We all get excited about the announcement of a new baby and we want to be the first to welcome him/her. While that is totally fine, we also need to consider the timing and manner of visiting the family. Here are some unspoken rules of engagement when it comes to visiting the family of the newborn…
1. Give ample notice: Babies do not have a fixed sleep schedule and new parents do not get enough sleep in the early days. So, always give some notification before you hit the road, otherwise you’ll be meeting a drowsy mum and a grumpy dad.
2. Ask if there’s anything you can bring along: Although, the most likely answer would be “no, thanks”, it’s not a bad idea to ask if the new parents need something in particular.
3. Bring something anyway: If they say no, or they seem to have it all, still bring something for the baby and/or parents. There are some things that can never be too much – wet wipes for baby, beverages for mom, cash for dad! Someone like me would appreciate a plate of freshly prepared Amala and ewedu, even if I have just had one!
4. Visit in small groups: Unless it’s the day of the naming ceremony and they have announced an open invitation, keep the group small and relevant. For example, everyone from the office do not have to visit. Just choose 2 or 3 people to represent you.
5. Knock on the door and wait for a response: This is general etiquette that applies to all forms of visitation (Qur’an chapter 24 verses 27-29). The new parents may not want to receive guests at a particular time for reasons best known to them, and they should be respected for that.
6. Don’t rush to carry the baby: I know that babies are super cute and adorable, but you have to apply caution. Don’t carry the baby unless the parents offer you. Don’t carry the baby unless you have cleaned your hands. Don’t touch the baby if you have the flu or any other infectious disease (better still, don’t visit until you’re well). Absolutely, don’t kiss the baby!
7. Offer to help: New parents almost always have unmet needs and undone chores. Find something you can do to help around the house – cleaning, cooking, running errands outside etc. If you can’t find anything to do, ask.
8. Minimize jokes and reserve your comments: Whether the baby looks like a chipmunk or cries like a cat, control your tongue and don’t say anything that may hurt his parents.
9. Excuse new visitors: If another set of visitors arrive after you, give them space and round off your own visit. That could mean standing up for older visitors to sit, waiting outside if the house is not spacious enough, or leaving earlier than you’ve planned to avoid overcrowding.
10. Keep it short: This is not the right place and time for discussing history or politics. Let the visit be as brief as possible. Pray for the family and call it a day!