Having your first baby is an amazing experience, but if you’ve been there, you also know it can be an overwhelming adjustment. Things we take for granted, like eating, showering, and, oh hell, sleeping can seem like distant memories when you’re in the throes of the newborn stage.
During this stressful period, help from outside sources can be a godsend. I still remember being elated by the generosity of our church friends who organized a week’s worth of meals for us after we had each of our babies. Support from others can really make a difference, & there’s no shame in asking for some assistance as you adapt to parenthood.
Well, there’s some shame, or there should be… if you’re excessively high-maintenance about the precise kind of help that you’re basically demanding from your neighbors.
A Philadelphia couple is irking basically all of social media with their annoyingly specific list of fastidious food requests and instructions for potential supporters.
The request first appeared on Mealtrain.com, a website dedicated to arranging crowd-funding efforts for those in need. Meals can be coordinated & scheduled for families as needs arise; as the website states, anyone can “organize meals for a friend after a birth, surgery or illness”. Sounds great, right?
But just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Because high-maintenance folks like the Burns family are why we can’t have nice things like Mealtrain, people.
The original post was written by Jim Burns, a dad-to-be who was requesting assistance from his neighbors once his baby, due April 29, is born. His intention is precisely what Mealtrain is designed for, so no issue there.
But it was HOW Jim went about making his request that quickly drew attention. Jack Jokinen, a local resident, was alerted to the new post on Nextdoor, a neighborly social media network. He was so bemused by the post that he shared it on his Twitter page:
The week I got a thing in my mailbox to join a social network @Nextdoor. People in my neighborhood can alert each other about crime and stuff like that. Great idea! But today someone posted the most ridiculous thing ever (1/?)
— JJ (@JJFromTheBronx) April 18, 2019
I’m with you, @JJFromTheBronx; let’s check it out! Jack includes Jim Burn’s post intro in his next tweet:
"My wife and I are having a baby. I'm starting a meal train because it is our first and neither of us have a clue what we're doing. If you are feeling neighborly" so I clicked the link bc there is no way these people are asking strangers to make them food bc they have 1 baby(2/?)
— JJ (@JJFromTheBronx) April 18, 2019
At this point, nothing unreasonable here. In fact, Jack’s condescending implication that “1 baby” isn’t reason enough to ask for meal assistance initially pissed me off.
The arrival of your first baby is definitely a valid reason for asking for some help; what’s the problem?
Jim’s Mealtrain post explained that since this was the couple’s first baby:
As the father-to-be, I’m teetering on a fence of emotions.
Ok, I get it. Impending parenthood can be stressful. Jim went on to say that:
What I’m 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.
You should be afraid, Jim. Very afraid. Because you won’t get much sleep with a newborn in the house, & you might not be in the right frame of mind.
While I love that he seems genuinely concerned about wanting to truly support his wife -a really noble thing- I’m already wondering how Jim’s concerns translate into a practical request for help. I was mentally supporting the Burns family, hoping their neighbors would pop by with a lasagna & a smile of support.
But then “the list” appeared.
Forget the lasagna, because the Burns don’t want it. They don’t want 90% of the dishes you & your family would be happy to take to them, either. In fact, Jim Burns then tells you EXACTLY what they do want, with every specific component listed.
Included in Jim Burn’s Meal Train post was an elaborate 30-item list of specific Paleo meals that the couple deemed acceptable.
(And that’s sourdough bread ONLY, people. At least it looks like they can handle the store-bought kind- thankfully, no recipe for homemade sourdough bread is included.)
Note: I’m thinking that if Jim had the time to compose this detailed list, he has the time to throw together a batch of “FREEZER-FRIENDLY HOMEMADE BURRITOS”. Just saying…
No Hershey’s milk chocolate up in the Burns’ house; 70% cacao or above, you peasants. And don’t you dare bring dry-roasted almonds with salt. Don’t you DARE.
Now granted, every family’s diet is unique. If a family member had an allergy to a particular food, then requesting dishes without that food is reasonable. If you eat low-carb, no-sugar, gluten-free, etc., it would be reasonable to note that, too.
But expecting your neighbors to prepare “Paleo breakfast egg muffins with thinly sliced cremini mushrooms, pork breakfast sausage, and 3 tablespoons of melted and cooled ghee”… is a bit much.
But if you can’t pony up plenty of sweet cash at Whole Foods for a meal, have no fear- the Burns will gladly take indentured servitude instead. As Jim puts it:
But again, this isn’t necessarily about food. Text me & check in…maybe come visit…vacuum, wash some dishes, maybe walk the dog.
The food list seems pretty necessary to you, Jim. And while the other tasks (washing dishes, dog-walking, etc) would be things that could be genuinely helpful to tired new parents, it seems as conditional.
While they’d love for you to assist them with chores, they might not love for you to actually SEE YOU in person as you drop off your freshly prepared red lentil-chickpea-coconut soup.
Put the food in the backyard cooler & step away slowly. Now keep stepping… right on back to your own house.
While the Meal Train page has since been deleted, social media users jumped aboard in support of Jokinen’s Twitter rant & shared their own criticism of the couple’s unrealistic expectations.
The majority of them pointed out that when they were newbie parents, ANY help would have been gratefully welcomed, period.
Being neighborly is an admirable thing- supporting each other in times of need is an invaluable gift to both give & to receive. But expecting your neighbors to take stock in Whole Foods in order to provide your aged cheddar cheese that you must then discreetly slip into a yard cooler is asking a bit much, especially from people you don’t really even know.
My advice to Jim & Alex Burns?
If a neighbor offers a homemade lasagna, accept it gratefully, with thanks… who cares if it’s not Paleo. Even if you don’t eat it behind closed doors, the future relationship you’ll have with that neighbor will be worth every ounce of non-organic cheesiness you thank them for.
Keep the high-maintenance stuff for close family, because they’re stuck with you anyway. Last tidbit of advice: ditch the Muesli snacking cookies & request COFFEE instead, because that’s going to come in way handier once baby arrives, Burns.
As someone who is 32 weeks pregnant and eats mostly Paleo, this is exactly why I’m not setting up a food train. They were brave to ask strangers to make them these foods – most of my own family won’t go out of their way to make me gluten-free and dairy-free food, which I have strong intolerances to.
I get why they put the recipes – my mom, who is amazing and does cook food for me that I can eat, freaks out at the idea of making any kind of substitutions without an already tried and true recipe that I’ve tested. But even then, I find her recipes where 1 ingredient is different, not recipes where she’d have to spend 2 hours in a specific grocery store looking for everything.
I’d feel bad setting up a meal train because most of the defaults that people give – casseroles – are things I can’t eat. It’s not about being snobbish about lasagna – it’s that I will throw up if I eat the standard recipe with wheat pasta and cheese.
But I do feel bad for social media making fun of them – it’s really hard to live life without eating the Standard American Diet. And going back to eating that way will legitimately make them sicker if for no other reason that they haven’t eaten that way in so long. There are days they will be too exhausted to see people and they are just being honest about something that other people would just hint at. Hell, I would have preferred if some of my family and friends would have been honest and said just drop off the food because it was so obvious they were too tired to entertain and everyone left feeling guilty.