This past week, I finished reading Meaghan O’Connell’s excellent book And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready. Among the many revelations in this book: caring for a newborn, it turns out, is extremely difficult! For the first month of their life, a newborn needs to eat every two hours, which means that a parent has to be awake to feed him every two hours, which means that if you want to sleep for more than two hours after enduring the exhausting, agonizing process of giving birth, good fucking luck. O’Connell describes herself and her fiancé sleeping in twenty-minute shifts, her husband taking care of the dishes and tidying up the house because her traumatic c-section had left her with such extensive injuries that she was unable to stand or walk without assistance. They were constantly monitoring their baby to make sure he was sleeping on his back, not his stomach, lest he die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. On top of everything else, she was suffering from post-partum depression, and trying to make ends meet despite her employer not giving her paid mat leave.
Wow, I thought, reading this. I knew having a baby was hard, but goddamn!
So maybe I was a little tender on the topic of caring for newborns when I opened Twitter this morning and saw this:
Tell me more, @JJFromTheBronx! The most ridiculous thing ever? Sounds juicy! Or, at least, amusing enough to keep me in bed, scrolling through my phone, for a few more minutes, instead of getting up and doing literally anything productive. I was sold. I clicked on the tweet; I read the next item in the thread.
“There is no way these people are asking strangers to make them food bc they have 1 baby.”
Really, dude? The mere concept of expecting parents, who’ve never had a kid before and are new to everything, politely asking their neighbours, “if you are feeling neighbourly,” to help them out by dropping off some casseroles and sandwiches while they look after their newborn baby — that’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?
Also, the rank stench of snobbery emanating from “bc they have 1 baby?” Holy shit. You sound like Lucille Bluth, you dick. It’s one baby, Michael. How hard is it to take care of one baby? What’s the threshold at which you’d think your neighbours were deserving of support, my dude? Twins? Triplets? Quadruplets? Would they need a full squad of Dionne Quintuplets before you would deign to swing by with a Tupperware of macaroni and cheese? Would they have to go full Octomom?
What does “millennial” mean in this context? I mean, I’m used to hearing “millennial” in the context of, like, “Those damn kids and their smartphones!” Not, “Those damn kids and their… newborn infants?”
But let’s humour @JJFromTheBronx. Let’s look at this expectant father’s phrasing, and let’s see if there’s anything insufferably millennial about it.
“One of the things I’m most afraid of is not getting a great deal of sleep, he writes, 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.“
Ugh! Those entitled millennials! Those damn kids, stepping up to the plate to ensure that they’re physically and emotionally capable of supporting their partners in the fraught weeks after childbirth! Those damn kids and their healthy, functional marriages!
“That’s why I’m putting together this ‘Meal Train’ or ‘Mental Health check-in Train’ or ‘Do you need any help today train.’ A meal would be awesome. If you feel comfortable reaching out before you arrive to see if we might need anything else – that’d be even more awesome.”
…Yeah, I’m not seeing where “entitled millennial” comes into this. I read a lot of Little House on the Prairie as a kid, and I remember friends coming by in their covered wagons to help out with chores and shit being a pretty normal part of pioneer childbirth. And I’m pretty sure Laura Ingalls Wilder is a little too old for the millennial umbrella. Like, newborn parents have needed help from their friends and neighbours since the dawn of fucking time.
All your neighbour is asking — literally all he’s asking, the bare fucking minimum — is for neighbours to occasionally ask, “Do you need any help today?” If that strikes you as unreasonable entitlement, you are a sociopath.
Oh, but look! Turns out @JJFromTheBronx doesn’t want to be negative! Why, if he had some day-old lasagna to spare, he’d be happy to toss the scraps to his neighbours! Throwing your garbage leftovers to the dogs — sorry, the neighbours — would be reasonable, he says, unlike the totally unreasonable demand that he be burdened with the task of asking, “Do you need any help today?” from time to time.
“BUT,” @JJFromTheBronx crows, “THERE WERE 30+ SPECIFIC MEALS WITH RECIPES!”
…Dude. It’s not like they held a gun to your head, put a cookbook in your hands, and said, “Prepare these thirty recipes for us, or get the bullet.” No! They provided a list of suggestions for healthy, easy, nutritious meals. They created this list to make things easier for you, or for anyone else who might want to help out. Presumably, they were trying to avoid your shitty-ass left-over lasagna.
@JJFromTheBronx now hits all-caps territory of outrage… over the suggestion that, if neighbours don’t have time to cook, they could… come visit? Wash some dishes? Walk the dog? Oh, the horror! The entitlement!
Or is he put off by the fact that his neighbours are specifically asking for “simple foods?” Would he prefer that they request filet mignon and duck-liver paté? If the ad had said, “We will accept absolutely nothing but the finest Baked Alaska, B.Y.O. flamethrower,” would that have been cool?
Have you ever visited a neighour in your life, @JJFromTheBronx? Do you have any friends? Have you ever done anything nice for another person? Because you’re kinda coming off like… I was gonna say “coming off like Boo Radley,” but that would be rude to Boo Radley.
Really? That’s what smashes your berserker button? The fact that your neighbour is putting a cooler in the yard so people can just drop off food whenever? I would have thought you’d be all over that! Avoiding human interaction seems to be your forte!
God, the neighbour is lowering the bar even further here, too: if you can’t make a meal, or drop off some snacks, or walk the dog, or wash a dish, you could simply “bring your smile and some conversation!” Again: if the mere thought of saying hello to your neighbour is throwing you into convulsions of rage, you are a sociopath.
You’d really rather egg their house than throw those eggs in a pan and make your struggling neighbours some scrambled eggs? The mere thought of other people supporting your neighbours makes you want to egg their house even more?