All new parents should be comfortable reaching out for help after a new baby, but absolutely not like this
The arrival of a first baby brings joy and happiness, but it can also be an overwhelming amount of around-the-clock work. That’s why it’s become traditional to put aside your pride and reach out to friends and family for help in those first few months, through meal trains and small favors.
But oh my god, do not do what this couple did.
It all started when Philadelphia resident Jack Jokinen joined Nextdoor, the social media platform that lets you connect with people in your neighborhood. He saw a post made by some expectant parents who lived nearby who were asking for help after the birth of their baby – and going about it in the completely wrong way.
It starts out pretty normally, with the couple asking for help if anyone is feeling neighborly, but pretty quickly spirals out of control.
“As the father-to-be, I’m teetering on a fence of emotions,” the man, who is apparently named Jim Burns, wrote in Meal Train. “One of the things I’m most afraid of is not getting a great deal of sleep and as a result not being in the best frame of mind to offer my wife the support she needs to recover from the child-birthing process.”
Then comes the part where you start to wonder if these people are parodying the very worst people on Meal Train, or if they are so entitled and oblivious that they don’t realize stranger aren’t going to want to bring them bags of dry roasted unsalted almonds.
Like, they actually went there. Homemade granola? I don’t even make that for my own family. And has anyone priced out Italian antipasto, meats and cheeses recently? Because that stuff is expensive AF.
Yes, this list of meal ideas is not only super-specific, but it’s also expensive and time-consuming. Even if you were asking your friends and family (and not the neighborhood) for help, you should be roughly one million times more accommodating than, “kale and goat cheese ricotta cups” or “sweet potato salmon cakes with chipotle mayo.” Or “lamb meatball stew with orzo” GOOD LORD. Also? The amount of time it took to helpfully gather these recipes was probably enough to make a tray of baked ziti. Just saying.
But don’t worry! If you’re somehow all out of escarole, white bean, and kale casserole, they invite you to do their dishes or vacuum. Again, this is a perfectly fine ask of your best friend forever, who you helped when she had surgery last year, but not from your friendly neighbors who you sometimes nod at when you get your mail.
And as if this wasn’t bad enough, Jim and Alex want you to know that they might not even be friendly about you helping out. In fact, if they’re not in the mood to say freaking thank you, they’ll leave a cooler in the front yard so that you can just drop off your (checks notes) chickpea, avocado, and chicken grain bowls.
Nope, that is not how meal trains work. You at least have to open the door and look the person in the eye and say thanks before taking the food. And if you really know how meal trains work, you’ll let the person coo over the baby for a minute, or invite them in for a quick chat, since they bought ingredients and prepared your family an entire meal.
Here’s what JJ thought of that:
Jokinen tells Scary Mommy that he doesn’t know the couple personally, and that he doesn’t think reaching out for help is in poor taste at all – depending on how you do it.
“I don’t think they’re bad people,” he says. “It was just an over-the-top ask to be so specific to strangers with the recipes using high end ingredients.”
The responses to JJ’s rant about Burns’ meal requests were mixed. Some people defended the new parents for asking what they needed (fresh seasonal fruits, chocolate peanut butter energy balls, dark chocolate (70 percent ONLY please).
But other people called them out on what is just so obviously a lot of ridiculousness where a couple should probably be accommodating and thankful rather than insanely demanding.
Just in case you possibly need to brush up on your meal train etiquette: don’t ask for gourmet food, or food with expensive ingredients – keep it to basics and just mention any allergies or total deal-breakers you have. If you are writing the words “Muesli snacking cookies,” dial it back immediately. Express your gratitude. Only send the link to friends and family – and if you don’t have a support network, you can still reach out to strangers, just be really, really nice about it.
The original posts are down now – and Burns talked to The New York Post about the experience.
“I apologize if it was taken the wrong way — and I’m frankly just very surprised and a little disheartened by … the response,” he said. “If they are not interested, then they don’t have to check that site or do anything. This is the world we live in.”
Hopefully, they learned a lesson in how to ask for things. Because tons of people are willing to help new families, neighbors included, as long as they don’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of from the get-go. And as long as we don’t have to go to the store to buy farro and 70% dark chocolate.
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