Thanks, but we were just going to get takout Mexican
October 15, 2011 8:15 AM   Subscribe

How can we tactfully decline a very generous offer to deliver food to our house in the first weeks with our new baby?

So Mrs. M.C. Lo-Carb! and I are expecting our first baby sometime in the next two weeks! Our friends and colleagues have already overwhelmed us with piles of new and used clothes, toys and supplies, and we are very grateful.

A professional colleague of mine, who I look up to and hope to eventually forge an outside-of-work friendship with, has offered to organize delivery of homemade meals to our house in the weeks after our new addition. A year ago, she was in a devastating traffic accident that left her nearly immobile for a couple months, and a "meal angel" team of friends and colleagues kept her fed and raised her spirits over those long weeks. She says she feels its her karmic duty to do the same for others.

As nice as this offer is, my wife and I would rather be in our own private cocoon during this time. We are kind of looking forward to surviving this big transition on simple comfort food we make ourselves or takeout restaurant meals. We really don't want people coming over, even just to deliver stuff, until we're ready. I also feel like if people want to cook homemade food for someone, I'd rather they make it for families less fortunate.

We've already been embarrassed by the outpouring of gifts -- we had hoped not to even have to register but we realized quickly that people in our lives really like being a part of welcoming the new baby.

My colleague is now asking for e-mails of our friends to invite to cook for us, and I feel like the time has come to politely decline, but I don't know how to do it in a way that honors her very kind offer and doesn't hurt her feelings. Can I do that? Or do we just need to grin and bear the daily lasagna delivery?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! to Human Relations (32 answers total)
my wife and I would rather be in our own private cocoon during this time.
As this is your first kid, you might want to rethink that. After a night of colicky screaming, leaking boobs, itching stitches, and other unfun stuff--both of you might be glad to see a human who can poop in a toilet.

Most people won't stay very long. You can sweetly mention dietary restrictions to your would-be benefactor, and dissuade gifts of pasta and carbs. A couple of casseroles can be frozen or you can re-gift them to those in need or neighbors.

The first few weeks go by in a sleep-deprived blur.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2011 [19 favorites]

You can make very specific requests about what you want. Lay it down to "dietary restrictions" if you feel pressured, but you probably won't.

You can request mashed potatoes and roasted chickens or whatever else is your comfort food. You can send her 6 recipes and say, "these are perfect, Mrs. Lo Carb craves these things but hasn't had the energy to cook them, and I haven't had time." You can request only three deliveries. You can request that they leave the foods on the front porch at specific times without ringing the bell "so as not to wake baby."

This is one of the few situations in life where you can place any restrictions on the gift, while also not really being able to decline the gift.

Some would say this comes down to an ask versus guess thing, but it's simpler than that. People like to give. People especially like to give when new babies are on the scene. Telling people they can't give is a big rejection, especially, as with your coworker, they have so much emotion tied up in the giving.

That said, is there a friend or two who would totally get your position on this, and who would be willing to get emailed, pretend to be preparing you food and then just....leave you alone until you're ready? That would minimize the stress.

For further deviousness, you can create fake email accounts, and email her them. Coordinate your own scheduling and delivery. This is more work than I'd be up for, but hey, you seem really serious about this. So, it's an option.
posted by bilabial at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Honestly, once you have the chaos of the baby, you might want the food. If I were you, I would grin and bear it. I can see how it would be annoying and intrusive, but these people just want to make your life easier. If you want to avoid having to interact with other people on any given day (or even every day), you could always put a note on your front door that says something to the effect of, sleeping newborn inside - if you wake him up you will need to come in and deal with his screaming until you can get him back to sleep. Then they could just leave the food on your stoop.

Just my two cents.
posted by corn_bread at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

Is this really so hard? Basically: thanks, but no thanks. But you know, a little kinder, and with some of what you posted here.

"That's so very kind of you, and we really appreciate the thought, but we prefer to have some quiet/alone time those first few weeks and just order in. But thanks again for being such a wonderful friend..." blah blah blah

Then again, I'm basically Larry David, so take with a grain of salt.

Congrats on the baby though!
posted by User7 at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Or do we just need to grin and bear the daily lasagna delivery?

I know accepting gifts and freebies isn't always easy, but I think you should gracefully receive the offer and treasure the community and support network that is built up around you. And I agree that you may be underestimating just how appreciated those ready-made meals will be during those first few weeks of exhaustion and happy chaos.
posted by BurntHombre at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

my wife and I would rather be in our own private cocoon during this time. We are kind of looking forward to surviving this big transition on simple comfort food we make ourselves or takeout restaurant meals. We really don't want people coming over, even just to deliver stuff, until we're ready.

I think you have a totally valid point about wanting to be in your cocoon, but if you don't speak up now, you may regret it later. It's hard, but you have to set boundaries. What you said above sounds like a great start, just tweak it a bit. Tell her you that while the cooking thing worked for you all to help her, it's not a tit-for-tat kind of thing and you and your wife have that part under control. Remind her that there will be plenty of opportunities ahead where you may ask for another kind of help, but right now, you just want to bond with your new family.

Good luck.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

We didn't want food delivered after our first kid was born, either. My thinking was, "Isn't this why they invented take-out?" I was able to divert the well-intentioned by just saying, "Thanks, we're all set," but it sounds like your person is much more motivated than anyone we had to deal with. I wonder if you could divert her energy in a way that is more useful for you? You might say, "We're all set for right after the baby is born, but you know when we could really use meals? The week my wife goes back to work." Or you could ask if she'd be willing to coordinate a single pre-birth delivery of a week or two worth of frozen meals.

That said, in my experience at other times of having people deliver us meals, the most common thing is really for them to pretty much hand you the food through the door and take off. Most people get that you don't want to visit, and most of them don't want to, either--they're squeezing dropping off your dinner into their own busy schedule. You could make this specific--ask this woman who is volunteering to coordinate to be clear with dinner volunteers that you're coccooning and not wanting long visitis. People usually understand that.
posted by not that girl at 8:30 AM on October 15, 2011 [15 favorites]

I would break the news to her in a personal discussion.
You do want to honor her thoughtfulness, and help her feel valued--maybe by saying that no one else thought of that gift for your family.

But, as much as you and your wife are appreciative, you will not be ready for even a knock on the door for many weeks. And you already have a family member who will be cooking for the three adults in the house.

Maybe by mentioning that your wife is also very appreciative and that you two talked about it, your co-worker will realize that her gift was taken seriously and is being graciously declined for practical reasons.
posted by calgirl at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've never had a baby, but the thought of people coming over every day (with food they expect me to eat, no less) is making me twitch. I'd say something like, "Thank you so much for thinking of us. That's a very sweet and generous offer, but we have already made plans to receive all our food and other material necessities after the baby arrives. If something comes up and we do need extra help, it's nice to know you're there for us, but we think we'll be fine. Thanks again, and as soon as the baby is ready to meet everyone, we'll let you know."
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:33 AM on October 15, 2011

"Hey friend, how's it going?

Listen, the wife and I have been talking about the baby and everything for the past few weeks and we've slowly come to a realization. Namely, we're both keen on making this quality time for ourselves and the kid, so we're going to be cocooning ourselves pretty much, just really bonding as a family. We think having deliveries of food and other gifts would be a bit disruptive, so we're politely asking everyone to hold off on doing these wonderful things for us at this point, ok? We really appreciate the offer and your desire to do this, but we want to take it low key at the moment. Thanks again for your offer and believe me, if things change you'll be the first person we're calling to help out."


However, a better option might be to request one or two meals a week. Having some comfort food already made and the occasional short visit might be good for all, while avoiding the daily dropping by. Having a support network is important, you don't want to totally diss it, however politely.


Me? I'd totally be like "Look, we're not interested in having company at the time. I know it's kinda obnoxious, but this the path we want to take. We'll come out of that cocoon in a little bit, no worries there, but for now this is the route we're talking"

Especially if you're trying to cultivate a friendship, it's important to be yourself now, so they know how you are and you both can decide whether to build on the friendship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I second the comments that suggest an honest, heartfelt talk letting this person know, while affirming deep appreciation for her efforts. But a couple of other ideas, too:

1. You could let her know, without going into a whole lot of detail, that the food arrangements have already been made, and you'd hate for a lot of food to go to waste.

2. If you affirm #1, perhaps you could suggest that you only need a couple of meals (if you felt that you were up to this), as most meals have been covered. This would allow your friend to still follow through on her care for you, while limiting your time with the outside world.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

However, a better option might be to request one or two meals a week.

There's your answer right there. So you say,"Hey friend, that's a heck of an idea. Let's say two meals a week - that would be great. Any more than that would actually be more of a burden, what with having to answer the door in our pyjamas and having our fridge overflowing if we decide to cook for ourselves or have take-out occasionally. Let's agree on two meals a week. Thanks so much for thinking of us."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:41 AM on October 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

Also, you can decide on a time limit, too. Two weeks, three, four? Include that in the plan if you do decide to accept the offer. Also, you can use "so many leftovers, so little storage space" as part of our reason for wanting a limited number of meals coming to the house.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:44 AM on October 15, 2011

Response by poster: Great advice so far, everyone! I see potential with this one or two meals a week idea -- could be a good middle ground.

One clarification, my username is just a dumb joke I thought was funny when I paid my $5 years ago. Neither of us have an aversion to carbs -- in fact, we are big fans of junk food of all types.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:45 AM on October 15, 2011

Could you request that the meals come later, like one or two months in? I feel like I've read in other AskMes that the early weeks are (relatively) calmer, since the baby is sleeping so much and one or both parents usually have time off work. (IANAParent)
posted by Bebo at 8:46 AM on October 15, 2011

Why not ask for groceries? You're both going to be tired and going to the store is hard when you don't have the energy to wash your hair. Say "Hey, well, could you have someone come by and bring us a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, some toilet paper, a package of diapers, and some coffee on Saturday?" Or they could even call you before they go to the store and ask you what you need right then. That would be super helpful. Maybe your friends could set that up. It's also easier for people to do than cook you something.

I understand exactly how you feel, but once the baby gets here, you may not want to cocoon so much as to be reassured that everything is going to be ok, and other people are good for that. And if they're just delivering groceries, you can meet them at the front door, say "baby and mom are sleeping, I don't want to wake them!" take your deliveries and scuttle back inside.
posted by emjaybee at 9:09 AM on October 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Taking a note from some meal delivery services: if the entryway of your home allows this, you can keep an empty cooler at your front door and ask that any hot meals delivered just be left inside the cooler with a quick email or text message sent to you before the meal will be dropped off. This could save you from awkward doorbell situations catching you either in pjs or the baby mid-nap.
posted by kitkatcathy at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

As nice as this offer is, my wife and I would rather be in our own private cocoon during this time. We are kind of looking forward to surviving this big transition on simple comfort food we make ourselves or takeout restaurant meals. We really don't want people coming over, even just to deliver stuff, until we're ready.

Just say that. If you're not changing your mind based on suggestions here to meet halfway in terms of being okay with some of this, anyway. Emphasize that you really think the offer is lovely and appreciate it very much, but otherwise just say that. Unless you're thinking something unkind (which you're not as expressed here), honesty generally is tactful.

Leave off the stuff about preferring that people make food for less fortunate families, though.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:31 AM on October 15, 2011

As a parent who has done the baby thing multiple times, I think you've gotten some great advice on this so far - and yes, you're perfectly within your rights here to put parameters on this offer (and it would not be rude to do so!). I would have loved:

1) someone delivering groceries to me (seriously, that would have been SO AWESOME, I would rank that way up there over homemade meals)
2) not a daily delivery of meals; but something once or twice a week, just so you have some nice backup food for the days you want to be totally lazy and not think about it
3) not helping you right after the baby is born; but a month or two later

That first little while with a baby is hunker-down time, but usually both parents are home, so you can spell each other, and the baby sleeps a lot (though in small chunks) - you can even get away with going out to a restaurant (if you're up for it and you time it right) in those first six to eight weeks or so because the baby will almost certainly just sleep in their carseat! But yeah, I feel you, I've always needed at least a month to get my bearings and I didn't want to deal with anyone but my mother while I spent 24/7 in my pajamas.

Afterwards, when parents start going back to work, the baby is awake a lot more, and you're emerging from the "holy shit there is a BABY now" haze into trying to get back to a semblance of "normal life" - that's when you're really wanting some adult interaction and an extra hand, but everyone stops thinking to offer help once the initial OMG NEW BABY part is over. If you can tap that goodwill now to benefit you later on (and give you the quiet babymoon that you want), it's just win-win all around.
posted by flex at 9:37 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am doing this right now for a friend of mine going through chemo -- it's set up through a website called, I think, Meal Train. But basically, we all just leave dinner on the porch and leave. I SOMETIMES give it to her at the door and we talk for 5 minutes and then I leave. But mostly all of us just leave it. She has it set to come like 2 days a week. I think if you do it this way, you CAN cocoon, if you want, and still get to accommodate your friend (AND not have to cook dinner every night, which you may really REALLY appreciate).

I know everyone has the horror story of people wanting to come in and see the baby and visit and visit and visit and visit while you are exhausted, but in my experience, most people know y'all are tired and will be more than happy to be like, "here's some enchiladas, can't wait to meet the baby, gotta go pick up my kids at soccer," and will respect your wishes.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 9:53 AM on October 15, 2011

I've had the same situation, and my wife and I have two children now. We had friends who made the same generous offer, and what we asked is that they start arranging meals for 4 weeks or so AFTER the baby was born. That way, we had our alone time, and then the meals started flowing in just when we were most exhausted and most in need of it. There's nothing wrong with steering their generosity where you need it most.
posted by Happydaz at 10:01 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

We most needed extra help when we were both back at work full time, which also lined up pretty well with the point at which offers of help dropped down to zero. I'd try to put her off that far, and if she absolutely will not be dissuaded, ask for freezables and save them until then.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:35 AM on October 15, 2011

In my friend circle we do this, and despite my initial hesitation, it really was a help to us. When our drop off calendar was set up, the (super awesome) friend of ours who coordinated told friends we'd leave the garage door open and to just put the meals in the extra fridge out there. People dropped stuff off in disposable containers so we didn't have to worry about returning everything, and for the most part it was all great food. Perhaps with some tweaking, (a cooler on the porch?) you could arrange something similar.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If in doubt, lie. "Sorry, my MIL/FIL/Other family member has already offered to this for us" or "we'll be spending lots of time at (family member)'s house but thank you anyway."
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 11:35 AM on October 15, 2011

One problem with lying: if you get found out, the person will absolutely be offended. You haven't said this woman is anything other than an adult who can handle being treated as such and told "thanks but no thanks; we anticipate being too overwhelmed to handle seeing people, but that's so nice of you," so I would go with that. Lying isn't a great default, especially for a colleague with whom you want to develop and outside of work friendship.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2011

I'm currently six weeks and five days into first-time fatherhood and was thinking the exact same thing you are at the moment. My colleague and friend was organizing a meal delivery thing for my wife and I, and to be honest, I was just hoping to be left alone in the first few weeks with our new baby. I imagined ourselves quietly enjoying the last days of summer (and a few weeks of parental leave) bonding with our calm, constantly sleeping newborn. As it turned out, there was a tiny bit of that, but mostly it's been weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation and colicky screaming and breastfeeding difficulties, etc.. We're totally happy and in love with our baby, but we're also stressed, exhausted zombies, and have been since day one (don't worry, it's getting much better every week).

Before the baby came I did tell my friend not to set up the meal delivery thing for us, because we're both introverted and kind of picky, can handle shit ourselves, and "can just get takeout if we need it." We didn't want people going out of their way for us. Thankfully, she ignored me, and set it up anyway. In the end, about half a dozen of our friends and coworkers signed on, and delivered some surprisingly fantastic food, which we REALLY appreciated. It was seriously a huge help at a time when even leaving the house for takeout would have been a challenge. I think the friend who set it up told them not to give us heavy casseroles and other crappy food, and not to visit for long, no matter what we said. Nobody stayed for more than like five minutes. Granted, it was slightly annoying when we thought we had a chance to get some sleep but had to stay awake until 5:30 pm for our delivery, but looking back, it was worth it.

So yeah, I would graciously accept. And, like others have mentioned, ask for the deliveries to be spaced out so that you're not dealing with too much food at once.

Or you can just politely decline for the exact reason you've given (don't make anything up), and anyone who's worth knowing will not be offended..
posted by bennett being thrown at 1:38 PM on October 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

If one of you is going back to work ask for it after that happens, it gets lonely and rough on the parent who is suddenly alone all day.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:51 PM on October 15, 2011

I was really grateful for meals that friends made after my daughter was born. The last thing you want to be hassling with is figuring out what to eat for dinner.

You don't want meals coming every day, for sure---for one thing, folks often bring more than you can eat so there are leftovers, and you don't want to get lapped, either. So a couple three times a week is perfect.

If you decide to accept your friend's generous offer to coordinate---and I encourage you to do so!---it's totally ok to say things like "we really like chicken" or "no soup, please", or "only vegetarian" or whatever.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:09 PM on October 15, 2011

Oh yeah, you don't want daily. Tell her Sundays and Wednesdays would be great. Or just once per week. Have them start a week or so past her due date.

I loved being able to enjoy time with my baby and my husband and not worry about cooking on the nights we had meal delivery. It gave us couple time. And I also loved showing off my new awesome baby and touching base with friends who I maybe hadn't seen in awhile and wouldn't see for awhile. Some visited, some left food on the porch. It was awesome.

So add me to the +1 on you enjoying it.
posted by amanda at 4:52 PM on October 15, 2011

Response by poster: OK, you've helped me reconsider. I'll encourage once or twice a week. Thanks!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:31 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you should stick to your guns. We had a no visitors for the first month policy, which we rigidly enforced. I wish we could have stretched it longer. It was bliss. We didn't have much trouble keeping ourselves fed and even someone ringing the doorbell and leaving food on the front step would have felt like an unwelcome intrusion.

I would tell the person thanks but no thanks, and that you really appreciate the offer but you're not interested. Most people we said this to understood completely. There were acouple of people who said, "oh, you think you don't want visitors but wait until week three when you haven't slept and the house is a mess, etc." They were wrong (and condescending, but whatever)!
posted by MarkAnd at 2:29 AM on October 16, 2011

Take the food. You have no idea how difficult it is going to be to find time to cook. Put on a bathrobe before people come over and act like you were just about to take a nap. They'll probably get the hint. I wish I had had this kind of generosity from colleagues when my son was born. I get the desire to be alone, I truly do...but take the food, please!
posted by feathermeat at 6:23 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

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