Last month, a soon-to-be dad reached out on a meal-sharing site to ask for help. His wife was pregnant, and he wanted to be proactive in seeking help — including from, yes, strangers. He gave examples of favorite recipes and also clarified that the couple would appreciate help with chores, walking their dog, or even simply stopping by to chat with them and check in. It seems uncontroversial, but we apparently don’t live in a world where it’s acceptable to ask for help anymore. Meal Train Dad soon went viral, and not for the right reasons.
One Twitter user slammed them for using “the most millennial phrasing I have ever seen” and insinuated that their house should be egged. People snarkily said they wanted folks to “do their chores” and “make them free meals.” The New York Post also got in on the action, saying they wanted “free meals” and “therapy.” Why? Because, according to New York Post columnist Zachary Kussin, “he can’t seem to handle the impending birth of his first child.” Fatherly said they want their neighbors to do their chores and make them food, adding that “people were not having it.” Even Good Morning America chimed in, asking if he went too far.
First, let’s start by being honest here about this dad’s request. Meal Train Dad did, in fact, list 30 specific meals — but he didn’t require that they be one of them. He made them available in case people wanted to know what they liked to eat. The fact that no one seems to understand how this works is mind-boggling. Have none of the people judging these parents ever participated in a meal train? Asking people what they like to eat is literally the first thing you do. But his real crime here is that he dared to ask for help at all, especially from [insert gasp here] his neighbors. Yes, he had the audacity to ask for help and not stick to just his family and friends. He thought people in the community around him might like to help out a couple of new parents, which in today’s world, is clearly an unforgivable sin. If ever there was a sign that helping people in your community is dead, this was it. Is it any wonder that people are so afraid to ask for help?
I can only assume that the people slamming this couple so hard are either not parents themselves, are parents who don’t remember what the postpartum period is like, or are the misery-loves-company types, who think that because they suffered, you should have to also. But just as a refresher here, the postpartum period is literal hell. Mothers have just gone through immense physical trauma, whether they’ve delivered vaginally or via c-section. There’s a very good chance she might be suffering from postpartum depression, which, by the way, dads experience, too. Then you’ve got the lack of sleep, the potential difficulty breastfeeding, the possibility of colic, the sudden isolation when you become a new parent — really, the fact that it’s necessary to explain just how difficult it is to survive having a baby is a sad statement on our society in and of itself. But since it needs to be said, having a new baby is f**king hard. It’s the hardest thing most people will do.
Once upon a time — or, to be more accurate, pretty much throughout all of recorded history — we weren’t expected to weather this alone. All of the things Meal Train Dad asked for? Yeah, that’s exactly how it worked. Mom was not expected to do anything except take care of her baby. The community around her would descend upon her, providing food, taking care of her house, making sure she was recovering well, giving her comfort and companionship. But not in today’s world. Nope, today, parents are expected to suck it up and just deal. If your family and friends want to bring you food, then lucky you, but to actually think that strangers might want to help? Pshh! You’re just being selfish! Mental health check-ins? Stop whining, snowflake. (And yet we wonder why postpartum depression continues to be such an issue.) Meal Train Dad committed no sin beyond asking for help and giving numerous options of how someone could help, including just dropping by to chat, and people raked him across the coals.
I repeat: Is it really any wonder that people are so scared to ask for help now? Maybe it’s because they’re terrified of exactly this reaction and of becoming the latest target of the internet lynch mob.
To the people shaming this family, shame on you. Parenthood should be a journey in which communities come together to help each other through it, but we’ve instead adopted a mindset that everyone should just embrace the suck and suffer alone. Is this really the world we want to live in? Is this the best we can do for our friends, family, and neighbors? No. No, it is not. What happened to Meal Train Dad is nothing short of despicable, and I can only hope that when they welcome their sweet baby, they’ll be flooded with delicious meals, help with chores, and friendship — even if it means meals with things like dark chocolate and avocado.