Is there an expectation you'll fly to visit a family member's newborn?
January 18, 2015 11:51 AM   Subscribe

My brother and his wife had their first child recently. In principle, I'd love to meet their newborn. Problem is, we live on opposite coasts of the US and I don't make much money. I could swing it if I had to, but a trip out there just to stand around the little bundle of biology and watch it eat, sleep, and poop doesn't feel like a good value to me. Am I obligated to go?

One friend told me I need to fly out there, and soon. Not doing so is insulting and neglectful of my familial responsibilities, he says. I'd like more opinions. I don't have many friends who are parents whom I could ask. I'm not sure what's customary here.

My brother has specifically invited me to come out (I gave a noncommittal response). I'm sure I'll meet this child eventually, but I'm trying to decide if I need to make a special trip. Lest there be any doubt, I'm really happy for my brother, but I just see most newborns as basically the same and not eminently worth $500-$800 in travel expenses.
posted by twobit to Human Relations (57 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not in my family, no. Send a card and a gift.
posted by SyraCarol at 11:53 AM on January 18, 2015 [20 favorites]

I think the expectation differs family to family. Are there any other siblings or parents you could ask for advice?

Personally, speaking as a mother, I would not expect it at all and would in fact feel terrible if you spent a bunch of money to fly out to see a newborn.
posted by amro at 11:55 AM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

Naturally he's going to invite you, but that doesn't create an obligation. Talk often, look at the baby on Skype, explain what you've explained here, that you'd love to come but can't swing it right now.
posted by beagle at 11:55 AM on January 18, 2015 [26 favorites]

Skype, my friend.
posted by lizbunny at 11:58 AM on January 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

In my family, we do, we want to but every family is different. This is probably a decision that you have to make yourself, and if you go, maybe schedule the trip for a month or two from now when you can get a cheap flight and the baby has filled out a bit and isn't so wrinkly.
posted by pearlybob at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think the invitation is generally an, "If you'd like to come, we'd love to have you" more than, "We really want you to come" sort of thing. Mostly, I find that the grandparents are the ones who are expected to travel and aunts/uncles see the little one during the first big event (christening, birthday, holidays).
posted by xingcat at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

Anyone who insists you fly out there and see the baby should be footing the bill. And you should be saying so.

I can't imagine such an expectation to take a airline trip in my family.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:01 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

Not doing so is insulting and neglectful of my familial responsibilities, he says.

I think this would be true IF you were more financially comfortable and it wouldn't be a hardship.
I think you should save your "could swing it" for an actual emergency.

But in the meantime, you could book some tickets now for baby's 1st birthday when they will be super-cheap and start saving up.
posted by bleep at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is this your brother's first kid? If so, he probably doesn't realize what he's done by inviting you and possibly everyone out to see the baby. The first 6 weeks in Baby Boot Camp is no fun and he's crazy to think it's a good idea to have house guests during that time (unless you are a pro at taking care of newborns and can actually help). Plan a trip when you can and send a gift now.
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:06 PM on January 18, 2015 [29 favorites]

It might actually be more considerate to visit later on. A couple with a newborn baby usually gets lots of attention from their friends/family, which will tend to drop off as the baby gets a little older (since people stop seeing it as a special occasion). Yet it won't be any less worthwhile to visit the baby in, say, a year.
posted by John Cohen at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

Flying out when it is not in your budget to do so is not the responsible way to live your life or honor your brothers new baby.

Send a nice gift, stay in touch, and don't feel guilty about it. I didn't meet my first grandchild until she was 6 months old, the travel cost was excessive to see her when she was born. We looked for a less expensive opportunity (and a time when things had settled down a bit)...

Congratulations and've nothing to feel guilty about..
posted by HuronBob at 12:18 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Personally, I think not offering to foot half of the bill for your trip is insulting and neglectful of your familial responsibilities. Wanting to show off your first child is pretty normal, but given the time, distance and cost barriers, I think he's a little out of line to start laying on a guilt trip.

As others have said, there are technological methods that will let you "meet" the child. It might, for some reason, be really important to him that you will be physically present in his house, but I have no idea what that reason might be. It's not like the baby is going to know or care. If he really really wants you there, he can perhaps tell you why. He could also offer some support to enable you to do the thing that is important for him.
posted by Solomon at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2015

Do they live near your parents or other relatives you would actually stay with? If they don't, that's another reason to wait. Even if your brother invited you to come out and see the new baby, he might not realize that (especially for the baby's mom who isn't your own sister, and therefore, at least potentially less totally comfortable with even a family guest in the house 24/7 as she negotiates the not-fully-dressed, wrestling with breastfeeding, needing to sleep at any moment phase) it can be really hard to have even a helpful house guest at this time, and it doesn't sound like you'd really be able to afford a hotel.
posted by third rail at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can be perfectly upfront with saying, "I'd love to, but I just don't have the money right now." Anyone who expects you to spend money you don't have flying across the country to see an incontinent squirming blob is, quite honestly, being a dick. Your family should have a good idea of how much you make and what you can afford, and should be understanding of your financial reality. Nobody should hold this against you.

This is not the next Dalai Lama were talking about. It's just a baby. It will continue growing, and you'll see it when you see it--hopefully after it's grown into something more attractive. Send a card and a thoughtful gift. That is more than enough right now.

Anyone pushing you to see the baby at your personal financial peril has an overly inflated sense of how important their baby is. You should by no means feel obligated to spend money you don't have to celebrate the perpetuation of someone else's DNA, and sensible, thoughtful parents will understand this.
posted by Leatherstocking at 12:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [20 favorites]

Your friend is wrong. There's no rule about this. In fact, your sister-in-law may appreciate some privacy and quiet as she has a big recovery ahead as well as trying to manage things like learning newborn care and breastfeeding. A parade of visitors right after a birth can be disruptive and tiring for new parents. Go when you can and Skype in the meantime to say hi and see the baby.

I visited my sister after her birth, but spent the entire time trying to take care of her and my brother-in-law by cooking, cleaning, running errands, doing laundry, and anything else they needed. The last thing they needed was having to host a visitor when they had so much on their plates.
posted by quince at 12:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [14 favorites]

I think some people are being unnecessarily harsh here. I'm the parent of two and not one of my six siblings visited when either child was born, and I didn't visit them when their children were born. We did see each other for birthdays, Christmases, "just-becauses," graduations, etc. My kids remember those things, not the just-born visits. Clearly.

Be honest with your brother and tell him that a visit right now will be financially difficult for you and, this is key, arrange a date for a visit in the future (first birthday, maybe?) when things aren't so tight for you. Send a thoughtful gift (it need not be expensive), set up a Skype or FaceTime date, and be available to your brother if/when he wants to talk endless kid talk.
posted by cooker girl at 12:24 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've known a lot of people in this situation, and I think it depends how far you are, and how close you are to the baby in question.

I have a friend from Japan who has a baby in the US. It took six months to a year for said baby to meet its Japanese grandparents in person. Because holy shit, I mean Tokyo to NYC is a long way to go. And those were GRANDPARENTS.

On the other hand, when/if my siblings start having kids, I'd like to be there as soon as possible, because I'm their one and only aunt, and also I'm only a couple thousand miles away on a quick and relatively affordable flight. I don't need to be in the delivery room or anything, but I imagine I'd be there within a month or two.

I think your brother should go ASAP unless you guys are living in penury or they are in an incredibly remote area that is legitimately hard to travel to (An island off the coast of Alaska? A remote mountain village?). I don't think you're required to go along, but I wouldn't throw up artificial road blocks either. Like if you can swing the vacation time from work and afford a ticket, yeah, be a good in-law and go.

While I hear the budgetary concerns, I think there's a difference between genuinely not being able to afford it, vs. wanting to use this money to go on a fun vacation rather than to do family stuff. If it's absolutely out of the question, then of course you can't go. If it's possible, but you don't want to, yeah, you're kind of being a jerk about it.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 PM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

If the cost was no issue to you then yeah, of course, why not. But the cost IS a big deal to you, and money you spend on this would be money taken away from you in an actual emergency. This isn't like flying across the country to sit by a loved one's deathbed, it's the literal opposite. You have the rest of this kid's life to get acquainted. Save up to buy a ticket for when the baby will actually be awake long enough to meet you.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

Can you find a way to go soonish but more cheaply? Like looking for future plane tickets that aren't quite as expensive? I don't think it's required, but I am sure glad I went when my second sister had her baby (when my first sister had her baby, I couldn't visit for months, and I regret it).
posted by stoneandstar at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2015

My brother and I swapped your positions before. When he first had kids, I was barely out of college and had no money for travel, but luckily he was a long road-trip away and I saw his kids in the first few months. Later, when I was out of state with my own child, he was also in a place where a flight wasn't affordable so he met my daughter at the next family outing I traveled down his way for, which was probably in her first year or two.

It's not a big deal to be there in person as a sibling, I love my child and my family's children but infants aren't that exciting, especially if you're not a parent that already understands that. We only had local friends come and see our baby and beyond that only one side of the grandparents did because they could easily afford it. Skype and Facetime are wonderful alternatives and you should connect to your brother via those methods to check out the baby online.
posted by mathowie at 12:37 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

You don't need to be an expert at baby care to help out new parents in the immediate postpartum period. My sister and her girlfriend came a few days postpartum and cooked, cleaned, did laundry, folded laundry, put laundry away, fed the cat, vacuumed. It was incredibly helpful. I will never not be grateful for that, and would return the favor in a heartbeat, cost be damned. If you can go and help, you should. It's part of being in a family, a community.

but I just see most newborns as basically the same and not eminently worth $500-$800 in travel expenses.

Please don't let the new mom or dad know that you feel that way. It's not true for one (all humans are individuals, even tiny humans), but it's also pretty mean when they probably feel like they've met the best ever new little person ever.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:42 PM on January 18, 2015 [19 favorites]

Generally speaking the first few months with a baby are pretty crazy. It's something I was very keen to reserve as "new family time" when we had both our kids. It's a time of adjustment, both parents, hopefully, have a little bit of time off, and we just wanted to spend some time in a new family unit.

It can be especially trying to have someone else staying in your home during this time. We did that the first time, against my better instincts, and it sucked so hard I went and paid for a hotel room for my mother and her husband (no dig on her at all! We just needed the space).

So no, I wouldn't go, I would put it off until the baby is 6 months old.
posted by smoke at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just see most newborns as basically the same and not eminently worth $500-$800 in travel expenses. Yeah, definitely don't say that. Even if you can't go, please send a gift, and call, and Skype, and act excited to to have a new niece or nephew. Your brother will hopefully understand if you can't afford it right now, but he will likely be rightfully cheesed off if you act like you don't really care about your new niece or nephew. (Which, if you do, doesn't really come across here -- between the quoted part, and you calling it "a bundle of biology," you sound kind of dismissive of this new member of your family. It's fine if you're not into babies, because plenty of people are not, but be kind to your brother and his wife and at least pretend to be legitimately excited to welcome this new person into the world, even remotely. I think that's more important for your family relationship than actually going to visit. In fact, if you ARE totally unenthused about the baby, you probably shouldn't go right now, when they're tired and hormonal, if you can't get it up and act like you're happy to be there. Certainly don't go if you're going to act like it's an obligation and not a pleasure.)
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:50 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

I don't think your friend is right. Maybe in his family. But I think you can send a gift and let them know you can't wait to meet the bundle of joy soon. Set up a Skype date to see the new baby if you want, but I think your friend is overreacting. Tell your brother you can't get the time off or pull together the needed money right now, but you will make out out there soon to see him and the baby. You're happy for him, you love him, blah blah.

I don't know how close you are in your family, but maybe you could even say to the brother: I'm thrilled for you and I cannot wait to meet the baby, but money is a little tight right now -- would you be okay with me coming to see him a little later when I can plan for it better and save up some money? In other words, ask the brother. He might say it's totally fine, or he might offer to help pay. Or maybe he will get all weird and you will know you have to go. If he's cool with you delaying your first meeting with the baby, I would try to see him for a reason that is more than just seeing the baby. Get an occasion out of the trip and some time with the adults.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:52 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Germs. I'm under the impression that many new parents prefer that people wait to visit the baby until after his/her immune system has developed a bit (or something like that).
posted by amtho at 12:57 PM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

I love my sister and her whole kids a whole bunch, but they are far away and after the first baby, I realized there is no point to visiting right after they're born. Everyone is exhausted and the baby just lies there being boring. She's had three more babies since the first one and I wait until they're a few months old now and the routine has settled down a bit and the kid has a little personality. My family is very no-nonsense and I can be open about this reasoning and everybody laughs and agrees. If you think your family will be weird and hold it against you if you don't go (and if you care and want to keep them happy), you should go. But I really don't think you're a bad person if you don't.
posted by something something at 12:58 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your friend's family may be like that, as families have all kinds of internal rules, but in my family (back in the baby-having days) people just made an effort to get to the next scheduled family event to see the baby. If you lived 30 minutes away, it would be weird to not visit for 6 months, but if you were airplane-distance there was no expectation you'd come out before your next typical visit.

Honestly the best answer is to ask your brother, and ask him to ask his wife, as there may be two answers there (like, your brother might be all yeah, I like guests, while his wife is all can I please recover and get the hang of breastfeeding without your sibling up my nose kthx). Hopefully with your brother you can be candid and say, "Hey, I have no idea what the sibling-baby tradition is here, do y'all want me to come out right away or shall I just book some specific baby-snorfling time when I come out for a summer visit?"

A lot of new parents would prefer to germ-isolate the baby for a period that will not be finalized until after the birth occurs, but are under a huge amount of pressure from assholes who insist they have a right to touch/breathe on the baby whether the parents like it or not. So I think a conversation is 100% required and it would be a terrible idea - even for someone who could afford it - to book an actual flight before the baby has arrived.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are different reasons one might go. One is because you have a very intimate relationship with your brother and want to help out physically around the house when he and his family are in a complicated, bewildering time. Two is because you are filled with love and wonder and want to meet this new niece or nephew stat. Speaking as someone who recently had a baby, I did not want anyone around unless they fit one of those two categories, and it doesn't sound like you do. How about saying something affectionate to your brother and his family, sending a baby gift and getting out there when the kid is big enough that you perceive them as someone in whom you could have an interest?
posted by feets at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

This stuff totally depends on whether your family is the 'enmeshed' or 'independent' type. In an independent-type family it would be totally fine for you to meet the baby the next time you run into its parents -- like, at a holiday gathering or wedding. In an enmeshed family though, not going now could be a grave offence. (Your friend is from an enmeshed culture.)

I'd ask your parents what's expected, or extrapolate from how your family typically handles similar situations. If you all are in near-daily contact with each other, if everyone comes home for holidays and for weddings, if you give each other a lot of presents and phone each other on birthdays then yeah, it may be expected that you go. (Doesn't mean you need to, but if you don't it'll be smoother if you apologize and plead poverty.)

Don't bother asking your friends or parents in general -- all you'll learn is which type of family they're from, and that doesn't help answer what's expected of you in yours.
posted by Susan PG at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

There have been a couple harsh responses here, but generally everyone's spot on. I have a four-month-old overseas and my younger siblings both work very hard and make not much money. My mother came out for the birth, my dad's coming in a month or so. My sister has been super excited and pretty good about Skype when her work schedule's not crazy, which has been nice. My brother and his wife I've hardly heard from which kinda hurts, but is also nothing new. I definitely don't expect them to come visit, though my sister's saving up to (and even then, if we're able, I'll probably chip in with half the cost of the plane ticket; I also don't really expect her to succeed - not that she's not trying, but just that car repairs and medical bills and stuff come first and shit happens, etc...). Eventually, we'll go visit.

Anyway, I will also say you're not wrong about newborns - you're not missing much. Those first few weeks they eat, sleep, and poop and I remember it as a blur of feeling royally overwhelmed and exhausted and in pain. It was not pretty, and honestly, I didn't even want my mom there half the time but it was too late!

The thing about traveling long distances is once you're there, you're THERE. I couldn't send my mom home and tell her to come back the next day. When you're in the middle of a breastfeeding disaster at 1am and ugly crying there's nowhere to send guests to get rid of them! YMMV of course. Had my family been closer and able to come help for a day or two at a time (as PhoBWanKenobi describes) that would have been great. It wasn't an option.

On preview: newborns all seem the same because you haven't known enough to compare them to one another, or experienced multiple newborns at the same time. They ARE different! My dude was super chill and alert, while the other baby in my hospital room cried every 15min. I side with you though, 'cause he's my only so it was hard to know in the early days what was a "baby thing" and what was a "this specific baby" thing.

Anyway, a nice card/letter and a gift and some Skype time a couple weeks after the birth is perfect. Whether or not you can refer to it as a "bundle of biology" depends on their personalities and senses of humor - you could with me, but yes many people will be offended.

Think of babies as tiny scientists. I think now, at 4mo, he's getting pretty cool!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

It depends based on the family. I would be expected to visit within the first month.

Moreover, there would be wondering why I didn't take the 8-9 month notice I had about the baby's arrival to sock away some money for a flight.
posted by kimberussell at 1:17 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

As others have said, it really depends on your family. In ours (although neither of us had had children) the expectation would be that we'd go, not to look at a baby, but to help out. The first weeks/months of newborn life are very hard for new parents and having a loving family member to help so you can bathe or get some sleep would be very welcome. We're also very honest in our family. I could ask my sister if she wanted me, and she'd tell me yes or no, based on her feelings.

When my sobrina had her baby, I told her to call me if she needed me. While her family was in town, everything was fine, but after a few days, she called me to watch the little booger so she could sleep. So I went over and hung out with the dudelet and watched TV and she slept uninterrupted for a few hours.

If money is very tight the visit could wait until it coincides with some other family event and then do a 'twofer'. Besides, if they've had a lot of visitors the new family may want to have some alone/bonding time without having to worry about relatives. You really should ask your brother.

The other thing is that perhaps, if this is important in your family, someone can help you out by funding your ticket.

Babies aren't born into families every day, and they are to be celebrated, but it's best to be mindful of what is possible and wanted.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on January 18, 2015

It wouldn't even occur to me that I was expected to fly to visit a baby (it's so far beyond my expectations that I'm having to work REALLY hard to keep massive sarcasm out of this comment). Yet clearly other people above would expect it. I think it's definitely up to your family standards. Maybe ask your parents or somebody else in the family for feedback.
posted by wintersweet at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]

Your brother has invited you. If you can swing it, you should go. This is not about looking at a newborn to see what they look like. This is about making a connection with your family - your brother, his partner and their baby. By all means go and offer to help by making them a meal, giving them a break, cleaning up the house, whatever they need. Or just say hello. I would say that, if you can't go right now, book the trip for later in the year and save up. I would be deeply hurt if my family did not come to see my baby, unless I lived on the other side of the planet or something. It sounds like you come from a family where your visit is expected and appreciated.

You know, one day, you may be old and this baby may be making decisions about where to place you for extended living, whether to come help when you're ill or even to help with your own children or spouse. Unless you are on horrible terms with your brother, I can't see why you wouldn't want to support him. He's so excited and wants you to have a relationship with his child. That's a precious thing. Don't see it as an obligation - see it as an opportunity, which has the chance to be rewarding for all of you. Schedule the visit for when the baby's a few months older, perhaps, and you'll be in a better position to bond. But do book it - and show your brother you care.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's not about the baby, which is good because you seem to not be a baby person.
The visit would be a mark of solidarity with your brother and sister In law and a way to show your support of them in a huge life changing time for them.
You may not have much to do with the baby, but you can go and show your brother that you care about him and his family and want to celebrate this big thing with him. A baby is a big deal, even if it doesn't do much. This visit is symbolic (and yes you can also be helpful without even touching the baby by making grocery runs, cleaning, etc for them).

In my family, you would definitely be expected to go, but also you would want to go, so I am not sure that it says about your family dynamic and their expectations that you seem to be kind of resentful of the whole thing.

I will say that it is annoying that sometimes you have to spend your money in ways that you don't think are the most fun. I got irritated for a few years that most of my travel and money was being spent going to other peoples weddings, visiting family etc. but that is in my opinion the price of having close relationships. You sacrifice sometimes for them, and it's not always your favorite thing or the choice you wanted to make, but the relationship is worth it and being there and showing support is really important.
Not sure what your money situation is, whether it's a matter of this trip vs a ski trip or something more fun, or this trip vs groceries. If it's the former, I would suck it up and go (and try to be helpful and giving and don't complain in front of them or say that babies are boring).
posted by rmless at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Since you say you'd like to meet the baby and see them, I think this boils down to whether you already have a plan to see each other at Christmas or whatever, and that this would be a special trip just to meet your new niece/nephew. If you don't generally get together or have plans to, then yeah, I'd say it's worth it to go. That way, it's not a special trip, it's just, the next time you're going to see them all.

I have two sisters, my middle sister has two kids, I went and stayed with her for a week when each of them was born, but our oldest sister has a stricter work schedule and wasn't able to go see them. For me it was a matter of opportunity: I could take the time off, I could afford it without it being a hardship, so I did. And it was awesome! Yeah, babies seem generically similar/boring when you're not around them a lot, but this one was mine! He was related to me! Totally worth the trip.
posted by nerdcore at 2:33 PM on January 18, 2015

I met my brother's child when 11 months old. I did not feel obligated to go earlier. I did congratulate them immediately, sent presents, and asked about the child. I'm happy with that decision; however, we were not close at the time. We are closer now, and I would probably go earlier if they had another kid.
posted by studioaudience at 2:33 PM on January 18, 2015

It's lucky no one is pushing you to see the baby, they've just invited you to come out. Honestly, it sounds like you are having an emotional reaction here because of what your friend told you, not actually what your brother said. It's good, too, that you can be honest here because this is something important enough to warrant telling you're brother you can't afford to come out, rather than going out and being a nervous mess because you're worried about yourself and your financial situation. No new parents need that, frankly.

You don't have to go. You really don't have to do anything you don't want to do. But I'm going to tell you now that it is impossible to know how it feels to have a kid until you've had one. It is impossible to anticipate how much awe and tenderness they unlock in a person. It is possible, though, your brother wants to share that with you and everybody else he loves.

It's also impossible without having had one to really understand how much a new baby demands of a person, and it's likely that, in a couple of months, when the baby is more aware and needs more, your brother and his family will need some help. If you're in a position to help without financially hamstringing yourself to do it, do it. Send them an Amazon Prime membership. Send them a massage pillow. Hire a service to clean or send them a gift basket of delicious foods or fresh fruit or some comfy loungewear. Slankets. You might even save enough money by then to go out.

If you choose to procreate someday, you'll understand. Until then, be gentle and compassionate. You'll probably want other people to do the same for you when it's your turn to host the slobbering, puking, crying blob that just also happens to be the most precious, incredible person that's ever happened to you.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

In my family, you would not be expected to go, but the offer would be made just to be sure you knew you were welcome if you really wanted to.

I would think you'd be find to send a present, make a phone call, try to see them within the first year when the baby has more of a personality and everyone's settled in a bit.

But clearly expectations differ wildly here, so you probably need to look at what's happened in your family in the past, or whether there's anyone you can feel out for guidance here.
posted by Stacey at 2:36 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

They are going to have their hands full with a new child, and don't need to host you. I didn't (and wouldn't) expect it of my siblings who live far away to see my new kid. They came not long after to spend time.

It is far more helpful to send a card, and perhaps some money or a gift card for them to get some easy meals in the trials of the first few months of having a kid.
posted by nickggully at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

If a close family member invited me to visit them after a significant family event, I would take it as an invitation to go because clearly that family member wanted to see me.

But then my attitude would be that I "get" to see the family member, not that I "have" to. You don't sound too interested in seeing your brother and his baby in the immediate future, so it sounds like you are content to see him and his wife and child later rather than sooner.
posted by deanc at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2015

It would be nice. It's not necessary. Your friend is a jerk.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

You know more about your family than your friend does. You should find out from your brother what would be appreciated by him and his wife (especially his wife. New dads do not always, in my experience, really quite understand what is going on in their post-partum wives' heads.)

In my family, I would not have expected my brother to fly out, because it would not have been a help to me. But I did expect and appreciate interest/affection for the baby and congratulations, expressed by gifts (for the congratulations) and Skype (for the interest.) And I was pretty annoyed by various family members who deviated, either by showing up without intent to help; or not expressing interest and congratulations in other ways.

A visit for a newborn is, in my view, only appropriate if you are there to help the parents. But my experience is that not everyone thinks this way, and that if you care about the relationship, you should do what the new parents want you to do, and not more or less.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:33 PM on January 18, 2015

My brothers live in the same town as my mom. If I hadn't gone out there when my baby was 3 months old, it probably would have been at least a year before they would have met her. When's the next family gathering? If it's not till Christmas, might be nice to plan a trip. But don't feel like a bad person if you don't rush out there. Do Skype! Do send a gift if you haven't already or a "congrats" card.
posted by amanda at 3:36 PM on January 18, 2015

Agree that you ar going in order to mark the (really incredibly momentous) occassion, not to make conversation with the child.

Doing that within the first couple of weeks or months is customary, ime. Even if it is not typical in your family, be aware that all sorts of ppl will be flocking to see that baby and show enthusiasm for it, and so if you don't, it will probably be noteworthy. Which is not to say that if your circumstances don't permit it, it's not understandable. But as an example- I would not have thought much about caring whether ppl came to see my baby or not beforehand. However, when everyone bar one friend did, I did notice her absence and was a little hurt. I mean, sure, she has little experience with babies and not many feelings about them but she was (is!) my friend and this was probably the most life changing thing that had ever happened to me. And EVERYONE else noted that. Even those ppl who were less gushy about the bub herself (who is just, like, biology, but you know. So are you.)
posted by jojobobo at 3:43 PM on January 18, 2015

I'd just like to throw my hat in the ring as: this varies very much depending on your family. Nobody but grandparents came from out of state to visit our new babies, and nor have we gone to visit the distant babies of my brothers right away.
posted by Andrhia at 4:03 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

It may be common for aunts/uncles/every stray relative they can name in your friend's family to rush to the newborn's side, but certainly NOT for all families.

Sure, the various grandparents will go immediately, as well as any relatives within an easy drive; but anyone a few hours' drive away or who'd have to fly in gets a pass for now. Skype and/or ask your brother for photos, then go out therein six months or for the baby's first Christmas or birthday.

(And here's a pro tip from an experienced aunt: the ONLY response to any baby is some variation of 1)she/he's adorable! 2)good thing she looks like her mom not you, brother! 3)you're so lucky: congratulations!
In reality, brand-new babies are usually kind of reddish and scrunchy faced, but do NOT say anything like that to the proud parents! ;D )
posted by easily confused at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2015

My two cents: it's not really about the baby. It's about showing your brother that you care. I would guess that it will be meaningful to your brother and his wife if you make a quick visit sometime in the next couple of months. Keep an eye out (or ask a travel agent's help) for cheap flights. Just a couple of days, which you spend helping them around the house and cuddling or ogling the baby. I'm not a baby person, but I still try to demonstrate love to the ones in my family; it makes their parents feel good. So I praise how alert they are, how soft their skin is, etc. Also,in the meantime (before your visit) send some kind of special gift like a book inscribed with a handwritten message from you , gift card for takeout food, etc. It's your brother ; celebrate this happy time with him in as many ways as you can!
posted by leslievictoria at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2015

I had a baby six months ago and my brother couldn't manage to come up and visit from two hours away, on an easily accessible bus line.

When he did come, two months later, as a surprise for my birthday, he stayed at our apartment (unexpectedly) and it was kind of taxing for me, messing with my routine. I felt like I had to take care of him and his needs.

Don't be a dick.

1. If you can't show up, or don't want to because you think it's not financially possible, make sure to call or text or comment on Facebook frequently. Show interest in your brother's family and be interactive -- ask questions about how the baby is doing, whether the baby does X or Y wacky thing, wasn't it funny when your brother did this when he was a baby and maybe the new baby will take after its dad, yada yada yada.

I bet your brother, being the dad and not the mom, would especially appreciate that. This new family could use a lot of support, but so much of that is directed towards the mom and the baby. The dad is probably doing so much to support them -- and then having to continue his own life at work, etc. -- with not a ton of support for himself.

A generous present, for the shower or otherwise, is not a substitute. Showing your support will be even more important down the road after the first few weeks.

2. When you do visit, make the sum total positive. Do not expect to be treated as a guest. Not only should you make your presence as low-maintenance as possible, ask what specific things you can do to help, and bring useful gifts that will make their lives easier.

Do things without them asking: dishes, taking the trash out, etc. This is also a good tactic to take if you like the baby and all but are tired of every activity being so incredibly baby-centric: do the peripheral things so that the parents can focus on other stuff.
posted by Madamina at 6:26 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Talk to your brother about it, not "some friend". Let him know you realize this is a Big Deal and that you totally want to support him and be a great uncle and all that, but you can't afford to come out right now. I don't know how often you normally are able to see your brother, but if, e.g., you otherwise wouldn't see him until Christmas and you can at all afford to save up to go visit sooner, it might be nice to see if you could get out there this summer.

But the really important thing is that despite all appearances, this isn't just some rando newborn. The aunt-uncle/niece-nephew relationship can be develop into a truly awesome positive thing, and it is more likely to develop in that direction despite the distance if your brother knows you really care. I would suggest a fake-it-'til-you-make-it approach to cultivating an interested in this little blob of biology.
posted by drlith at 7:10 PM on January 18, 2015

Disclaimer: evil non-baby person speaking so I can't speak from the POV of those who will be mad at you for not coming.

Kids get more interesting the older they get, and the more likely they are to remember you at all. Might you just point out that right now you can't afford it and you'll come later on when the baby can actually be aware of you? "Come see the baby!" is going to be something he'll be saying to you for the next 18 years, so it's probably going to become a regular expense. If the money is tight and you can only manage one trip a year, tell him that. Tell him if you can only afford a visit once this year, does it have to be Right Now for him? And then do what he says, and if Right Now is what he wants, then the one trip a year is now. If he'll socially let you wait, then...wait.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:16 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

My family tends to be pretty enmeshed, but I didn't fly across the country to meet each baby right after they were born. I do fly out 2-4 times a year, and always saw the new baby on the next trip after his birth (so many boys in this family... ). My sister in law was always grateful, because airplanes are full of germs, and she wanted to not have the baby dealing with airplane germs so soon after being born.

Observation time: all of my family and friends were overwhelmed after the birth of each child, but especially the first. Many asked people to not visit for a few weeks because of they felt so overwhelmed. I agree that the best people to talk to is your brother and his wife (especially his wife, see comment above about new fathers occasionally, in the excitement, extending invitations that perhaps his wife would have preferred not have been extended). However, she might not want to deal with anyone or anything right now, so you might just be talking with him. In any case, here's a script:

"Brother, I am so excited and happy for you! I can't wait to meet the baby. I can't come immediately, but want to see her as soon as I can. I was thinking maybe I could come in May or June*, but we can figure that out in a bit once everything has settled down. In the meantime, would you be up for Skyping once a week on Sundays? I would LOVE to see her and Wife and you."

* if you have a set time you visit every year, you can pop that in here. Or if you know you can save up the cost of a plane ticket by August or whatever, pop that in here.

I get that in some families it's beyond expected, and in some families, it's ok if you just see the baby at the next major gathering. As you can tell, there are pretty diverse expectations around this across different families. I think the big criteria for you are:

1. Make sure your brother and his wife know you are VERY HAPPY and excited that the baby has been born! Yay! That is super important no matter what.
2. You can't afford to fly out right now
3. .... but, you should start saving money for a trip out now
3. Find out what your brother & sister in law are ok with, and make sure they know that you will be there as soon as you can.
posted by RogueTech at 11:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you have kids? I'm guessing not.

I ask, because as someone who does not have/ is not all that interested in children, I felt a lot of pressure when my sister had her baby (ies) to act a lot more excited than I felt. I am one of those, "Oh a baby how... icky-I-mean-interesting." people. I think though, that a lot of the pressure I felt was inside my own head, coming from the fact that I REALLY wanted to support my sis but felt resentful because I imagined that so many people were expecting me to act/feel much differently than I actually did. Also I really did not want to hold the baby and I knew it was going to be very awkward to refuse to do so. I figured people would think I was a horrible person, "Who doesn't want to hold a baby?!!! Only a heartless cad!" You may feel similarly, "Who wouldn't spend their last penny to go see their newborn nephew/niece?!! Only a heartless cad!"

This may not be you at all, but I think its worth noting that plenty of people here who are parents have said that they WOULD NOT expect you to make such a trip. I'd say send a gift (money or gift certificates is probably the most useful plus maybe a cute stuffed toy), do the Skype thing and then totally let yourself off the hook.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:53 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had two babies, very complicated pregnancies and births, and none of my siblings visited at all, and I didn't expect them too. Everyone has their own life. Send a card and a generous gift, but don't even apologize for not coming. You can't get away.

In a year or so, offer to come for a few days and babysit so they can get away. That will be much more useful than showing up now, when their lives are so much in flux.
posted by pippin at 7:46 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow. A baby is a big deal to the people who have the baby.

But there is no need for you to visit immediately or apologize or have a script. Send a gift and a card. Visit when you would normally visit.
posted by maurreen at 8:03 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

New baby? What an inconvenient time to go visit, esp. with germs from the plane, etc. Send a swell gift. In the 1st year, pay attention to the facebook videos, etc. Send short emails. Understand that new parents can get so preoccupied and sleep-deprived, they won't notice you winning a Nobel Prize. (Congratulations, by the way.) As baby grows, send educational/ fun gifts - books, music, science kits. As baby becomes an identifiable human, try to be a terrific aunt, sending appropriate gifts,letters, cards, postcards. Kids love to get postcards from your travels. in some families, a christening is a Big Deal. I skipped my niece's, which was good, because 1/2 the people there got hepatitis.

I do like visiting family; it keeps you closer. I like kids and am close to my niece and nephews. When you send a gift, consider sending a gift cert. for takeout from someplace wonderful - it's a nice gift for the grownups.
posted by theora55 at 1:22 PM on January 19, 2015

OP here. Thanks for the responses, everyone. Quite the spectrum of family dynamics. I spoke with my brother and I’ve got a visit booked for April. I was open about my financial situation, and he’s chipping in. (To the doubters: I’m pumped about my visit.) We’ll Skype in the meantime. I’d already sent a card and gift.

The twist for me is that I made it clear to my brother I want to come out to help, and not just coo at the baby. Hopefully (as many said here) that’ll be more useful for them. Moreover, it helps me justify the cost, as I’m doing something productive for my family, and not just sight-seeing.

The hive mind works!
posted by twobit at 10:49 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

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