like the old me again. I had no idea what being a new mom was like, so I felt like I needed to get back to “normal”—whatever the hell that is—as quickly as possible since it was the only thing I knew.
I quickly learned that I wouldn’t feel like the old me again for quite some time (if ever), but I was bound and determined to feel like a human being again as soon as possible. So I squeezed (albeit uncomfortably) into jeans as soon as I could. I showered (nearly) every day. I put on makeup and hosted guests, and whenever my son dozed, I diligently sat at the kitchen table writing out thank-you notes for every single gift we received. By the time I had finished writing, addressing, and slapping stamps on a handful of cards, my son had woken up from his 23-minute nap and I was back to the exhausting work of caring for a newborn.
Frustrated but determined, I slogged away at the those damn thank-you notes—all in an effort to reclaim some semblance of normalcy, capability, and control over my own life.
And I nearly lost my mind in the process.
I remember actually wishing that I hadn’t been given any gifts in the first place just so I wouldn’t have to write the notes, which is absurd because I was immensely grateful for every gift we received. But I nearly drove myself crazy with the pressure to write notes in a timely fashion so I wouldn’t be deemed rude or incapable of managing the demands of new motherhood and the basic task of being a polite and functioning person.
So I wrote the damn thank-you notes and vowed then and there that every baby gift I gave to a new mom from that day forward would include an explicit exemption from the thank-you note. And since then, whenever I send a baby gift, I write a note in the card asking the mom not to send a thank-you note.
Some new moms take me up on the request, but most stick to Emily Post’s general rule of thumb and send a handwritten thank-you card. This leaves me wondering if perhaps the exemption needs to be more explicit and universal. In fact, maybe every baby gift should include a “New Mom Free Pass.” Something along the lines of:
I hereby grant to you the New Mom Free Pass. This certificate entitles the bearer to guilt-free, no-questions-asked exemptions on any and all non-baby obligations, including but not limited to the following:
1. Thank-you notes of any kind. If you want to let me know you received a shipped gift, a texted “THX” is more than sufficient.
2. Showering. Unless, of course, someone is watching your baby, in which case you hereby have permission to take the longest, hottest shower of your life.
3. Cleaning of any kind. Let the dishes pile up and the dust bunnies swirl. Procrastination is your friend. Let that shit sit long enough and someone else will take care of.
4. Wearing pants or a bra. This exemption will continue for quite some time, say nine years.
5. Entertaining. If someone stops by to “see the baby,” this is your opportunity to nap, rest, read, or just chill the fuck out for a few minutes.
6. Putting on makeup and plucking your eyebrows (unless, of course, you want to).
7. Shaving. Let’s be honest, nothing is going to be happening down there for a while anyway.
8. Cooking. One word: Takeout.
9. Grocery shopping. Two words: Amazon Prime.
10. Basically anything that does not consist of taking care of yourself and your new baby.
In other words, cut yourself some slack and let that shit go. You are not expected to return to your old self because you are not your old self, you are a new person—a mom.
And you aren’t expected to act like a “normal” human being for a while because you aren’t a “normal” human being, you are a superhuman. You are a new mom.
Let’s face it, new moms are doing some pretty amazing work feeding, diapering, rocking, holding, and generally keeping a baby alive—not to mention recovering from pushing a baby out of her holiest of holy places, soaking in Epsom salt baths, dealing with the literal shitshow that is the first post-baby poop, and figuring out how the fuck to use a breast pump.
Do we really need the guilt of sending out timely thank-you notes for the onesie that’s already too small? Do we need the pressure to entertain guests, let alone talk in coherent sentences? Heck, if a guest doesn’t just leave a casserole by the door and wants to stay to “see the baby,” a new mom has every right to excuse herself for a quick nap in the other room while the guests get a good, long look at the baby.
The New Mom Free Pass—now that is a gift that every new mom would appreciate it.
Heck, it’s almost thank-you card-worthy.