Presumptions Don’t Always Add Up To A Faux Pas

by admin on June 16, 2014

I’ve got an etiquette story which has left my partner “Mark” a bit insulted.

We’ve been very close friends with a couple “Sarah” and “Dave ” for a few years.  Dave took a new job in another state, with the plan that Sarah would join him once she finished work at the end of the year.  She fell pregnant during that time and Mark and I did our best to support Sarah, as Dave was only able to come a see her every second weekend.  She often came around for dinner, I hosted her baby shower, and we even organised that if she went into labour before she moved to where Dave was, that Mark would drive her to the hospital.

When the baby was born, it had to stay in hospital for over a week.  During this time I went to the hospital several times bearing gifts, well wishes and company.   My partner Mark has made no secret of the fact that babies aren’t his cup of tea, but he came with me once to visit, and we all went out for dessert afterwards.

Sarah and baby moved up to Dave as soon as they were discharged, and after letting things settle down, we accepted an invite to visit and stay the night.  When we arrived, a comment was made about how Mark had finally seen the baby, what did he think?  He pointed out that he had seen the baby, that night we went for dessert.  They both went, “Ohh, yeah!”   So obviously they had been complaining to each other about how Mark didn’t make the effort to see their child.

Mark and I got talking afterwards about how awkward that moment had been, and he pointed out the thank-you card I received after her baby shower, for both hosting and the gift we gave her.  Mark’s name was not on the thank-you card despite the fact that his name was on the gift, and the shower was hosted in our home.  And it is not as through she forgot to put his name on.  Her mum has a history of using Christmas and thank-you cards to create drama by leaving names off, or sending two cards- (a family they know has children from a previous relationship who she feels are “forgotten”, so she sends a separate Christmas card just to them to make a point).

It has just left a sour taste, that after all we’ve done to support this couple,  a perceived slight changed their attitude.   And should a man really be expected to visit a baby in hospital?  Mark is of the impression that like baby showers, it’s more of a woman’s thing, and he only went because I made him.  0615-14

If your report is complete and accurate as to how they asked Mark about the baby, I think you both are overreacting to a very minor slight and making a mountain out of a molehill.   You make several presumptions that I cannot see are valid….one being the assumption that they must have been jointly griping about Mark and the second that Sarah purposely forgot to put Mark’s name on the thank you note and the third, that Sarah must be like her mother.   It seems reasonable that if Sarah had a history of doing this, you would have pointed that out but condemning Sarah for the actions of her mother doesn’t make it a pattern Sarah does to others.

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy W June 16, 2014 at 2:49 am

Pregnancy and the sleep deprivation of a new born baby is pretty hard on people’s memories, even under normal circumstances, let alone if the new born baby has to stay in hospital for a week, which must’ve been very scary for Sarah and Dave. I vote for cutting new parents a lot of slack for the first few months.

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Izzley June 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Here here. New parents’ brains become something akin to overcooked macaroni until the wee one has a solid sleeping routine. Unless they say something snarky to you *directly* I think it better not to assume ill intent from your very close friends.

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Katie June 18, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Yes!

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kit June 16, 2014 at 4:00 am

Wow. My mother sends cards for Christmas and Easter always one for me and my husband, and one for each of our children. I never had thought that she could do so because she hoped to create drama or because she thought our children are neglected – I always thought she just spent thrice the postage because she loved our children and thought they would be happy to get their Very Own cards! BTW they sent FOUR separate cards for start of school – I am a teacher and my husband a professor in university, so for this occasion we got separate cards, unlike for other occasions, for which they probably consider that we as a couple celebrate these holidays together and can share a card, too. Which brings me to visiting babies in hospital – it rather depends on your relationship with Mark. If your two are a couple, then I’d expect him to come to events like that with you. If he is more of a random bedmate, then of course not.

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Mer June 16, 2014 at 4:45 am

kit: About your last point, I tend to think that Mark visiting the baby in the hospital should depend on his relationship with Sarah and Dave, especially with Sarah. Personally I think that hospital is not place where more … random people should barge to visit the baby, only the very near and dear should be there. Not only because of the new mother and the baby, but because of all other patients too. There is plenty of time to visit later on. So, taking a personal example, I have a friend, who I’ve been friends with for years and years. She and her husband of course know my SO, but in reality, the friendship is between me and her. I don’t think in this case my SO should visit hospital should she have a baby. On the other hand, we have common friend, who is equally a friend for both of us. In that case, we should of course visit together.

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JO June 16, 2014 at 5:36 am

I really think you and Mark may be reading way too much into this. I doubt Sarah and Dave are deliberately giving you these little digs. But, if you are really upset about it, why not just talk to them about it? If you are all mature responsible adults – and I assume you are – you should be able to calmly explain your position, and give them a chance to explain their position as well. Once it’s out in the open, you can both apologize and move on. Having had a sick baby myself, I can tell you that week in the hospital really becomes a blur. Since Mark was only there once, it’s really probable they just forgot. And same with the card.

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Brit June 16, 2014 at 5:49 am

“When we arrived, a comment was made about how Mark had finally seen the baby, what did he think? He pointed out that he had seen the baby, that night we went for dessert. They both went, “Ohh, yeah!” So obviously they had been complaining to each other about how Mark didn’t make the effort to see their child.”

I don’t even see how these go together. Why on earth would you jump to that conclusion? Are we missing something?

If we are not, you and your boyfriend are being ridiculous and looking to be offended. I’d have assumed they had just forgotten Mark was there.

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DGS June 16, 2014 at 7:20 am

Eh, I don’t see an intended slight, just a perceived one. If the baby was in the hospital for a week, Sarah and the baby had to relocate, all that and the routine sleep deprivation and upheaval of having a newborn, Sarah and Dave probably just had a memory lapse that Mark had been there. I bet that there was no intended slight, just an oversight. Also, Sarah may have put OP’s name on the card because she felt like OP had gone the extra mile for her and wanted to single her out to thank her especially (it does sound like while both OP and Mark had helped Sarah, OP did the majority of the heavy-lifting).

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Lerah99 June 16, 2014 at 7:22 am

Is it possible that you feel Sarah and Dave haven’t properly thanked you for everything you did for Sarah. So now you are looking for justification for feeling slighted?

As far as I can tell, there was no insult intended.

These are your good friends. Give them the slack and grace you would want in the same situation. Sarah was pregnant, Dave had to move for his job and she was left behind to finish up at her job, the baby had to stay in the hospital for a week, all of that makes for an incredible amount of stress, fear, frustration, etc…

Even if the two of them had been sitting around saying “That Mark! He never even came to see the baby! Some friend he is!” once you corrected them about the time Mark DID come see the kid – they remembered. And if they had been saying catty things about him before that, they probably felt pretty sheepish.

In the long run, you will be happier if you don’t parse out ever conversation and letter looking for some possible slight or insult.

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Twik June 16, 2014 at 8:08 am

Yes. I have to agree that it sounds as if the writer and Mark are trying to find every possible slight they can, and making some pretty wild assumptions. I don’t see anything “obvious” that says they had been complaining that Mark hadn’t seen their baby.

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Abby June 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

I agree the OP and Mark are looking to be offended. Either there’s much more to the story that OP did not include (which is baffling, because the two examples listed really are not indicative of anything), or, as someone pointed out above, the OP is angry about something else to do with Sarah and Dave and is looking for justification for her anger.

OP, Sarah should have put Mark’s name on the card if his name was on the gift. She likely didn’t because she figured as is the case with most, the woman picked out the present, wrapped it, wrote out a card, and just added the husband’s name to it, and husband neither saw the present nor had any inclination to read the card. As a courtesy, she should have put both names on the thank you card, but it’s really reaching to assume she left his name off as a passive aggressive snub, just because it’s your understanding her mother has done something similar.

And I see nothing to suggest that Sarah and Dave have been spending their time dissecting and insulting Mark’s character for not coming to the hospital. They forgot he had come, they felt bad for revealing they forgot, and that’s really the end of the story.

If you look for reasons to be offended, you will find them. You will also alienate people who are your friends and have done nothing wrong to you.

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Library Diva June 16, 2014 at 9:06 am

If hosting a baby shower is a “woman’s thing,” just like visiting the baby in the hospital is, why should Mark expect his name to be on the thank-you card too?

I agree with the other commenters that with a new baby who needed to stay in the hospital for a while, followed by an immediate move, everything is probably a giant blur to Sarah and Dave right now. I don’t think they meant any harm. Forgive them and don’t let it fester.

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JKC June 16, 2014 at 9:36 am

I would chalk this up to a case of “new parent amnesia” coupled with the stress of relocating out of state with a new baby on board and let it go. Also, Mark being a man has nothing to do with whether or not he should visit the baby. That should depend entirely on his relationship with the baby’s parents. Babies aren’t my husband’s cup of tea either (or mine, frankly), but when our best friends start having their kids, we both plan to be visiting as much as we are able (and invited) to.

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Lo June 16, 2014 at 10:11 am

I’m trying to see Mark’s point of view because I’m not a kid person and people tend to assume that I must be so excited to come visit their baby. I don’t know what to do with a baby. And sometimes people get a bit irrationally weird about it and it puts me on the defensive because I always try to be polite about my discomfort around small children.

But I agree in this case that you should not make the assumption. It’s a lot to assume here. Why invest yourself in drama when it’s easier to assume that there isn’t any?

Frankly I take offense to Mark’s attitude that the whole thing is a “woman’s thing” to begin with. It’s not a woman’s thing, he just doesn’t care about babies. Own it. I’m a woman who doesn’t care about babies. My spouse is a man who adores babies. Don’t make your gender an excuse for your disinterest.

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RC June 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm

^YES re: gender stereotyping. Mark needs to come up with a better excuse for his disklike of babies; own it, Mark!

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Steve June 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

So far, PP are ignoring the simple, indisputable fact that the new parents failed to thank Mark for the hosting of the shower and the shower gift. Rude, period. And when people do something rude, I am personally not interested in whether their victims are overly offended by it.

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June First June 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Disagree. He didn’t host the shower if it was held in their shared space while he wasn’t there. Did he send out the invites? Put up decorations? Plan a menu? Granted, they could have easily included his name, but I feel leaving it off as “host” was fine.

Also, I would suspect the mom-to-be had someone else recording the gifts and the list-keeper left his name off. It’s been known to happen.

If you’re looking for ways to be offended, you’ll often find ways to be offended.

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Abby June 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

He most likely didn’t host the shower, his wife did. It just took place in his home. That’s all the OP says. His involvement in both the shower and the choosing of the baby gift was likely very minimal. I’ll agree with you that he should still be thanked, nonetheless, but this is not a friendship ending breach, and the etiquette missteps here are pretty minor.

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Timothy June 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Mark didn’t host the baby shower, the LW did. I agree that leaving his name off of the thank you is rude, but the LW is going way beyond what is reasonable. Rather than assuming it was a faux pas by a stressed out soon-to-be mother, she, well…”And it is not as through she forgot to put his name on. Her mum has a history of using Christmas and thank-you cards to create drama by leaving names off, or sending two cards- (a family they know has children from a previous relationship who she feels are “forgotten”, so she sends a separate Christmas card just to them to make a point).”

Basically, because Sarah left off Mark’s name on one card, the LW is declaring that she did it intentionally, comparing it to the actions of Sarah’s mother in the past. That’s where the “making a mountain out of a molehill” comes in. Correct me if I’m wrong, posters with etiquette knowledge, but shouldn’t the reaction of the LW to the left-off name not to be insulted and assuming her friend did it on purpose, but rather gently ask Sarah about it at their next meeting?

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Jazzgirl205 June 16, 2014 at 10:46 am

The line that pops out at me is that Mark “made no secret of the fact that babies are not his cup of tea.” Does this mean that he actually told a pregnant woman how much he didn’t like babies? Not only is she not supposed to be offended by this but she is also supposed to be extra grateful because he even deigned to visit her sick baby at all?

And ya’ll feel slighted by her?

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Cat June 16, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Have pity on those of us who somehow got left out of the common “fascination of babies” gene. I have had women get upset with me because I was not interested in “feeling the baby kick”, holding the baby, and discussing the child’s development to the exclusion of all else.

Some of us, women as well as men, are not parent material, recognize it, and, outside of common courtesy, are not interested in infants. We will see the baby in the hospital, give a gift, but that is as far as we go.

I dropped a boyfriend who “volunteered” me to babysit for an infant belonging to some of his friends. If he wanted to babysit, I had no problem with it. Telling me I was to do it was a different matter.

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Ergala June 17, 2014 at 8:41 am

I took Jazzgirl’s comment as more of a passive remark/vibe Mark made to Sarah. Like people who don’t like cats that come over to my house. I have 3, one of which is very old. I mention this and when she rubs against their legs for attention (totally rare by the way), they scoot her away or completely ignore her saying “I’m not a cat person”….I’m sorry I understand you aren’t a cat person but would it kill you to just reach down and pat a 14 year old cat who is using her limited energy to say hi to you? Or is it better to just push her away with your foot while declaring you aren’t fond of cats.

I will be honest, I am not big into babies unless they are my own or close family members. I don’t have the overwhelming urge to hold them. My husband’s sister has a baby who just turned 2, I still to this day have never held him. I don’t declare “I don’t do babies/toddlers”….I play with him when we see them, but I am just not as enthralled by them as some other people are. My husband on the other hand absolutely loves babies and toddlers. He will go out of his way to coo at them and will gladly hold your infant for you. I’m a bit more awkward.

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Jazzgirl205 June 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I have many friends who are not baby people. While some are nice, some can be quite rude about it. When I was single, I was at a friends house and their toddler was playing quietly on the floor. Another guest just looked down at the child and said, “The more I see children, the more I’m glad I don’t have them.” This statement was made with no provocation and I wondered at its purpose. We all know someone who is rude about what they feel makes them different (atheism, religion, veganism, politics, sexuality, meat-eating etc…). Maybe Mark is such a person and has made pointed rude jokes. Maybe Sarah had anxiety about her newborns health and Mark’s detachment was obvious.

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Mariel June 16, 2014 at 11:13 am

Oh goodness. I’m having my first child in about 3 weeks under much less stressful circumstances. While I am grateful for the help I’ve received and the help I will be receiving if I forget who has seen the baby when I hope my friends don’t get offended. It’s really going to be the last thing on my mind. Also, I’ve introduced people before and they’ve reminded me that I have already introduced them. We all had a good laugh at my memory and moved on.

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Shoebox June 16, 2014 at 12:13 pm

OP, reread your own post again, very carefully, as regards who exactly is sitting around having nothing better to do than stirring up drama. Hint: You’re the only one who wrote a lengthy post to an etiquette site based on your broad assumptions re: your friend’s behavior.

Unless there’s a whole lot more background that you’ve left off for some reason – albeit given your very precise collating of every possible slight, I doubt it – your friends are acting like very normal, flawed humans who during stressful life-changing events have memory lapses (and/or have picked up on your partner’s distaste for baby-themed events) . The time spent obsessively extrapolating from their tiny random missteps might be more profitably spent gaining some perspective.

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Enna June 21, 2014 at 9:20 am

I have to say I agree. I’m not a big baby fan – my reaction is: if a baby cries, give him/her back to mum/dad!

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Rebecca June 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Only the OP could have known the tone and facial expressions; maybe she is right, or maybe she is making a mountain out of a molehill. But I will say that I’ve met people who expect their friends to be just as into their baby as they are, and it’s simply unrealistic to expect everyone else to be as ga-ga over it as the parents.

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Abby June 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm

I don’t see anything that suggests Sarah and Dave are expecting too much fanfare from OP and Mark. OP has leapt to a number of conclusions with no real support.

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LonelyHound June 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm

IMHO, OP, you are making something out of nothing. You make a point to say YOU hosted the baby shower. Now, if Sarah is like many women, both at baby showers and wedding showers, there is so much coming at her in a stressful time that names can get missed. If no one was writing names and gifts down I am sure she just assumed that the hosting a present was all you, especially if Mark was not in attendance. Think of it from this perspective: you are criticizing a new mother, who had her baby stay in the hospital at the same time she was getting ready to move for forgetting Mark’s name on a Thank you card that she had the foresight to send.

Or try this perspective… I have received one, count it 1, thank you carn from my sister in the 8 years that she has been married. I was not thanked for being the peon who was at her beck and call in the days leading up to her wedding. I was not thankyed for any of the gifts I got her. I was not thanked for the bacheolette party I was forced to pay for and host. I was not thanked for the baby shower gifts, which included a hand knitted blanket. I was not thanked for any Christmas or birthday gift I gave to my sister, her husband or their child. I have received one thank you card when my sister’s child turned two (which was three years ago), but not one since.

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Miss-E June 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

It’s 2014, not 1954. Visiting babies is not a “woman’s thing”. A lot of people don’t even think of baby showers as “women’s things” anymore. Visiting the baby has to do with the relationship between the parents and the visitor…not the gender of the visitor. What a bizarre thing to assume.

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SV June 16, 2014 at 2:56 pm

People sometimes say and do thoughtless things with no harmful intent behind it. Let it go.

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A different Tracy June 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

“Sarah and baby moved up to Dave as soon as they were discharged, and after letting things settle down, we accepted an invite to visit and stay the night. When we arrived, a comment was made about how Mark had finally seen the baby, what did he think? He pointed out that he had seen the baby, that night we went for dessert. They both went, “Ohh, yeah!” ”

Okay, I have to admit, I would have jumped to the same conclusion LW did (that they’d been discussing that Mark hadn’t yet seen the baby) because it does seem like they were of one mind about it, and neither said “no, remember, he visited in the hospital.”

But… that doesn’t mean it was a bad thing. It doesn’t mean they were complaining about it. It could just mean they were excited for Mark to see the baby for the first time. (With that blissful ignorance new parents sometimes have, regarding everyone else’s excitement to see the new baby.)

And I agree that it seems the LW, not the couple, hosted the shower. After all, LW is the one who says “I,” not “we.”

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yadayada June 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Guilt (among other emotions) always makes someone think they are being talked about and/or insulted. If you have nothing to feel guilty about then you forget what she said.

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Meri June 16, 2014 at 5:57 pm

OP, if you really consider these people close friends, which sounds more likely to you: that your close friends have spent the time since the birth of their child fuming over who has or hasn’t visited their baby enough, or that a newborn combined with moving has left your close friends a little distracted, and they forgot that Mark had already met the baby and wanted to know what he thought? Cut them some slack, just like you’d want in their position.

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Daphne June 16, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I get where you are coming from. I’ve been in that position more than once where I strongly suspected new parents were miffed that I wasn’t rushing right over and super excited to see the baby. What I suggest is that Mark develop a thicker skin. He needs to own the fact that he doesn’t want to spend time with babies and not get upset when others’ take notice of it. Some people are just not interested in babies or children and it’s ok to feel that way.
Some new parents are hyper-sensitive as well and in my experience it passes with time. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. :-)

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tasryn June 17, 2014 at 4:05 am

Also one thing to note is that if Sarah visited Sarah and the baby multiple times and Mark only once it’s only natural that with the revolving door of people visting after a baby is born that maybe she forgot the one time that Mark visited. Naturally if Sarah visited multiple times that would stick more in the memory hence the comment to Mark of “Now you get to see the baby”. As for leaving Mark off the card, I agree he should have been included. However, it sounds like Sarah was more involved with providing assistance with the baby after the birth so perhaps it was an effort to draw special attention to Sarah and how much they appreciated her effort? I can understand how Mark can feel a little slighted but not enough to cut off a friendship with this couple. I don’t get the feeling this was any more than a slight error on the part of a couple of sleep deprived individuals and not necessarily an intended slight.

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Eileen June 17, 2014 at 7:46 am

I have to say that most of what has been said already seems a fair guess at what happened.
I do want to say that I can see forgetting his name on the thank you card. If someone was recording gifts, they probably said “LW – Onsies and bath blanket” or whatever, and if new mom was writing thank yous then she probably did not go back to the cards to see exactly how the card was signed.
In my case and many others I’m sure, I stick a card under hubby’s nose & hand him a pen, and he gives it no further thought.

Don’t look for problems, and remember that people are human and not perfect 100% of the time!

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Hanna June 17, 2014 at 8:12 am

Say what now? Is Mark really insulted by this? I had a baby in the hospital (albeit much longer than a week) and I would completely forget most people who visited, especially if they only visited once. There were definitely times I could not remember if so-and-so ever saw my baby before. Let it go.

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Crabtree Gear Kid June 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

‘So obviously they had been complaining to each other about how Mark didn’t make the effort to see their child.’

How is that obvious?

Putting aside how offensive your partner’s gender stereotypes are, if baby showers are a ‘woman’s thing’, why would Sarah thank your partner for hosting hers? You can’t have it both ways OP.

I agree that something else has happened here and you’re grasping for a way to be angry with them. And if that’s not the case, then I hope Sarah and Dave can find themselves some better friends.

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