Moms, Let's Normalize The 'Drop-By'

by Kathy Gulinello
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Okay, unpopular opinion here… I am five weeks into motherhood, and I am loving the friends and family baby visits! I have heard for years how completely intrusive they can be, disturbing the pristine cocoon of early mother-child bonding, with loud, entitled people traipsing through your newly untidy home clamoring to get their germy hands on your precious, unvaccinated newborn. One friend described a baby visit-turned-barbecue happening with her and her husband feeling obligated to quickly defrost meat and fire up the grill to serve visitors, while her baby wailed for her feeding. Another mother said she exhausted herself trying to get her new home ready for guests at the end of her pregnancy and it nearly broke her by the time her water finally broke. A podcast I listened to went as far as to give the advice of banning all “toxic people” from coming at all for the first few months to not disturb the fourth trimester peace.

I hear all that and, of course, germ concerns are more prevalent than ever. I, personally, made a rule that only fully Covid-vaccinated and T-Dap vaccinated people could come to the house before the baby is four months based on medical advice. But, so far (and, by all means file this under, “to each her own”) I’ve found these visits to be utterly wonderful, sanity fostering, and liberating for my type-A personality. Let me explain.

Pre-baby and pre-Covid, I was known as an entertainer, using any excuse to fill up my home with people and lay out a giant spread of food and signature cocktails. I should have stock in “Evite” and “Paperless Post,” with how much I’ve used them, and the good people at Pinterest must assume I am a caterer the way I hoard hors d’oeuvres recipes. I always wanted to eventize life, creating elaborate parties for no reason at all.

But planning, executing, and paying for my hosting habit, let alone having to clean up before and after, wears a little thin on even the biggest Martha Stewart-wannabes amongst us. In fact, most of my friends opt to never have people over because it takes too much time, money, and effort. And, accepting an invitation to someone else’s home just plants the seeds of guilt and anxiety that you will not be able to properly reciprocate in a timely manner. So, where does that leave us? Each separated in our respective corners in our own homes, relegating seeing friends to pricey restaurant dinners and birthday parties.

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Being pregnant and isolated in the pandemic gave me a glimpse of what that looks like, and spoiler alert … it’s lonely. Then, when my baby was born, the vaccines were accessible and Covid numbers dropping, my doorbell started ringing again and texts chirped on my phone from people offering to drop by with food, supplies, and some much needed conversation.

I forced myself to say “yes” even if the counter was cluttered, or there were dishes in the sink. I said, “come by whenever,” even if there was nothing fancy to serve in the fridge. We synced calendars to accommodate short stints, instead of waiting for a weekend, or a long visit to be accommodated. The pressure was off, and it ushered in a delightful pendulum swing bringing friendly faces to my door and filling my home with conversation and laughter. My baby visits have freed me from having to “host,” and it changed everything.

Suddenly, I no longer felt obligated to clean the house within an inch of its life, cook a meal, or even put on makeup when someone is coming over. No one was going to give me a bad Yelp review! And, like the liberating Sheryl Sandberg expression, “done is better than perfect,” a “drop by” was better than the ubiquitous-yet-rarely-actualized promise of “we should get together soon.” The bonus is that my kid’s village is forming, and thanks to the careful protection of Purell and sometimes masks, our visitors get to be part of her life from the very first chapter.

But, today, as my friend who popped by to have a lovely coffee with me at 8:30 am on her way to work pulled away in her car an hour after arriving, I had a chilling thought. This is all going to end! While nothing will ever be like the quarantined winter I spent alone in my pregnancy, I will miss the casual, easy-breezy baby visits I have become used to in the past five weeks.

It got me thinking, why do we close off our homes because they aren’t perfect or because we can’t throw a dinner party with all the accoutrement of a perfect magazine “tablescape?” Some even reserve hosting to kids’ events when a giant jumping castle can be procured. And, many never get anything on the books at all because “who has the time?”

That is why I am calling on moms everywhere to normalize the “drop-by!” After a year apart, we should value in-person catch-ups more than ever. Set up a quickie, no frills home visit with a friend. Check-in on a neighbor with nothing but a cup of coffee. Whether you are the Dropper or the Drop-ee, make it clear that this is not a dress-up or fancy event. Serve what’s in your fridge, or nothing at all, just prioritize the time spent together. And, if you are home-shy, set a walking date in the park out of the blue. Make it easy and be open to saying “yes” with less fuss, fanfare, or notice.

In the olden times, when our grandparents were raising kids, moms’ villages were hyper-localized. Many didn’t needn’t look past their stoop, or street, to find other moms to commiserate with, shoot the shit with, or to ask advice. While there is no stronger brain trust than a facebook moms and dad group, we have lost casual connections outside the virtual space. We now have camera doorbells to avoid being face to face with anyone unexpectedly and have looked horrified at our phones when someone tries to Facetime us without proper notice. We have built moats around our homes and lives to protect us from judgement that may never come, cutting off the arteries of camaraderie and bonding that make life worth living.

When it comes to baby visits, moms should call all the shots. You say who, you say when, and you reserve the right to say not at all. Talk to your pediatrician and let your comfort level and baby’s needs and personality drive what works for you. In my case, visits turned out to be a much-needed distraction from the tedious tasks of new motherhood and a nice way to reconnect with those I was separated from during the past year.

In texting my thoughts to that friend who came by before work this morning, she admitted she had been avoiding coming to see me and the baby, worried she couldn’t come empty handed or for such a short stint. She’s a busy, working mom, herself, and I expected and needed nothing; her presence was my present! So, we decided to gift each other the ease of “drop bys” from now on. No expectation, or pretense.

Though, we may add wine because… well, we’re not animals.