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Organized food- giving- ever heard of this?

My friend had a baby last week. Her friend and manager has set up and is managing a schedule for who's-going-to-send-them-what-dinner-on-what-night and has sent updates pointing out open slots in the schedule.

I've been trying to figure out why it bugs me a little bit, and I think my issue is that the only time I'd ever even HEARD of this custom after a baby is born was when a friend at work was diagnosed with leukemia when she was pregnant with her second child and pretty much had to go in for the bone marrow transplant prep right after the baby was born, leaving her husband with an infant, a toddler, a full-time job, and his wife in the hospital with leukemia. Her coworkers organized a similar dinner-chain for the family, and I thought that was a pretty fabulous thing to do for them.

Fortunately for my friend the brand-new mom, her family is in no such dire straits Everybody's healthy and happy and they're financially comfortable. Has anybody heard of this custom before? One of the last things she said to me was "Bring me food!" which I thought was funny but I did feel a little bit of the "why?" in the back of my mind, knowing it was expected of me somehow.

I could go for some input from fellow Chowhounds about this, mostly whether this is a big worldwide custom that has somehow escaped me completely, or whether somebody's being overly entitled.

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  1. New Moms are often short on sleep--those first few days home can feel like an endless stream of feedings, diaper changes, and crying.

    I was one of the first of my friends to have kids, so aside from a baby gift at the shower, I always brought the new Mom food that was easy to eat out of hand/mug/took little or no prep (there are a number of threads on the subject o what to make on home cooking).

    This is the first I've heard of a schedule though. On the positive side, it seems more organized than people showing up all at once--depending on what was gifted they could wind up not being able to use it all before it went stale?

    1. When a friend's spouse was dying, I used mealbaby.com to organize food for the family (extended family members were arriving from out of town). Worked like a charm, and the family had plenty of food for several weeks. It would be a godsend for a new mom, anyone recovering from surgery, etc.

      1. My church has a schedule like this for new babies, terminal and temporary illnesses and the two months after a death, with a separate schedule for the funeral(we alternate as to who brings salad/main/dessert/sides).

        1. It does sound very generous. Does the new mom not have any family to help her out? It seems like a nice gesture for the first week or two, especially if there are unusual circumstances. If friend has healthy and available husband, Mom, in-laws, etc, dinner every night from her friends does seem like overkill. How long is this supposed to go on?

          3 Replies
          1. re: babette feasts

            Her family is several states away, as are her in-laws. Her husband does know how to cook, and she's a very good cook. He's working, she's on maternity leave, (obviously).

            I remember very well what it was like being a new mom, although it's been nearly 23 years. I had a whopping case of postpartum depression, too, but never thought to expect meals to be delivered, practically everybody has babies in their houses at some point. I guess I would have felt like I had a disease instead of a new baby if people had brought food to me for several weeks just for having a baby. And maybe that's because of my work friend's traumatic pregnancy and the aftermath.
            I guess this is just a difference in experiences.

            1. re: EWSflash

              The way I've experienced this is that the recipient does not expect anything. The food solicitation is set up by a friend for mutual friends to contribute or not. The recipient has nothing to do with it. In my experience, the slots filled up within hours, and would-be donors who were left out were disappointed. This is a gift, freely given.

              1. re: EWSflash

                Would it have helped if friends had brought you dinner after your baby? It was very helpful for me, even w/out postpartum, not to have to worry about dinner when someone did. I think that's the need people are trying to fill. I tend to bring dinner to people at the drop of a hat, not because I think a baby, spouse being shipped to Iraq, being really busy at work, etc. is a disease. Most people have babies at some point, tragedy, death, time constraints. It's one thing to expect others to do it, but it's very kind of people to step in to try to help.

            2. I've heard of it pretty often, not so much for new moms but for families where the mom (generally the mom) is very ill, where someone has passed away, severely injured. We have a Sunshine committee at our high school where the students are encouraged to volunteer to make a meal for a number of needy families, sometimes the same one. There are web-sites that make it easier to plan ahead and make sure the same food isn't brought over and over.

              Why does organized helping bother you? Is it because it's about a new mom and you don't think it's worthy? Do baby showers also bother you, if the person isn't needy? I'm not attacking your view, just trying to narrow down the reason. It would bother me if it were mandatory but I find it helpful--we know a family whose husband was recently killed by a drunk driver. We all brought a lot of food the first couple of weeks, way too much and it mostly went in the trash. If it were spread out more, somewhat organized, it would have been more helpful.

              As overly entitled goes, if the mom were the one to set up the schedule, yes, I'd feel that way. But, this was a gift to her that people wanted to do. What else could she do? You don't reject gifts given out of generosity.

              1. when one of my classmates died earlier this year we used a website to organize who would be bringing them what each day foodwise. it was really nice because they never ended up with multiple dinners in one night and also never had repeats. I think they also really appreciated having something every night and not having to worry about it

                1. Our moms group (Las Madres) always did that, and I've known other groups and groups-of-friends who've done it too (mostly women though).

                  It's really appreciated(!) and very helpful to parents of new babies --their other children too and sometimes our moms would include a little something special for the older child(ren) so they wouldn't feel as left out in the new-baby situation.
                  It's hard to know which babies will turn out to be "difficult" and which will be calm-ish, how much the other parent or any relatives/etc will be helping, etc, but most parents are way short on sleep for awhile and pretty much wiped out, etc.

                  Two-three weeks should be enough for most families, but it's even better to get a meal (with freezeable leftovers) every other day, or to get a few meals even after that but maybe once a week.

                  You certainly don't have to sign up or sign up for more than one meal if it makes you uncomfortable, or it you know things about how much other help she might be getting or pay for, or don't have the extra money or time (though sometimes I just got take-out from a restaurant--not fast food--and took that for my night; totally legit).

                  Similar kinds of things are done all over the world in various kinds of cultures.

                  1. When close friends of mine have had babies, I always bring something that can be eaten (or go in the freezer) with me on that first visit. I don't have kids, but I have a (dim) idea of the sleep deprevation and general feeling of being freaked out, so bringing some food seems like a small, helpful gesture on my part and appropriate for the occasion. Break up with your boyfriend? I'll be over with a bottle of whiskey. Give birth? Here, have a lasagna.

                    I'm assuming this is a close work environment and people wanted to contribute. That can get tricky in an office.

                    1. This is totally normal in my community for births, surgeries, deaths, etc. I have been the recipient more than once and totally appreciated it. I consider it a gift to be allowed to help out someone in a difficult situation.

                      1. You do it or you don't do it. If this woman is a close friend I would think you would do it because she is your friend. If you feel that she is a acting "overly entitled" than I would say the two of you shouldn't be friends. (I must admit I'm baffled by the reference to "her friend and manager"--manager of what?)

                        1. I haven't seen it organized into a schedule, but it makes infinite sense.

                          Sure does avoid the refrigerator bursting at the seams with casseroles the day you get home, only to have it go bad before you can eat/freeze/repackage it all, because I guarantee you that even moving containers from the fridge to the freezer is too much to ask for a new mom some days.

                          1. Whether she had the baby naturally or by Cesarian, she has some recovery time to go through. And as has been pointed out already, new mommies are sleep deprived anyway, so cooking good healthy meals can be a very daunting task.

                            1. When a workmate's wife had their first baby, I bought in a meal for us to share at lunch a couple of times a week and sent him home with a full dinner to reheat for both him and his wife every Friday for two months. Why? His wife panicked a little when they first found out that they were expecting and decided that London was no place for a baby, so they moved outside of the city. My friend's commute turned into an hour and 45 minutes...each way. He doesn't drive, and she couldn't drive due to a difficult labour. Supermarket delivery isn't available in their area. His parents live outside of London in the opposite direction, hers weren't able to travel. so the meals at work for him meant that he wouldn't need a full dinner when he got home, the meals sent home meant that once a week they could chuck a casserole or lasagne on reheat for a few minutes and then actually just sit together for 20 minutes.

                              Did I resent doing it? Hell no. I liked being able to help in a small way as the location meant I wasn't likely to visit. Would I have felt differently if I was put on a schedule by someone (other than the parents)? Yes.

                              1. It's very common in my circle in my part of the world. For the rest of my life I will remember the words a man spoke long ago as I handed him a container of soup. His wife was in our young adult Sunday School class, but he played golf with his buddies and co-workers each Sunday. His leg was badly injured in a car wreck and our class took turns bringing him food. As I handed him the soup he said, "I hope you never have to find out who your real friends are."

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: AreBe

                                  You just made me cry. And I hope you never have had to since then.

                                  1. re: coll

                                    AreBe, that's powerful!
                                    It's common in my community too.

                                2. I never heard about the custom at all, but many years ago, the first of my close friends had a baby. I had very little money, and I knew she hated cooking. I asked if I could drop off some heat 'n eat food. I’m no gourmet cook, but I was the best option they had as an alternative to take-out. I prepared a box of freezable mix ‘n match dishes that lasted them for two weeks of dinners. The cooking and prep took half a day. Of course it ended up costing more than a silver baby rattle from Tiffany’s.

                                  After that, all my other friends insisted on the same baby present. It became my “signature” gift, although eventually I scaled down the quantities a bit. I learned, anecdotally, that giving birth apparently makes you very, very hungry and also very, very tired. Ergo, food that only needs heating and serving is very, very welcome.

                                  Twenty-five years (!!) have passed since then, and some of those brand-new squalling infants have brand-new squalling infants of their own :). Back in the day, the thought passed through my mind that food is not the kind of gift anyone will remember, unlike, say, a silver baby rattle from Tiffany’s. Boy, was I wrong. My friends still reminisce fondly over the box of food waiting when they got home from the hospital.

                                  We had no idea that this was a custom or tradition, or that we were tuned in to a trend. Maybe in OP’s circle of friends, it is more of a burden or imposition. But from a perspective 2 ½ decades later, I know from experience that a baby present of some homemade heat ‘n eat entrees, or soups, or side dishes, or any combination thereof, will likely be fondly acknowledged and remembered for years.

                                  1. Forgive me but this reminds me of the story I heard where the family of a mom who was undergoing cancer treatment received so many tuna noodle casseroles that the kids started callling it "cancer casserole."

                                    1. I'm sorry but as wonderful as your co-workers intentions are, as a new mom myself, I'm going to have to say that I would find this sort of arrangement absolutely intrusive. When you have a new baby, the last thing you want is people --especially ones that are mere acquaintances or colleagues instead of very close friends or family-- constantly popping by. What if the baby is sleeping and the doorbell wakes the baby up? What if you are sleeping, perhaps the only interrupted hour you've had in the past 24? What if you look like hell and don't want to face your co-workers in your spit-up covered pajamas and because you haven't had a chance to brush your teeth even though it's 4pm?

                                      Also, there will be at least one clod in the group (If this were my office, I know exactly who this person would be) who will insist on having a long chat with the exhausted new mom and/or seeing the new baby instead of just dropping off the food and moving the heck on.

                                      In another thread, someone mentioned throwing some kind of "freezer" shower for a new mom, which I think is a fantastic idea (I wish someone had done this for me. Actually, hey, it's not too late if any of you is inclined to organize such a thing. You all live in Minnesota, right?), assuming your friend has freezer space. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8071... Since your friend did say, "Bring me food," I'd have someone contact her and say, we'll like to bring you 20 (or 14) casseroles for your freezer, do you have the space for this?" If the answer is no, you might say, would you have enough freezer space for 7 dishes? If yes, then once a week at the beginning of the week for three (two) weeks, you could have ONE person drop off 7 dishes. (and/or gift cards to a local restaurant that does delivery). That sort of arrangement would be much less intrusive but accomplish more or less the same thing.

                                      I do think bringing meals to someone who is sick is a different thing (though, once again, I'd make certain the person is on board), but I wouldn't do it for a new mom unless you know she really welcomes it. I could be completely off base here: maybe she is a very social person and is lonely and wants the brief daily social connection with another adult who is not her husband. But, did you also say her manager is one of the people setting up this arrangement? Really awkward. Now your co-worker can't even really say no to this arrangment without worrying about offending her manager.

                                      On the other hand, you did say your friend did say to you, "Bring me food," do you think she said it to just you because you are a close friend and she welcomes having just you pop in? Or do you think she said this to everyone? If the latter (and her mind hasn't changed now that the baby has actually arrived and her world has turned upside down), then I guess this kind of arrangement would be fine because it's what she wants. But I'd have everyone treat it as their gift to her (ie., make it clear that this is in lieu of a baby shower or other baby gift) except, perhaps another very small, nominal gift. Maybe she'd rather have two weeks worth of meals than any other baby gift. (I would have. But not in this daily intrusion sort of way).

                                      Unless you are 100% certain she genuinely is on board with this, I wouldn't do it.


                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        I left a large cooler on the recipient's front porch. donors were asked to place food in it and to not ring the doorbell. Worked fine.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          That's a pretty good solution, actually, almost enough to change my opinion in this matter. ;-). However, if I were the recipient, I would still prefer the freezer option I described, because it would then give me the flexibility to use the food when it was most useful to me. If people are bringing a new dish of food every day, it seems there could be too many leftovers stacking up and potential for waste. This is probably a matter of personal preference/opinion, though. But, your solution moves this idea from the "no go" column to "might be nice" column in my opinion.


                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            I agree with DQ on the intrusive part. I remember our next door neighbors asked me ahead of time if she could make us a welcome home meal for our first night home with our son. She wouldn't even come past the kitchen door as she let it be known that she won't not intrude on our bonding family time together. I actually was feeling great and she wasn't a bother but I will always remember her sensitivity and that green salad with herbs and sea salt!

                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Hopefully, people will have some sensitivity on bringing food over and not intrude, with or without a schedule. I have no freezer space and would have hated frozen casseroles/meals so it is good to check first. For my SIL, I ordered a month of Dinner Done type meals. At the beginning of the week, she went online and ordered her meals. Her husband picked them up on the way home (five dinners) so with leftovers both lunch and dinner were done. It wasn't cheap but she appreciated it. Or she was gracious enough to pretend.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              I agree that checking is absolutely essential. A bunch of frozen meals isn't helpful if you don't have freezer space.

                                              I think your gift to your SIL sounds very thoughtful and I'm certain she appreciated it!


                                          3. I think in a case like this what irritates me is not so much making some food for a new mother, but the level of enforcement the organizer thinks is appropriate.

                                            An email saying that if you want to make some food to help out, she'll coordinate it so everyone doesn't bring stuff on the same day wouldn't bother me. The assumption that cooking food for the new mother is mandatory for everyone in the group/social circle/department, and pointed emails to fill up all the slots - that's over the top.

                                            IN other works, yeah, dropping off some food when a couple family has brought home a new baby and is exhausted is a nice thing for friends and family to do, if they are so inclined. However, new parents, no matter how tired, are not entitled to have their meals catered for the first few weeks or month by their social circle or co-workers.

                                            1. A care calendar was organized for a friend of mine this summer. She had a baby, ended up with a hysterectomy and had 2 other kids at home. You could look at the calendar and see what other people were delivering so there was no issue with her getting all lasagna and tuna casseroles. One day a week was designated sandwiches (I'm pretty sure she used them for lunches for the older kids).

                                              All of this was done with her consent and she told me that her doctor was amazed with her recovery. My friend attributed it to the fact that she didn't have to worry about meals. Not just the cooking of them but the planning and shopping.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: suburban_mom

                                                I have an acquaintance fighting ovarian cancer. A good friend of hers has setup a care calender through lotsofhelpinghands.com. They can specify needs by day and time, list foods which she can and can't eat, her coordinator can relay info and the patient can submit posts when she is up to it.

                                                I think it's a terrific idea. I live too far away to bring meals or drive her to treatments, but I can participate on the site in other ways. It is less taxing for the patient and her primary support to have one spot to post rather than respond to dozens of calls and e-mails.

                                                The beauty of the calendar is that the needs are defined and you have free choice in deciding what, if anything, you wish to do. The calendar simply notes the days task has been assigned - so no names are publicly listed.

                                                I had major surgery 5 months after moving to a new town where I knew few people. I would have welcomed a casserole, sandwiches or an offer to pickup something from the grocery. Fortunately the surgery was anticipated and I cooked like crazy for a month and stocked the freezer in preparation.

                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                  That's awesome.

                                                  I have friends whose young daughter whose leukemia is in remission -- but they set up a site similar to this because they just didn't have the time nor the physical/emotional energy to write responses to all the emails -- so they adopted a blog that gave all the information to everyone at the same time...

                                                  Whatever works best for the people dealing with whatever the issue is -- new baby, sickness, surgery -- is by definition the best way to handle it.

                                              2. My Mom brought us dinners that only needed to go in the oven for several days after our first was born. I did it for my daughter on the births of each son and I know it was a help to me and to her.

                                                A church I attended did it, and I delivered a dinner ready to eat, just to meet them arriving home from going out to eat. It was before 5 pm, and I know they had gotten a list of who would be cooking for them each night. 'Twas an uncomfortable situation to say the least.

                                                I still think it is a great idea. It gives the new mom a respite from cooking and the opportunity to concentrate on the new baby and her rest.

                                                1. There's actually an online registry for this type of thing! I've been sent an 'invite' to participate several times. The parents set a calendar of 'available' dates and then people register for that date. You can put down what you plan to bring (to avoid repeats of similar dishes) and the parents can specify food requests.

                                                  The last time I got one, I didn't participate - mostly because I thought the parents were over the top (requesting gift certificates for restaurants if you weren't able to cook).

                                                  I don't find it offensive to come together as a community of friends during times like this, though - and, it's fun to spend some face-time with the new parents - if only for a short few minutes while dropping off food.

                                                  1. Cant seem to figure out where you are located (no geography board postings). I live in a major city (the most major- nyc- is more like it) This sounds silly to me. In 2011, unless living in a really rural locale - which could be the case - the father cant order in, pick something up, or pop something in the microwave? Someone DYING is different than a new mom, whom the OP describes as "healthy and happy and ...financially comfortable". How about putting these efforts to families who really are in dire straits.

                                                    I'm with you OP, this rubs me the wrong way too.

                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: thegforceny

                                                      of course they can order in -- but who wants to eat takeout or stuff out of the freezer for a few weeks?

                                                      New moms are dog tired -- physically they've been through a genuine ordeal -- their clock is upside down and backwards (try sleeping 2 hours a time for a few days and see how much YOU can think) -- and awash in a sea of hormones.

                                                      It isn't silly at all to bring over something homemade (tastier and likely healthier) to help everyone through a pretty rocky time -- it's a happy event, to be sure, but it is a hugely stressful event, and homecooked food is definitely a nice gesture.

                                                      It IS much like dying in that it is a health issue -- it does upset everyone in the household on a physical, emotional, and mental level -- and it's a time when most folks just don't have the time or energy to do much cooking.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        I agree that homemade anything is better than takeout pizza or Chinese for the millionth time.

                                                        If you're going to give a new mom a gift anyway, why not give her a homemade gift she can actually use? I would only do this meal thing in lieu of a throwing her a shower.


                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          If it was a very close friend, I'd do it even if I'd thrown the shower.

                                                          I was raised in a part of the US where no matter what the life event was -- wedding, new baby, spouse walked out, car accident, illness, death, funeral...whatever -- you brought food. Casseroles, cakes, cookies -- the community took on the job of feeding the bodies during any kind of physically and/or emotionally taxing event.

                                                          Thus is seems completely sensible to me to coordinate it for the benefit of the new parents...and just weird to tell someone to just call for takeout.

                                                          (forgot to add the other thing about new moms having sensitive stomachs...and breastfeeding infants being VERY sensitive to everything mom eats -- thus takeout is usually a bad idea from a digestion and nutrition standpoint)

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            I'd probably do it for a very close friend, too, but in the OP's case, it's a co-worker/friend whose manager is trying to co-ordinate this. I think this has the potential to be one of those awkward work situations where people might feel obligated to participate in something they don't really feel comfortable doing. That's why I'm saying do this in lieu of throwing her a "work shower" or buying her some other group gift. Otherwise, it's too much.


                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              I think it's wrong if it's obligatory. At the same time, while the road to hell might be paved with good intentions, I still think a nice gesture should be appreciated as such. They're doing what they think is thoughtful and that should never be downplayed. If one disagrees, just don't participate. I don't see the mom asking for this and don't see a sense of entitlement.

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                Mostly, I agree with you, but, again, this whole thing is apparently being driven by the woman's manager. I think that's a little inappropriate in the sense that some people might be uncomfortable to decline to participate for fear it will negatively impact their standing at work. That's why I'm suggesting they do this in lieu of a gift or shower, if a gift or shower is typically what they do for these situations. That way, people only have to give once.


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I wonder if this was in lieu of a gift. I've been to showers where the mom-to-be requests casseroles instead of gifts. And, I have thrown a shower for someone who requested freezer food. For them, it's about not wanting their friends to spend a lot of money and they thought this was a way out. Maybe a little more labor intensive but some gave pizza vouchers which they were just as happy with. I wonder what transpired? In my mind, the manager/friend told her she wanted to give her a shower and asked what she wanted. She responded that casseroles would be great/helpful to save people the cost of a gift. Manager/friend or someone else thought the organized would be a good way to do it ("Hey, we did this great potluck and we used this site so no one brings the same thing!") and here we are. But, I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, overly so my mom always tells me. Maybe the mom is an overly entitled rich parent as many are reading. Or maybe the manager is overbearing and her underlings are afraid not to speak up (I've had that happen, actually, where the manager went around collecting money from everyone and coercing big donations). Who knows, other than the manager/coworkers and mom? In my mind, I'm just going to go w/ everyone's just trying to be nice and thoughtful.:-)

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    There's really not much more I can add to your lovely sentiment. :).


                                                      2. re: thegforceny

                                                        A person can both help people in dire straits and also help a friend who isn't. I'm an active volunteer in my community. I also bring chicken soup to friends who are sick, magazines if they're laid up, etc. They're financially comfortable. It's what friends do and I refuse to feel guilty about it, just because someone else, in your opinion, might need it more.

                                                      3. It doesn't bug me... the thought of people caring enough about the people around them to actually want to help them out is very touching. Having a baby isn't a terminal illness, but it upends their lives just the same. It's not irksome unless they have a perfectly normal healthy baby, and the meal deliveries are expected to go on for four months!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                                          Not much to add but the memory of someone sending us a spiral cut ham after our daughter (now 22 years old!) was born. Neither my husband nor I ever cooked ham, ordered ham in restaurants or ate much pork (okay, bacon), yet that ham was such a thoughtful and timely gift and is memorable to this day. To have food that we didn't even need to slice - how incredible for new parents!

                                                        2. I've given this a little thought. Where I think things have gone wrong, is that her manager is setting this up. If done, it should have been done by a peer, and participation should be totally voluntary. When it is a manager (possibly EWS's manager?) who is doing the coordinating, other staff feel they must come through to look good. Normally, office friends are not your best buds, so there is that factor too.

                                                          If it were me, I'd go ahead and comply in order not to look bad among co workers, and keep my mouth shut and not complain. The less said the better.

                                                          And, people did bring food to our house when I had 2 of my kids. But food didn't keep arriving for days or anything. I think I understand EWS's viewpoint. But it is probably politically best to just go along.

                                                          With the next office childbirth, I imagine the manager will not take an active role, and the same demand won't be issued.

                                                          1. Sure why not? I have heard of a group paying for 6 months of housekeeping after someone had twins.

                                                            1. I like the idea of having food gifts coordinated in some way. In my own experience, it was very frustrating to discard food which had spoiled before I could use it, or because it contained ingredients which I couldn't eat. I hope that the gifts are all smallish in volume, too; just enough for one or two meals, so that if an item causes discomfort, not a lot is wasted.