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The Competitive Thank You Note

I have an Etiquette Hell story regarding Thank You cards, but not the typical story about never receiving one.

About one or two weeks after we brought our baby home from the hospital, my husband’s dad and step-mom visited us and gave us a gift from one of their friends in the community who we had never met. This was not abnormal. We actually received quite a few baby gifts from their friends we had never met before. My in-laws are very involved in their community, especially with the school, and I guess the couple that gave us the gift were higher-ups in the school. It was a toy for 2+ so I stored the gift and did not immediately write up a Thank You note as I was caring for a my first baby and it wasn’t top on the priority list!

Maybe a week later, I received a text from my step-mother-in-law saying, “Did you ever send a thank you note to Mr and Mrs Smith?” I responded “Not yet, I’ve been busy.” She proceeded to tell me, “Make sure you do it pretty soon.” Now, please note this was not 3 months after I received the gift, it was no more than one week. She then told me that she had just attended this couple’s daughter’s baby shower and, “I received a thank you note from her 3 days after the shower!” Wow! This was exceptionally rude in my eyes because when my step-MIL had thrown me a baby shower, I promptly got 20-30 thank you notes out within the week. And, all the while my daughter was in the NICU and had been for some time! And here we are, after just bringing baby home, and she is ragging on me for not sending a thank you note out to this couple within a week, and then bragging that THEIR daughter sent her a thank you note within 3 days of her baby shower!

I think the worst part of the whole ordeal was that it was all about image to step-MIL. If her daughter-in-law didn’t send out a thank you promptly, it would (in her eyes) reflect badly on HER, especially since this couple were “higher-ups” in the school/community. That probably hurt the most. No matter that my daughter had just had a 2 month stint in the NICU and I had JUST brought her home, no no… It had to be about her and how she appeared to other people! 0511-15


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Margo May 12, 2015, 5:51 am

    Yes, it was rude of MIL to chase in this way, and if she commented about the shower then you would have been fine to say “Yes, it’s much easier to get the notes out fast after a shower, as you are not yet busy with a newborn”

    Meanwhile, as this is a friend of your husband’s parents, why not suggest your husband writes them a thank you note? After all, it is his child too.

    While it is obviously not your highest priority with a new baby, particularly one who has been unwell, if you and he each did a couple of notes every day you could get through them fairly quickly.

    • Livvy17 May 13, 2015, 2:34 pm

      “Meanwhile, as this is a friend of your husband’s parents, why not suggest your husband writes them a thank you note? After all, it is his child too”

      YES!! THIS!! Why does 99.9% of this stuff become the woman’s responsibility the second she starts dating a guy? I don’t remember promising to love, honor and take care of all social and familial aspects of our life together” And yet, with most women I’ve even known, this is exactly what happens.

      • Hanna May 16, 2015, 5:03 pm

        Unfortunately I feel you fail to realize that in a relationship, one partner just does certain things and the other partner does other things. This doesn’t mean those responsibilities or chores can’t be interchangeable, but I know for me, if I left Thank You notes or birthday cards or the like up to my husband, a) they would never get done. Ever, and b) if he did do them, they would be unreadable (my husband has terrible handwriting) and extremely late. So I do all cards/letters, and that’s the way we both prefer it. Even when I had a baby, because not only was my husband still working full-time when baby came home, but he also helped care for baby when he got home from work, too. There’s nothing that says the mom is more exhausted or busy than the dad. There’s no rule about this, it’s whatever works for the family.

        • Enna May 19, 2015, 5:38 am

          But all too often most of the chores do full to the woman in this area. It’s one thing if you are doing things according to your skills but I have found that with my friends who have had children the woman ends up doing most of the work.

    • Rosie B. May 13, 2015, 8:30 pm

      This is a great point! The gift was for the BABY, not the mom specifically, so either parent could have written the thank-you note. In fact, in this case it might have been more appropriate for the father to write it, because the gift was from his parents’ friends.

  • Anne May 12, 2015, 6:12 am

    Have your DH write the thank you. His monkey, I mean his step-MIL, his circus.
    Probably wouldn’t hurt if he mentioned the baby just got home from the NICU, and you both have been very busy.

  • K May 12, 2015, 6:32 am


    Unless you have missed out a huge chunk of story, you are way over-reacting and reading far too much into one text. Your MIL was being OTT but it’s not worth this amount of angst at a stressful time in your life.

    • Ergala May 12, 2015, 9:40 am

      Take it from someone whom was constantly harassed about thank you notes, it can be quite grading. I was in labor with my oldest and my mom was watching me and making sure I was writing thank you notes…while I was in labor at the hospital. They got done but I didn’t write anything extra, just “Thank you for XYZ gift, it was very thoughtful” and left it at that. If anyone had dared say a word to me about how short it was I would have said “Well let’s see how great you do when you are writing while having painful contractions and someone harping on you the whole time to get the letters done while you have ‘time'”. I wasn’t happy at all. Now I have a shiny spine and there is no way I would have allowed that to happen.

      While I appreciate a thank you note, when someone just had a baby I give them so much slack in regards to time frame. And it was NOT the step-mil’s place to say a word to the OP about how long it was taking her. There was no reason to mention how short a time she got the thank you from the other person. The only reason you would mention that would be to brow beat someone. It reminds me of Amy’s wedding on Everybody Loves Raymond and they just got back from their honeymoon. Marie was chastising her for not having thank you’s done already…a week later.

      • Anonymous May 13, 2015, 7:49 am

        Ergala, your story was even worse than Marie on Everybody Loves Raymond.

      • Goldie May 13, 2015, 11:05 am

        Your mother had you writing thank-you notes while you were WHAT? and she justified it by saying you had “time” while you were in labor? SMH

        • Ergala May 14, 2015, 11:08 am

          Yup. Needless to say I was not exactly the happiest person on the planet. 3 days of labor later I was a tad cranky and was demanding everyone leave my room when I started to push. I was sick of everyone.

    • Sena May 12, 2015, 10:04 am

      I imagine that OP is still a bit overly anxious and hormonal from giving birth and the subsequent NICU stay. Please be kind to her. It’s extremely common to see small things as slights during such a stressful time.

      OP, ignore the MIL as best you can. You’re doing a great job.

    • B-rock May 12, 2015, 10:09 am

      I agree, K. This was really dramatic and weird to me.

    • Jazzgirl205 May 12, 2015, 11:06 am

      I thought so, too. I wondered if I was being a bit cold towards LW. When ILs act this way, one needs to just blow it off. My philosophy about ILs is that it is much better to encourage one’s spouse (their child) to have a close relationship with them and teach the grandchildren to love and respect them. Being touchy about everything ILs say and do is accomplishing no good anywhere. Perhaps the LW is overwrought and is transferring all her anxiety on her MIL.
      I didn’t write my thankyous until after the baby was born so they could double as birth announcements.

    • Carrie May 12, 2015, 12:31 pm

      This. A thousand times this. Just ask your husband for the assist on the thank you note.

    • Hanna May 12, 2015, 8:34 pm

      I think considering it WAS a stressful time in OP’s life, that probably (and understandably) led to the angst. If my kid had been in the hospital for x number of months and then I finally brought that kid home, I would be so pissed that my mother-in-law was bugging me about promptly getting a thank you note out to one of her friends.

    • Enna May 19, 2015, 5:42 am

      @ K – I think what the OP doesn’t like is the unneeded pressure and there does seem to be a focus on treating people who are “higher up” in society should be worshiped by those lower done. The OP isn’t ranting or writing loads and loads about this one event. She is expressing her frustration at her step mother’s unreasonable and rude behaviour which is what this site is about.

  • Abby S May 12, 2015, 6:32 am

    This sounds like a case of someone making a mistake and making the case that they don’t have to apologize because someone else did worse. Just write the thank you note.

    • abby May 12, 2015, 12:28 pm

      I agree. Pick up a pack of thank you notes from Target, dash off a quick note, and call it good. Certainly husband can help with that as well. I don’t think this is something to get worked up over.

  • crebj May 12, 2015, 6:54 am

    MIL does sound like a challenge. Sadly, I don’t think you’ll get credit for your promptitude in shower thank-you notes, or your travails. She’s not likely to change. If this is so all-fired important to her, how about if she writes a note and you sign it, then she can stamp and send?

    • Tracy W May 14, 2015, 10:06 am

      How about she writes the note, then the baby’s father stamps and sends it?

  • Susan May 12, 2015, 7:06 am

    Just send the thank you note now and be done with it. 🙂

  • Jewel May 12, 2015, 7:25 am

    With people like this, it’s often more helpful to tell them when you WILL do something versus just a status update about something you haven’t done. Instead of, “Not yet, I’ve been busy (and when aren’t we ALL busy???)” , you’d dispatch her permanently by a response like, “Not yet, but I will write it within the next two weeks.” It should mollify her, but if she compares you to anyone else anyway, you could sweetly ask, “Oh! Did friend’s daughter just suffer through the stress of her baby being in the NICU for a month, too?”

  • Anonymous May 12, 2015, 7:28 am

    Okay, your mom seems to have mastered thank-you-note etiquette, but she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of “it’s rude to point out rudeness in another adult.” Has she accepted that you’re an adult now? It’s hard for some parents, because, at one point, it WAS their job to point out rude or inappropriate behaviour–“OP, don’t blow bubbles in your juice,” or “OP, don’t stick straws up your nose and pretend to be a walrus, even though it was hilarious when Will Smith did it on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air,” or in this case, “OP, don’t forget to write a thank-you note.” At one point, the latter statement would have been useful information for you. At one point, she had to teach you to thank everyone who gave you a gift, even if it was something you didn’t like; for example, a sweater that was itchy, or, right now, a toy that’s too advanced for your new baby. The thing is, now you’re all grown up, and you’ve already taken on board what your mom taught you about gratitude and thank-you notes, and in a few years, you’ll be teaching Little OP, when she’s old enough to understand the concept. I’m not taking your mom’s side, but I can imagine that it’s hard being a parent, because the job of being a parent is to make yourself obsolete…….and now your mom thinks she has. If your mom’s not toxic, would it be possible for you to assuage her fears by asking her for parenting advice about specific issues as Little OP grows up?

    As for the issue at hand, you just brought Little OP home from the NICU, and it’s been less than a week, and so, thank-you notes are naturally going to take a back seat to figuring out the ins and outs of caring for your preemie. I pretty much don’t expect thank-you notes from people with babies at all, let alone within the week. I have a friend who had a baby in late 2013, and I attended the baby shower before he was born, and the first birthday party as well, and gave gifts at both. For the baby shower, my friend didn’t do thank-you notes, and for the first birthday party, she just posted gratitude on people’s Facebook walls (or, she did on mine, anyway). I don’t see this friend often, and I almost NEVER see her without her son, but we’re still friends, because I’ve adjusted my expectations in a BIG way. So, if you’re planning to write thank-you notes at all, and if you get that done within a reasonable time frame (which varies, depending on how many notes you have to write, and how demanding the early days with Little OP are), then you’re doing fine.

    • Tracy P May 12, 2015, 8:24 am

      The problem “mom” is the OP’s step-mom-in-law, so she doesn’t have the excuse of being used to being the parent to the OP as a child.

    • vjcole May 12, 2015, 8:59 am

      It isn’t the OP’s mother that is the problem – it’s her husband’s stepmother. So a lot of what you’ve said isn’t relevant.

    • AnaMaria May 12, 2015, 10:14 am

      Agreed; after a baby shower (assuming it wasn’t a surprise-shower and that the pregnancy/adoption progressed normally afterwards) I’d expect thank-yous- if you allow someone to put together a shower for you, you should expect to need to write thank-you notes afterwards. However, if I send a gift, especially after or close to the baby’s arrival, a thank-you note is just extra frosting on the cake. Quite frankly, getting a facebook post- especially a picture of the munchkin using whatever I got them- can even be more enjoyable because I don’t need to worry about loosing it. Having finished college, moved temporarily home with my parents, then overseas, then to a new campus for grad school, then with friends while I job-searched, and FINALLY into my own apartment last week, a lot of personal letters and cards have been lost over the years. I still love a hand-written letter or card; just saying that electronic-thank yous have their own set of perks!

      I’m guessing if the OP has a spare moment, she needs to use it to SLEEP at this point!

      • Devin May 13, 2015, 11:14 am

        Yes, I love when my mommy friends post a cute pic of the new baby and whatever toy/outfit I bought them. 1) you know they actually are making use of the gift and 2) you get a cute picture you can print or share. I have one friend who habitually posts pictures with the caption, “Little so-in-so wants to tell Auntie/Uncle XYZ she loves her new book/toy/outfit”. Its especially nice for long distant friends who might not get to see the new baby till they’ve out grown the item.

    • Lisa S May 12, 2015, 10:18 am

      You need to re-read the post…the woman is NOT her mother, it’s her step-mother-in-law.

    • Asharah May 12, 2015, 10:44 am

      It isn’t OP’s mother, it’s her husband’s step-mother.

    • K May 12, 2015, 11:24 am

      Why should people ‘adjust their expectations’ of gratitude just because someone else is a parent? Unless your friend had issues in her life or with her baby, she was just flat-out bad-mannered, and if it didn’t bother you, you can bet it’s upset quite a few others.

      That’s from someone with a new baby.

    • ally May 12, 2015, 11:25 am

      This is way harsh on the OP. First of all, this woman is NOT her mother. It is the step mom of her husband. I think lecturing the OP about how it’s a mom’s job to issue corrections (to an adult child) would be OTT regardless, but step mother in law has no place being passive aggressive in her criticism of OP. OP is an adult, and can follow her own schedule on thank you notes. If that means never getting them out and accepting the consequences, so be it. It reflects badly on the person receiving the gift, no one else.

      I think the fact that OP got notes out so quickly after her shower should indicate to step mother in law that the OP’s got it covered. As another commentor mentioned, the step mother in law could offer to help. If it’s out of character for OP to send notes late, then maybe something is up and SMIL should kindly ask if anythings wrong, not comparing OP to another mother (don’t new moms hate being compared anyway? )

  • Goldie May 12, 2015, 8:02 am

    The only way a request like OP’s step-MIL’s could come out of my mouth, would be if it’s immediately followed by “why don’t I come over and take care of the baby for a few hours, so you can write that thank-you note and take a nap. What day is good for you?” I’m pretty sure the gift-giving couple does not expect a thank-you note within a week from someone who has just brought their baby home from NICU. Step-MIL is overly worried about her own image here, IMO.

    • Mary May 12, 2015, 9:08 am

      I like this response!

    • Lisa May 12, 2015, 10:04 am


      And I think the OP’s husband should write the note anyhow. Why is it always the woman’s responsibility?

      • Goldie May 13, 2015, 11:06 am

        Very true!!

    • Chelle May 12, 2015, 10:20 am

      Because that’s what ever new mom wants: someone else to hold their newborn while they do “chores”. (Eye roll) If it’s that important to sMIL, she can write what you dictate while holding your baby- or she can ask your DH to write it.

      • Ergala May 13, 2015, 10:09 am

        Chelle that is what I was thinking. If anything the smil could have offered to help her actually write them. When our youngest was born I was so happy we didn’t have a baby shower. People dropped in to see him when we got home and so many would be holding him and asking me to get them a drink or would see me folding laundry galore and just sit there and chat without once asking if I needed help. Even when I mentioned ds was a screamer. You put him down while he was awake and he would have this ear piercing scream and it wouldn’t stop until he was back in my arms. I wore a baby carrier for the first 4 months I kid you not. I woke up and in he went. I was doing laundry in he went. Only time I put him down was to cook supper and even then I’d have to stop and hold him to alleviate some of the crying. It was maddening. If someone had offered to help with some mundane chore I would have cried from relief.

      • Goldie May 13, 2015, 11:12 am

        My apologies, didn’t mean to offend. My own babies were born 2.5 years apart; the oldest, unbeknownst to us, had Aspergers (and was most certainly NOT happy when he got a baby brother), and his brother had ADHD (plus a terrible case of colics). Their grandparents were a 1-2 days train ride away and their father didn’t believe in helping out with the kids. If someone came around at that time and offered to take care of my kids for a few hours, and thrown a nap into the deal, I would’ve written them as many thank-you notes as their heart desired. I was already holding the babies 24×7 and could’ve used a break from all the baby-holding. YMMV.

        Seriously, the sMIL could’ve just written the darn thank-you note. What would the mother dictate that she herself cannot come up with?

      • MamaToreen May 13, 2015, 2:53 pm

        Hey, I had people coming over to “meet the baby” for an hour or two. These were close friends of my mother, I called them “Aunt” and grew up with their kids. They would show up, take the baby and order me to catch a shower or a nap or anything else that needed doing. They got their “Baby Fix”, as they called it, and I got a break. I considered it a great gift. If StepMother-In-Law wants to do this….but somehow I don’t think she will

  • Lizajane May 12, 2015, 8:30 am

    I don’t understand this “higher ups” thing. She says her in-laws are active in the school, which sounds like they volunteer. How are these people “higher up” ?

    • Jewel May 12, 2015, 10:22 pm

      She’s trying to indicate that the people giving the gifts are in a higher social strata, either due to personal connections, wealth, or a combination of both.

    • Ulla May 13, 2015, 2:11 am

      Higher up in social standing possibly. Prestigious family or maybe leaders of some kind of volunteering organization. Or maybe in school board or something like that. It really does not matter how they are higher up, just that if the PILs see them as “higher ups” or someones one should impress, then that’s enough.

  • AMC May 12, 2015, 8:41 am

    Yeah, it sounds like your MIL is a little too concerned with appearances, but try not to take it personally. It’s her hang-up, not yours. Write the thank you note if it gets her off your back, or better yet, have your husband do it.
    Next time she gets on you about something like this, smile, say “I’ll get right on that”, and then change the subject.

  • tanya May 12, 2015, 9:02 am

    I do feel confused. Where there is a mother in law, there is a spouse. Can your spouse not write? It’s not like he also has to feed the baby or deal with the after affects of labor.

  • Anonymous May 12, 2015, 9:41 am

    Oh, wait, I missed that it was the OP’s MIL, not her mother. In that case, never mind what I said. MIL didn’t raise OP, so MIL has no reason to comment on OP’s gratitude habits with others.

  • Cami May 12, 2015, 9:50 am

    If my MIL were not dead, I’d think you were related to us.

    Upon receiving our thank you note, my MIL called us up and berated us for getting our thank you notes out promptly. Why is that a bad thing?

    Because her daughter (my husband’s sister) who had gotten married before us had not sent out her thank you notes yet. So we should have “known” to wait until she got them out because by being prompt, we made her daughter look bad and by extension, made my MIL look bad. Yup. We were breaking an “etiquette rule” by getting out notes out promptly when someone with a prior event had not done so. It would have been better in her eyes if our notes were late, than preceding notes pertaining to the earlier wedding.

    Note that my SIL took over 18 months to send out thank you notes.

    My MIL commented on our “rudeness” for the next 25 years (until she died) on our anniversary. She’d call us to congratulate us and then launch into a wail about how she was still embarrassed by our “rudeness” about sending out thank you notes promptly.

    • Jewel May 12, 2015, 10:24 pm

      About year two, I believe I’d have said, “We’ve heard you out on this topic already. Do not bring this up to us ever again.”

    • vjcole May 13, 2015, 9:45 am

      Let me see if I have this right: you did the right thing in sending out thank you notes on time; your sister-in-law did NOT get her thank you notes sent out until 18 months after the wedding; and your late MIL not only thought YOU were rude, but harped on it for 25 years??? She must have been a joy to live with – and severely etiquette challenged as well.

    • Tracy P May 13, 2015, 10:13 am

      I’d have been so tempted to say something about how it’s not your fault that MIL couldn’t teach her daughter how to do things promptly. I’d be biting my tongue so hard…

    • Cat May 13, 2015, 9:09 pm

      From “Young Victoria”, “We have exhausted the topic.” MIL should have been told that it was not rude to send out the notes and she had already complained about it.

  • lakey May 12, 2015, 10:03 am

    I believe people should send thank you notes. However, I trim my expectations in the case of people who have newborns to care for. I feel the same way when I’ve sent flowers for a funeral. There’s just no telling how difficult a time the person is having. Besides, I don’t know anyone who sits around calculating how soon the thank you were sent out.

    Regarding MIL, snotty me would have suggested she talk to her son about the thank you’s, since his arm isn’t broken.

    Also, OP, congrats on the new baby.

    • lakey May 12, 2015, 10:08 am

      “Regarding MIL, snotty me would have suggested she talk to her son about the thank you’s, since his arm isn’t broken.”

      That was a lame joke. I meant to add “LOL”.

  • Dyan May 12, 2015, 10:18 am

    I think you should get Hubby to write it, his baby also, and his family…he can say you are so busy taking care of the new baby…
    and also congrats hope the little one does well!!!

  • sylviatexas May 12, 2015, 10:20 am

    Wouldn’t it have taken less time to write the note than to write the etiquette hell post?

    • Dublin May 13, 2015, 6:39 am

      That’s what I was thinking!!! I find it funny that a person would come to an etiquette site to complain that she didn’t do something that’s required for good etiquette and then someone called her out on it. And her complain is “how dare she” when it should simply be “I will get it done”.

      Yes I totally understand and appreciate that as a new mother (especially with an ill child), time is a valuable commodity not to mention the lack of sleep and stress. I do think a week is too short a time for a note to be expected but still, you need to write a note or more so your spouse could write this note. Complaining that the MIL was rude doesn’t make you any less responsible for the note and dwelling on her rudeness is just adding stress to an already stressful life. But in another way, my sympathies for how little time you have starts to dwindle when you clearly have time to complain about it on etiquettehell instead of just writing the note.

    • Mary May 13, 2015, 6:43 am

      While I agree with the OP that her step MIL is rude and agree with other posters that OP’s husband should write the note, this was my other thought. The one note causing the problem will take approximately 90 seconds to write and address. Less time than writing this post.

      • Mary May 13, 2015, 7:25 am

        I just read over the post again. I stand by my opinion that the husband should have been asked about the note, but take back what I said about writing the post. This could have been written anywhere from one day to five years after her baby came home. I’m sure the notes went out well before OP submitted this story.

      • Goldie May 13, 2015, 11:16 am

        You don’t have to go to the store and buy a card, buy a stamp, stamp it, address it, and possibly take it to a mailbox, in order to send an EHell post – as opposed to a thank-you note. These tasks, that are simple for you and me, might be challenging for someone who just brought a newborn baby home from the NICU.

  • Mags May 12, 2015, 10:24 am

    I probably wouldn’t think of it at the time, but the answer I’d like to give would be, “I’ll remind DH.”

    • Puzzled May 13, 2015, 5:35 am

      Now that is a really good question.

  • Gena May 12, 2015, 10:29 am

    I think you are over-reacting. As a mom, I’m also very concerned about the notes to my friends and associates because it DOES reflect badly on me if someone give a gift to one of my DDs and doesn’t receive a note. I think MIL is over the top in expecting a note so quickly and also in comparing you to someone else, but likely that it just the way it is.

    Having DH write the note is a good idea. But really, how long does it take to write a thank-you note anyway? In the time it took you to post this you could have written, addressed and dropped in the mail box.

  • Margaret May 12, 2015, 11:15 am

    Why does OP have to write the thank you note? Husband should do it–they are friends of his parents after all. Why doesn’t step-MIL bug him about it?

    My own DH is terrible about social niceties like this. After 15 I have stopped doing it for him. He can buy a card for his mother on Mother’s Day himself. And no he did not call her Sunday . . .

  • Redneck Gravy May 12, 2015, 11:29 am

    I personally think anyone reminding someone to write a thank you note is rude.

    However, ask your DH to write it tonight and be done with it, then have him call his mother and let her know it has been done. (which makes me wonder why she didn’t call him to begin with, p/a perhaps?)

    I agree it’s a ridiculous request but don’t waste anymore of your time on it, just have him do it and be done, good grief.

    • Ulla May 13, 2015, 2:15 am

      Because some people still think that maintaining social relations are woman’s responsibility. It would not even cross their mind that a MAN could write a thank you note or buy the Christmas gifts and send birthday cards.

  • Annie May 12, 2015, 11:39 am

    If she had to bring this up at all (and she didn’t) she should have brought it up with your husband. Why do people assume only women can write thank you notes?

  • JO May 12, 2015, 11:46 am

    I hope your little one is doing well! As for your MIL, well she was rude and I would be irritated too. But I think your best course of action here is to just ignore her get the note out soon but in your own time, and if she inquires again simply say “it’s under control, thanks.” Repeat as necessary.

  • Amara May 12, 2015, 12:28 pm

    In the time it took you to write this post (or rant as I see it) you could have written the thank-you note.

    Count me among those who think you are overreacting. I realize you are under some stress with the baby having been very sick but if you can set aside those emotions for a moment and think about it from your step-MIL’s point of view you’ll probably be able to see that these people sent a lovely gift to someone they don’t even know because of the friendship they have with your step-MIL. And yes, they do deserve a short note that would take you no more than five minutes to write.

    I think it might be helpful to step back, take a deep breath, and try not to let this impact your future relationship with your in-laws. Right now it has the potential to go either way. You can apologize to her and get the note out or you can hold to your rigid point of view going forward. It may not be easy right now, OP, but if you can show some flexibility–with explanation of where you are coming from so others understand things may not be normal right now–then I think you have a good opportunity to help yourself and your relationships.

    • Miss-E May 13, 2015, 7:06 am

      I’m with you. I like to do thank-yous as soon as humanly possible because the longer you wait the more likely you are to forget. Maybe step-MIL is just worried that if she doesn’t remind her, the OP will forget. And her argument about time is kind of invalidated by this rant!

    • Nialla May 13, 2015, 10:53 pm

      Apologize to her?! Apologize? For what, in the name of all that’s holy? How dare she focus on taking care of a sick newborn rather than dancing to her mother in law’s tune. Isn’t the whole point of this website to encourage people to grow a “polite spine”?

      “If you’re that worried about it you’d best talk to your son,” is the ONLY thing I would have said to her before I got up and left the room.

    • Tracy W May 14, 2015, 10:21 am

      Leaving aside the thank you note business, the MIL was calling up to criticise an adult who was not her own child or employee. Why shouldn’t the OP let this impact her future relationship with her in-laws? If she apologises for this, it probably would encourage the MIL to consider her actions entirely justified and offer more “little” criticisms. Obviously, we should all be prepared to overlook some faults in others, and hope they overlook faults in us, but apologising for being treated rudely is a step too far.

  • Ann May 12, 2015, 1:00 pm

    You know…I can understand that you really have your hands full with a newborn but…you apparently have time to read Ehell and type out a lengthy story. In that amount of time you could have just written the thank you note…probably a couple of them…and been done. I also agree with the other commenters who said your husband should take some responsibility for the thank you notes or at least watch the baby while you write a few at a time.

    • Sena May 13, 2015, 6:47 am

      My, what an interesting assumption. With all due respect, I can a quick letter in mere minutes whereas with writing a letter, I have to get pen and paper, addresses, stamps, the book that states who gave what, the letters themselves, set up an area, and hope I can write one letter uninterrupted. Also, she may have been mobile and was perhaps holding a sleeping baby or nursing while typing with one finger.

      My twins are a year old. I still remember how difficult the first half year was, and mine were never in NICU. The thought of thank you notes would have been too overwhelming until things calmed a bit, and I’m sure caring friends and family would understand if notes were not there within three days. While etiquette is important for a civilized society, it is important to remember we are dealing with real human beings with real emotions and hormones.

      I do agree that the husband can also be responsible, but perhaps he, too, is trying to adjust to a new baby and those long, sleepless nights.

      OP, I would have told SMIL thank you for the sweet and wonderful offer and that you and the baby will be bonding and taking a nap while she takes care of the thank you notes.

    • Sena May 13, 2015, 6:48 am

      *I can type a quick letter.

      My apologies for not proofreading as I should have.

    • Tracy W May 14, 2015, 10:22 am

      With my first, I spent ages sitting around breastfeeding, which meant I had one hand free. Fine to hold a tablet and tap away, not so fine for writing a letter.

    • Miss-E May 15, 2015, 10:14 am

      Agreed. How long can it possibly take to write “Thank you So-and-So for the lovely thing. We really appreciate it and know that baby would say so too if only s/he could talk! All the best – OP & DH”

      That took me about thirty seconds. I’ll give you a little extra time for handwriting and sealing an envelope. Shove it into DH’s hand as he goes out the door and you’re done!

      As I said above: the longer you wait the less likely it is that something like this will be finished. I don’t think that SMIL should be hounding you but I don’t think its that big of a deal to fill out a quick thank-you card.

      And yes, I do have kids and I do know what it is like with a newborn!

  • Jays May 12, 2015, 1:12 pm

    I’d say something like “OK, I’ll pass that onto your son.” *eyeroll*

    Why do so many people tend to assume men don’t have to write the thank-you notes? My DH did fully half of the wedding ones, and probably most of the baby-gift ones because he wasn’t, you know, trying to get the hang of nursing.

  • Denise May 12, 2015, 1:20 pm

    It sounds like you’re reading way too much into it and I wouldn’t give it another thought. You just had a baby that was in the NICU come home. You are likely dealing with a lot of emotions, a lack of sleep and realizing what your ordeal actually was. You have a lot on your plate both psychically and emotionally and may be reading more into the statement than was intended or there.

    Just write the thank you card and be done.

    It could easily be that the Step-MIL was just pointing out how impressive it was to get thank you cards out so quickly.

  • Yet Another Laura May 12, 2015, 2:28 pm

    I’m curious…

    What did your in-laws say to their son your husband about the thank-you note? Reading the story a second time, the gift was given to both of you at the hospital, therefore, either of you could write the note.

  • Marozia May 12, 2015, 3:33 pm

    It’s always the way with that society lot. My parents were socialites as well and it was all about appearances.
    Write the thank you note (or get husband to do it) and send it. After all, you wouldn’t want your step-MIL to think you’re some sort of vulgar bogan clod!!

    • Tracy W May 14, 2015, 10:25 am

      Why not? This was a step-MIL who called up another adult, not an employee, to criticise them. Being regarded as a sort of vulgar bogan clod by her would be a compliment.

  • Daphne May 12, 2015, 5:25 pm

    I have a relative who loves to badger people about correspondence and to be honest, the few times she has harassed me I just told her I already did it. My standard response is “yep, I got it in the mail this morning.” I know it’s wrong to fib, but it’s easier than engaging with someone who is rude enough to pressure me about gifts, or cards, or thank-yous, RSVPs, etc. The other point I should stress, in terms of competitiveness in the thank-you arena, is that this person is pretty much BONKERS when it comes to thank-you notes. She has been known to send a thank-you postcard for a thank-you note. That sort of thing. It’s odd, to say the least.
    So a little white lie is just my little trick so I don’t get all riled up about it–but then I always make sure to get the darn thing done RIGHT NOW! 🙂

    • Tracy P May 13, 2015, 10:17 am


      Ever been tempted to send a thank-you fax for the thank-you postcard to the thank-you note? Would she then return a thank-you email? Then a thank-you text?

      • Daphne May 16, 2015, 8:02 pm

        Yes!!! But I never have. She is so super-sensitive to stuff, she really doesn’t have a sense of humor when it comes to herself. She would freak out and be severely insulted and angry if I did that. She’s very anxious and high strung.
        But yes, I wish I could–it would be so funny!

  • Comradde PhysioProffe May 12, 2015, 6:42 pm

    It seems super extreme and self-absorbed to consider this scenario an “ordeal”.

  • Karen L May 12, 2015, 8:17 pm

    OMG, write the thank you note! Or get your husband to do it. Or when your MIL asks what she can do to help, ask her to buy some thank you cards and stamps, and then ask her to address the envelopes, so all you have to do is is jot a few words. Then ask MIL to take them to the post office.

  • LEMon May 12, 2015, 8:42 pm

    My first thought was sympathy for you. You have had a stressful time.

    My second was “wait, you have time to write an etiquette website, but not a thank you”. My third was to assume the best that you wrote the thank you before you wrote this and just forgot to mention that.

    • Heather May 13, 2015, 3:44 am

      Wow… there have been a few who have commented that OP had time to write to etiquette hell, so they had time to dash off a thank you note. Not so much, in my opinion. Dashing off a story online is fast and can be done spontaneously. Sending it is as simple as hitting “enter”. The OP has a new baby, just home from the NICU; what if she hasn’t bought Thank You cards yet? What if she doesn’t have stamps? What if she needs to look for the address? She then needs to actually leave the house to drop the envelope into a mailbox. All these actions seem so tiny and easy. But I’ve had kids, and neither of my babies spent time in the NICU. There are times when these little actions are tough to do, while quickly punching in something on a keyboard and hitting send isn’t. And I think everyone knows that.

      • Sena May 13, 2015, 8:08 am


        What Heather wrote, a thousand times.

      • Tracy P May 13, 2015, 10:22 am

        I think typing up something on the computer while trying to handle a newborn is more work than trying to send a card. I know there is a lot to do with an infant, but they do take the occasional nap. And there is the dad. Either he can write the note or manage to watch the kid for a few minutes while mom writes it. Heck, if he’s still working, he can run by the store and grab a card and stamps on the way home. He’s probably already stopping for groceries if mom isn’t able to.

        Also, this is one of the reasons I really love having the shower and getting the gifts before baby arrives. It lets you write your notes before you have a little one demanding snuggles and feedings.

        • Tracy W May 14, 2015, 10:27 am

          Yes, but when babies take that nap, there’s the clothes washing, the dishes, making a meal, maybe doing some mad self-indulgent stuff like having a shower and putting on clean clothes ….

  • Anon May 12, 2015, 9:42 pm

    Why does everyone assume they haven’t written the thank-you yet? Is it impossible that she was still bothered by the comment and wrote this AFTER taking care of it? There’s no hint in the post how long ago the incident was.

    • mark2 May 13, 2015, 8:02 am


      • Jays May 13, 2015, 3:06 pm

        This, times 2!

        I had a son in the NICU. I still remember how exhausting and stressful it was, including after we brought him home. (We had to watch him like hawks for signs of heart trouble, illness, etc., and because of his condition, I was up constantly trying to get him to eat.) Maybe the OP is over-reacting a bit, but if my MIL chose to focus on something like this during a very tiring, stressful time … well, yeah, I think a lot less of her. And the focus on “higher ups,” etc. doesn’t help. Where are her priorities?

        The judgment I’m seeing here for the OP appalls me. And, yes, where is her husband in this? Presumably he was capable of writing the note.

    • InTheEther May 13, 2015, 7:10 pm

      Ditto on this sentiment.

      Also, at least for me, getting badgered about something absolutely kills any actual drive I might have ever had to do it. Probably not terribly mature on my part, but even if the action in question is something I really do HAVE to get done and I had every intention of doing so up to that point, the second someone starts badgering me about it it turns from ‘thing I was going to do right after supper’ to ‘thing I’m now being forced to do or else [person] won’t shut up’. I still do whatever the thing in question is either way, the second option just adds stress.

  • Willynilly May 12, 2015, 10:05 pm

    When I gave birth, to twins, one spent a week in NICU. I too got many gifts, including some from friends of my parents and my stepmother, people I had never met. One gift from one of my stepmother’s friend’s was a set of jackets sized 18 months, so something I put away for future use.
    My dad asked me if I had sent a thank you note about a week after I had received the gift. I was happy he asked – it wasn’t meant to harass or nag, it was to remind me. I had lots on my mind, I was sleep deprived, I had hormone surges, I was adjusting to a whole new life, and the gift was now out of sight… and out of sight is out of mind.
    Your ILs got a thank you note, from the giver’s family no less – that reminded your MIL, and so she passed on a reminder to you. It honestly could be that simple. Reminding new moms of stuff is a pretty routine thing, “mom brain” makes them scattered, and friends and family issue gentle reminders. Its generally not meant as nagging.

    • Tracy P May 13, 2015, 10:24 am

      The step-MIL would have been fine if it had just been a reminder. But she had to add the part about the other thank you arriving after only 3 days. Thats a bit of a dig depending on the tone. Which now makes me wonder what the tone was. Step-MIL might have used a tone of incredulity at how quickly the other notes came out and the OP heard it a different way?

      • Willynilly May 13, 2015, 9:39 pm

        It might have been a dig, but it just as easily could have been said because its what made SMIL think of it. “Oh how nice a thank you from Alice, Marie and Josh’s daughter… hey I wonder if Lucy ever got a thank you out to them, shes been so busy lately, I should remind her…”

  • Gabriele May 13, 2015, 7:45 am

    I think it’s unfair to criticize the OP about taking time to write here…how many of us come here to read and mentally respond to posts as a way of relaxing, unwinding, having a little time to ourselves.
    And what is written here is safe…were she to mention the episode to a friend or relative it could get back to the SMIL….

    My husband (as was..) had an operation on his knee which required complete sedation…we arrived at 6 am and I waited from 6:30 until 3 pm. I had brought a linen tablecloth to embroider as I waited as I knew I couldn’t concentrate on reading a book (and I’m an avid reader). It wasn’t a risky operation but it was the uncertainty, of not being able to do anything to help.

    A month of a newborn in NCIU has to be a living hell, no matter how competent the care and professional the hospital. If the family were people of faith I would have hoped the SMIL would have asked people for prayers and told them she would let the SDIL know. I would have much more respect for someone who would be a MIL (which is how she sees herself, I think) who would not just carry presents to people but would be solicitious of the mother’s health and well-being. A woman who accepts the gift could have told the person how much she knows the couple will appreciate it, that such good wishes are so beneficial to someone who has been through such a trying time…and that if the thank you note is delayed a little, that she (SMIL) knows they’ll understand.
    Now THAT would impress the people she wants to impress more than them just received a thank you note quickly.
    SMIL is more concerned about going through the motions and not the emotions that are involved.

    Since she is a step-mother, I wonder if she has children of her own and how they interact with the OP and her husband? She may not have had children and have no idea what it’s like….
    I think the OP needs to establish what their ‘house rules’ are and not let the SMIL try to apply her own when she visits.
    Me, I’d be sorely tempted to remind the SMIL that ‘things were different when you were young’….that things are more relaxed now.

  • mark2 May 13, 2015, 7:48 am

    I am SURE this ehell submission was written well AFTER this event people! OP is just ranting….for all you know, this happened years ago, pls stop suggesting she write the note now!

  • Charliesmum May 13, 2015, 8:03 am

    For the people wondering why she had time to write to e-hell but not write the note, I got the impression the story she’s telling wasn’t a recent event. I imagine she sent the thank you notes, and everyone was happy.

    I do agree with everyone else at ‘why not ask the husband to do it?’ and I hope she did. I also hope the baby is doing well now!

  • cattlekid May 13, 2015, 9:36 am

    Two years ago, I had a kidney transplant. I received a floral delivery from FIL’s cousin the day after I arrived home from the hospital. The cousin must have called MIL to get our information because she called me twice the same afternoon the flowers arrived to find out a) if they had arrived and b) did I call FIL’s cousin yet to thank them for the flowers. I had planned to write a batch of thank you notes all at once after the first couple of days of pain meds were under my belt and told MIL the same but that wasn’t enough to placate her.

    • Nialla May 13, 2015, 11:04 pm

      Just because someone wants to be placated doesn’t mean they need to be or should be. A simple “I don’t care to discuss this” is all that’s needed, repeat as necessary. People really need to learn to mind their own business.

  • Beach Quilter May 13, 2015, 11:27 am

    I just have to say thank you to all the folks commenting on “why can’t the husband do this?”

    We’ve been going through some minor thank you note drama in my family lately. Aunt’s son got married 8 months ago, daughter 2 months ago. Daughter has sent out thank you’s, son and DIL have not. My aunt and my mom are wringing hands over the lack of notes and mildly chastising DIL. When I asked why son got a free pass on the issue both were shocked that I would suggest that he is somehow responsible for at least the notes for gifts from his family. I on the other hand was left wondering if I had committed some huge faux pas after my wedding many years ago, when my hubby and I split the list.

    • Miss-E May 15, 2015, 10:22 am

      I don’t think it’s a faux pas, seems like good old fashioned sexism. I made my husband write thank-yous to his groomsmen but I covered his family and his family friends and everything simply because I knew if I left it up to him they’d never get done. I had all but those few in the mail five days after we got back from our honeymoon. He didn’t send his for two months. For no reason other than forgetfulness!

      • Miss-E May 15, 2015, 10:23 am

        Sorry I meant to clarify: a man writing thank yous is not a faux pas. Women wringing their hands and harassing DIL is sexism because apparently thanking people is “women’s work”. I’m sure Admin would not say writing thank yous is a ladies-only job.

  • Katie May 13, 2015, 12:18 pm

    I am from a different country, so maybe this is a cultural thing… but… it wouldn’t enter my head to expect a thank-you note from a new mother! I would imagine that they would have more pressing things to do. I would think it was a bit rude if they didn’t say thank you when I saw them, though.

  • Daisy May 13, 2015, 1:07 pm

    “Ordeal”? That seems a bit over the top itself. I keep a dozen blank, pre-stamped, pre-address-labelled cards in my desk drawer. It takes roughly three minutes to pull one out, write a quick four line message of appreciation, address it, and hand it to Husband to drop in the mail. If three minutes would have kept my mother-in-law peaceful and contented, I’d have taken that deal in a red-hot minute.

  • Kay L May 14, 2015, 11:40 am

    I have a problem with the general tone of this whole thing. It’s so ungracious–so many different excuses for why one cannot take a moment to thank someone.

    It would be so much nicer to see someone have the perspective of: “My MIL’s good friends gave us a nice gift. MIL is harping on me to get the note out. It’s annoying but how wonderful that someone who doesn’t even know us took time out of their busy day to spend their hard earned money to give us a gift. MIL is right, I should get that out right away.”

    Instead of “it’s just not a priority right now.”

  • monkeys mommy May 14, 2015, 2:54 pm

    My grandma has been known to write thank you notes out on the behalf of others, then hand them to you written, stamped, and addressed to mail. My grandma also has very distinct handwriting, pretty sure the recipient has to notice… my grandma is also known for buying gifts on behalf of others in her family and writing their names on the card. For my baby shower, I received 10 gifts from the same store, the same clerk on the gift receipt, in chronological time order, marked from 10 different people… in granda B’s handwriting. Either grandma organized a mass shopping trip with her relatives (unlikely) or she decided to take it upon herself to buy all the gifts. I am sure some people were puzzled when they received thank you notes…

    Anyway, point of the story: Appearances ARE important to some, especially the “traditional” types.

  • mary May 16, 2015, 8:15 pm

    If you seek sympathy for neglecting to write a thank you note, you are unlikely to find it on a site dedicated to proper etiquette.

    • psammead May 19, 2015, 11:54 am

      Except that this is not someone who has “neglected” anything: OP is a harried new mom who has just brought a fragile preemie home from the NICU, who is now being nagged to send a thank-you note for a gift she’d received less than a week previous. But I agree that she is not likely to find sympathy from the small subset of eHellions for whom etiquette is (as it plainly is for step-MIL) a tool of social one-upmanship rather than a means of expressing consideration for others.

      • mary May 23, 2015, 10:35 am

        Neglect. A brief note, not a doctoral dissertation, was required. Someone in the household should have devoted five minutes to taking care of it.

        • psammead May 23, 2015, 10:24 pm

          It’s scarcely neglect when it’s been less than a week since the gift has been delivered–unless you are, indeed, the type of person who uses etiquette as a means of feeling superior to others.

  • Angel May 23, 2015, 3:27 pm

    Not saying the OP has no right to feel hurt–but on the other hand, just write the thank you note and be done with it. You spent literally 10 times as long ruminating about it, writing into ehell and reading our responses than just writing the thank you note and being done with it. We get it, your MIL is a witch and probably will be for the duration of your marriage. On the other hand though, why give her a reason?

  • Cat2 June 3, 2015, 1:02 pm

    Haven’t been able to keep up over here lately and missed this story, so I am late to comment…

    But technically, the gift was actually given to MIL for the baby. Therefore, it may be considered MIL’s duty to write that thank you note.

  • rachel June 8, 2015, 10:00 am

    It’s not like you were going to wait until the kid was 2 to write the note so there was no reason to put it off. You were both in the wrong.

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