At last, it’s time to talk about the latest ‘n greatest Facebook fad-turned-custom: The posting of a list of visitation rules or “light suggestions” by parents when they have a new baby, which is sort of like the “open letter” of parent overshare. To some, these lists are an easy way to communicate information to people who might want to visit the baby or lend a hand. To others, the lists are a narcissistic and passive-aggressive approach to telling family and friends what, and what not, to do. You can probably guess which side of the debate I’m on.
Every now and then, new comments appear on old visitation rules blog posts that attempt to justify them. Usually the argument is that some parents have morons for friends and their relatives are all assholes who chain smoke over bassinets, so those people need instruction, they’re going to drop by unannounced, etc. But my feeling is, the majority of people aren’t that stupid, so why not just email or text the ones who are and politely ask them not to come over after a three-day bender with a raging cold? Why post a list of obvious rules on Facebook when you could address a small handful of people more privately?
What it comes down to is this: The notes and “tips” are tools that parents use to remind everyone what time it is — Baby Time. They want the meal train, the organic baby merch, and, if it’s not too much trouble, they wouldn’t mind if you cleaned their house, too. Sure, some people are just trying to ensure that the folks who visit are healthy and their hands are clean, but even then, there’s a sense of, “We know how much you’ve been dying to meet our perfect creation, but first you’re going to have to follow a few basic orders.” Sometimes it’s not only the parents who are annoying, but their friends who are in charge of helping, too. We already know "it takes a village" (more on that in my Mommyish column), but a lot of the requests seem to translate to “Mr. and Mrs. Obnoxious seek your money and attention,” rather than, “If you can help out, great! If not, they’d still love to see you if you want to meet the baby.” I’m not saying these lists or requests are completely ineffective and rude; I’ve just never once heard someone say, “My friend/co-worker/relative’s list of ‘new baby rules’ was SUPER helpful.” In fact, since the column ran, I received this email:
To that end, let’s check out some examples of the ways that people talk about newborn visitation online:
1. Dinner Time
This closed group memo isn’t necessarily out of line, but something about it makes me want to leave a casserole made of pizza dough, steak, golden raisins, and green peppers sitting in the new parents’ mailbox. The way “please” is used in the last line of the note is akin to your boss saying, “Please don’t be offended if I don’t ask you to come back to work ever again,” or the bank saying, “Please don’t be offended if we foreclose on your house.” I understand it’s a “polite suggestion” to dumbfucks who come over and never leave, but it also implies that people WANT to come over and never leave. It’s the Catch-22 of visitation note