Modern Mothering Etiquette: The BETTER Rules for Sending Thank You Notes

Ariel Swift

If you want to write a fantastic thank you note, there are some pretty common elements that etiquette experts agree upon:

  1. Be specific

  2. Be personal, and

  3. Send it promptly.

But now that you're a parent trying to manage yourself and the social life of your child, the weight of expectations and the execution of the sheer number of opportunities to give thank you notes is overwhelming.  The "Shoulds" of thank you notes are should-ing all over us!

Thank you notes are one of the hardest easy-things out there. Three to five sentences about a specific event or gift and gratitude displayed with words. A stamp. An address. And getting it to the mailbox. Seems easy enough. UNTIL IT ISN'T.

When they aren't sent, we bubble over with guilt. When notes are sent, when we receive one, we start an internal dialogue of "how did they find the time," and "oh shit now I'm expected to send thank you notes too!" Or maybe that's just me.

Ideally, we love notes, both sending and receiving. We love the feeling of sharing gratitude and teaching kids that thank you notes are important. They help keep us connected, they can be a show of intimacy and strengthen friendships, and it is a valuable life skill.

But as we plan out the calendar, make lunches, organize mail and bills, create shopping lists, move laundry along, cleaning all the things, and plan for extreme winter weather (if you are here in the midwest) thank you notes are just not high on the priority list.

And that is the catch 22.

Thank you notes show others they are important enough for us to pause and stop our lives, think about them and their generosity, and then DO something about it. AND it is so hard to do that!

Modern moms are taking to text message and email to share a note of thanks, and that isn't received well. "Is this what we're doing now? We are only worth a text?"

We aren't happy when they are sent, and we aren't happy when they aren't.

I propose some new rules:

  1. Send the notes if you can.

  2. Send the letters any way you wish.

  3. Delegate the sending of notes to your partner.

  4. Don't send the note if it is going to hurt your mental health or increase anxiety.

  5. If you receive a thank you, be gracious about whatever form it takes.

  6. If you don't receive a thank you and you expected one, consider: does it change how you feel about that person? And then ask yourself why.

  7. Remember everyone's lives don't look like yours, and believe that we are all doing the best we can.

When you aren't in the thick of raising a human, perhaps then you can send a thank you note to all your friends and family who were with you while you were going through it, telling them how much their support mattered.

.new, columnists, aswiftComment