As a first-time mom of a one-and-a-half-year-old with baby number two arriving in a couple of short months, there are times when I feel as though I still haven’t caught up on things. My to-do list goes as far back as 18 months ago. I’m not proud to admit it, but I still haven’t gotten around to applying the final half-inch of wallpaper in my firstborn’s nursery. I still haven’t packed away the newborn socks that I buried in the top shelf of her crammed dresser drawer. And that drive-by baby shower that was thrown for me the month before her arrival? I hope truly I’m not the mom that forgot to send all of the thank-you notes. Should moms be expected to send thank-you notes, though?
The truth is, life was somewhat of a blur at that time and in the months following. I really can’t confirm that every last, perfectly-sealed envelope made its way to the post office. The pressure moms feel to remember everything all the time is overwhelming, to say the least. This is especially true in those early and foggy days, weeks, and months of motherhood. If learning how to care for a brand-new human being while also desperately wanting to soak up every fleeting moment is the ice cream sundae that moms are handed postpartum, the mental load is the sticky, undesired cherry on top. Scheduling doctor’s appointments. Remembering said appointments. Constantly updating tiny humans’ wardrobes. Keeping the pantry stocked. Tracking feedings, infant sleep, and diaper changes. Coordinating visits with family and friends. Keeping a running task list.
And, among so many other tasks . . . writing and sending thank-you notes.
Moms feel pressured by society and expected to send thank-you notes for gifts and kindness offered as we grow into one of the most important roles of our lives — being a mama. But should we really be spending this precious time doing so? While this question is sure to bring about a variety of opinions, I can’t help but think about what an invaluable gift it would be to provide new moms expect with the freedom to forego the traditional pen-and-paperation. Coming from someone whose primary love languages (by a long shot!) are gift-giving and words of affirmation, that’s saying something.
Should we express our gratitude when those around us step up to lighten the heavy load of motherhood when we need it more than anything? Absolutely. Baby items, postpartum check-ins, meal chains, grocery store gift cards, babysitting offers, words of congratulations, the list goes on. They are all tremendous blessings for growing families, especially for moms. None of it goes unnoticed or unappreciated, I promise you. But there are other ways for moms to express gratitude than by sitting with a stack of bulk cards? Also absolutely. When you’re balancing a needy, snuggly, only-little-for-so-long tiny human, it’s difficult to get those thank-you notes complete, stamped, and mailed. You can show gratitude in many different ways.
Other Ways to Say “Thank You”
I have always enjoyed receiving handwritten notes — thank-you or otherwise. There’s something warm and fuzzy about holding a loved one’s heartfelt words tangibly in your palm. At the same time, I know how all-consuming motherhood is. And I feel for all moms like myself who feel the need to take what limited time they have from this new, chaotic, short-lived chapter of their lives to get those handwritten notes en route. In the age of modern-day technology, can’t we all just agree text messages are an equally acceptable option for saying “thank you” to our family and friends?
If you’re really feeling conflicted about being too casual here, there’s always the option to send out a polished email. The benefit to both? You can knock these out right on your cell phone while your little one snoozes happily in your arms. No mom-guilt here since you’re not missing out on those uber-special moments that will be gone in the blink of an eye. Plus, you have the convenience of instant photo attachments! No need to run to the drugstore photo center to print out 4X6 snapshots of your little one donning their newly-gifted baby booties and hat set.
When Should You Send a Thank-You Note?
If you’re extra close to someone — say, a sibling or a best friend — is there really even a need for sending out a proper thank you at all? Chances are, you’ve already vocalized your gratitude in person or perhaps via phone (if you’ve had a minute to pick it up when it rings). I can promise you that those closest to you won’t be offended if you don’t put in writing what’s already been said.
In fact, even those not so close to you won’t be sitting around waiting on the mailman. They’ll probably just be looking forward to seeing your sweet baby (and you!) when the time is right! Old-fashioned thank-you notes are wonderful, but they shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all. When you’ve been a rule-follower and people-pleaser your entire life, it can be painfully unsettling to stray from what’s always been expected. Once you become a mom, though, it can be equally as hard to keep up with the expectations you’ve always adhered to. Ordinary tasks that once seemed simple and, perhaps, even leisurely (albeit a bit tedious) become impossible — or stressful at best. There are only so many minutes in a day. Every minute is sacred when you know that the days you have with your babies are limited.
A Note to the Mamas Out There
If I could tell those I know and love anything as they become new moms themselves, it would be this: please don’t think you’re expected to send me a thank-you note for whatever kind act I did for you when your new bundle came. This isn’t because I wouldn’t be happy to receive it. It’s because you have more important things to focus on right now. Soak up those baby snuggles. Take the one-month photos. Sit with your little one and take it all in. And maybe, just maybe . . . try to get a shower or meal in for yourself! Your village will understand. Hopefully, more and more new moms will begin to follow suit and let go of the inherent pressure to do everything that’s always been expected of us — and begin to breathe a sigh of relief alongside you.