Update: You’ll find further thoughts — a point, counterpoint contained in the comments below.
If I receive fewer holiday cards next year I’ll know why. It will likely be the result of the blog post you’re about to read.
What’s the deal with cards that only include photos of children?
Not so long ago these cards brought tears — not of joy as intended, but sadness. They delivered a blatant, painful reminder of my infertility. Tougher today after years of being bombarded by baby shower invitations, baby announcements and holiday cards showcasing progeny, I no longer reach for the tissue box. I do though take issue with the message these cards communicate — that families are defined only by children.
What happened to the parents? Are the people addressing the cards transforming into Greta Garbo, shunning the camera entirely? Have they become completely insignificant after bearing children? Perhaps they’re like retired Studs and Studettes. Their work is done and their value is no longer what it once was now that they’ve successfully reproduced. Salmon come to mind…
The cards are even more surreal when sent by longtime friends. Since I don’t see them but every few years at best I wouldn’t be able to select their children from a lineup. For all I know the smiling faces depicted in the card could have been chosen from a talent agency. It’s not that I’m entirely disinterested in their children (and that’s taken me a looooonnnng time to come around to since resentment was too often the dominant sentiment occupying my attention when such cards arrived), but what I really want to know is what my former childhood chum or dorm-mate looks like now.
What type of card do I send in return? One that showcases my family of two — me and Mr. PJ in all our middle-aged glory.
Now, in the interest of helping my infertile brother and sisterhood who still do choke up when children-only cards arrive … a word of advice to the fertile: during the mother of all family seasons (pun intended) keep in mind there’s more to celebrate than children alone. Learn how the timer on your digital camera works and reveal yourself.
A very happy holiday season to all…pass the ‘nog, please!
December 21, 2008 9:30 pm
I’ve had vague thoughts along this same line for a few years now. Thank you for articulating it for me. *ladles up another cup of ‘nog*
December 21, 2008 9:51 pm
Great thoughts,Pamela Jeanne — I published and widely distributed (with my Xmas card) an essay on the baffling nature of the kids-only cards. Everyone without kids agreed — singles who never had a chance to test their fertility were as equally disoriented and even offended by kid cards as people like me who felt the door to family life had slammed in their faces.
One busy working mother of three defended the practice, “It’s a matter of time.” Does it honestly take less time to send a photo card of kids in the mail than a card featuring a tree or a Star of David?
People in my family must not have taken offense, because they keep on sending those pics of kiddies all on their own. I enjoy cards with the whole family. But other friends say they’re too fat/old etc. for this.
My favorite cards are from an artist friend who plugs in his family’s faces into T.V. and movie theme-cards — My Three Sons this year, Star Trek last.
One year I fought back, sending a pic of me and husband on a Tuscany mountaintop. My friend whose weight had soared over 200 pounds POST birth, and who was drowning in diapers, thought that was in poor taste. But I had the good sense not to send that happy couple card to a friend who’d just been divorced.
December 23, 2008 12:34 am
Bravo! Bad taste…ha! It’s hard to catch a break. I find it interesting how your life’s obstacles have creating empathy for divorce, etc. Your friend found it offensive enough to share the ‘poor taste’ comment. UNBELIEVABLE.
December 22, 2008 12:26 am
This is my first post to your blog, but let me just first say, in the effort of full disclosure, that I have kids.
Back to the picture cards. Yes, I’ve been guilty of sending them. But you know what, I had a big revelation this year. They are obnoxious on many levels. No more. And here’s another revelation…I’d be happier not getting them anymore either.
Anyone who actually wants to see my kids during the year sees them in person. Anyone else who is actually interested, I talk to on email etc and if they ask for a picture on email, I will send one. Anyone who I think might want to see a picture of them, I will print out a picture and stick it in a regular card. I can seriously think of about two people who fall into this category.
But to send 100 pictures of your kids out to your 100 closest friends? How did this become a tradition?
I’m back to regular cards with pictures of Christmas and other holiday things and I actually am going to take the time to write some sort of holiday message in them or at least sign them with a real pen.
December 22, 2008 12:51 am
Thanks, Anne, for stepping forward with your observations. I had a feeling this response went beyond the infertile folk…
December 22, 2008 12:58 am
As the years of infertility pass me by, I have noticed a decline in the number of Christmas cards I receive each year. I fully believe this is intentional.
As sad as I am about being a little ‘left out’, I have to admit that there has been a bit of relief not having to worry every day this month that I might potentially break down just by looking through the mail.
I don’t drink, so the egg nog is of no help. My vice is Christmas cookies. So, I say, pass the platter, please!! 😉
December 22, 2008 1:09 am
My kids are far better looking than I am. At the present moment, I am fat and haggard and pretty wretched looking. I wince and actually audibly gag when I see a photo of myself so I couldn’t comprehend choosing to inflict that torture on my friends and family.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to send Christmas cards with pictures of my children on them, but I do. I’m sure partially it’s because I worked so damn hard for them, they do (unfortunately) define me right now. Also I can’t help but want to provide photographic proof to the folks that supported me during my years and years of fertility-induced depression and madness. Lastly, I am proud of my kids and think they are cuter than cute.
For what it’s worth, I am careful not to send this version to my known fertility-challenged friends, they get ones with snowflakes or snowmen or something.
December 22, 2008 1:27 am
Thank you for saying it out loud and confirming that it’s really not “bitterness” I’ve been feeling when I get those cards. Even before I knew I was infertile, it always irked me when my pregnant friends and relatives began to transform into secondary beings. I still see it now, when friends who suffered from infertility manage (through the grace of IVF and a big bank account or generous insurance) to get pregnant. It’s suddenly all about the bump. And then when the baby’s born — well, of course, it’s all about them. Gone are the pictures of them with their husbands or pets. They’re replaced by photos of the baby in every stage of existence. It’s no longer friendship; it’s a science lesson! I certainly don’t begrudge them the opportunity to bask in their triumphs, but I just want to say, “lady, you were YOU before you got pregnant. And I liked you. What happened to YOU?”
I have four cats and love them to death, but I know (or presume) my friends are more interested in what’s going on with my husband and me, not in what the little urchins are up to.
And don’t get me started on the cards showing a photo of awkward and reluctant teenagers in front of a tree…they obviously know something that mom doesn’t!
December 22, 2008 6:50 pm
Love this: “lady, you were YOU before you got pregnant. And I liked you. What happened to YOU?”
Totally captures my frustration and confusion!
December 23, 2008 7:01 pm
I have to admit that I talk about my cat the way most people talk about their babies. The story this Christmas will be how my cat has started putting her head in boxes and has learned how to play my husband and I against each other. 🙂
Thankfully very few people send me kid cards. Of the two who do, they usually involve the whole family, pets included.
December 22, 2008 1:31 am
Honestly, I think it’s a reflection of some low self-esteem on the parents’ part: the belief that their kids are cuter than they are. Like Christina said, adults tend to complain about how they look in pictures. They’d rather put their progeny’s faces forward. The one friend who sent a full family picture this year said, when I complimented her on the picture, “Yeah, the kids were cute, but I looked like shit.”
December 22, 2008 1:44 am
My DH made the near fatal mistake of putting one of these god-forsaken cards on our mantle… then questioned me when I took it down. Hey, at least I didn’t throw it in the fire!!
Glad I’m not the only one bothered by these cards…. thanks for posting this…
December 22, 2008 1:57 am
Is it compulsory to send a picture? In Britain, the tradition is to sign a card (snowy scene, robins, Santa, reindeer, the Nativity – take your pick), and pen a few lines. Or enclose a newsletter. The photo thing seems to be catching on, but it is relatively new.
I think most people would rather have a newsletter than a picture.
December 22, 2008 3:03 am
Amen, sister! I have to think a lot of the reasoning is because the parents are old and fat. Teehee.
December 22, 2008 3:26 am
Loved Anne’s comment!!
One of my close relatives sends out these cards, and I know her well enough to know her reasons:
a) she is defined (completely) by her children
b) she lacks confidence in her own appearance, and doesn’t want to be judged by her photo (previously mentioned low self esteem), and
c) it is easier than actually choosing a card to send out, and be judged by.
I also have one (pretty much former) friend who sends us a card each year: On the front is a picture of her child or now children. Inside is a letter machine-printed on plain white paper, lacking any personal salutation or signature, generally announcing her next child. The card contains no handwriting, only a pre-printed message to match the return address on the envelope. Our address, machine printed on an adhesive label, is the only evidence that a human being might have been involved in the sending of the card. My question each year is, why bother?
December 22, 2008 4:27 am
Lately, DH and I have been debating the merits of Xmas cards with photos of children. He thinks they’re stupid and always has. I hate them because it still hurts a bit to look at them (but not as much as it did 2 years ago). He wanted to send out another photo card with our dogs on it. I feel like it makes us look pathetic. He says that has more to do with my own feelings than how people actually perceive the cards; I’ll admit that he’s probably right. We haven’t sent out anything yet.
Despite our debate, I was insisting that we would send Xmas cards with our child’s photos once we adopt. DH is opposed to that. I feel like I’m entitled to it after dealing with friends’ and family’s photo cards year after year, but after reading your post, I’m asking myself why not send one of the whole family next year. In fact, why not send one of DH and me this year? Because I don’t feel like we’re enough of a family. . .maybe. Isn’t it sad that I feel more comfortable sending photos of our furbabies than photos of just the two of us?
I’m definitely up for some ‘nog so please pass some my way.
December 22, 2008 4:39 am
When all of my friends where sending the pics of their kids I would send holiday pictures of my cats – in holiday scenes or hats. At least mine were cute enough to be actual cards!! Alacrity is right though, those letters to all are the worst! I say fight fire with fire, if you are infertile, send the picture of you leisurely reading a book, or on your vacation, or some other non-kid friendly activity. Good post Pamela Jeanne!
December 22, 2008 6:25 am
Good point. I’ve gotten some of these before from aquaintances and it always seemed weird that they sent me a pic of their child and often nothing else. No card, no note, nothing but a pic of a child I don’t know.
December 22, 2008 3:06 pm
Yes! In fact, I have not sent cards for a few years because it was too painful to be reminded that I did not have any cute children to showcase. Actually, I have a friend who has now gone through tertiary infertility (I never even knew there was such a thing, but there you go). She is now so much more in tune with the IF feelings that she said she never considered before. And her card this year? Includes the whole family. MUCH better.
I wish everyone who wants to send photos would show the whole family. It’s like as adults we can only be defined by our children, leaving those without children in some sort of perpetual adolescence. Of course, I’m not quite so brave yet to send a photo card of me and the cat, but maybe next year, eh?
December 22, 2008 4:16 pm
I often wondered if it was silly of me to include my hubby and I in the photos with our twins. Thanks for your post, I’ll continue to do so. We are truly a family and I don’t like my friends who send the cards of just their kids because I want to see the family, not just their kids.
Happy holidays Pamela.
December 22, 2008 4:22 pm
I swore if/when I had a child I wouldn’t do the baby only holiday card. Well, this year I did the perfect card with the 3 of us and had it sitting in the shopping cart for over a month. Well, some things have been happening between my husband and I recently and when the time came I just couldn’t bring myself to send that happy family card because I felt like it was sort of a sham. So, I went with a pic of the baby by himself. I’m sort of kicking myself because I know that we are still a family and are just going through a rough patch but, for where I am right now sending that card felt weird. I hope it doesn’t offend anyone because I know how much I hated the cards (I hated the ones with the families too). I’m sure we’ll be at a different place next year and I’ll feel better about doing a family card.
December 22, 2008 7:14 pm
Thanks for writing this PJ. I am so with you. What is worse, however, and what sends me over the edge every time is the ultrasound photo on the Christmas card. Have you seen these? I suppose I can imagine the impulse behind it, but the practice is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s just because I’m bitter? I don’t even know any more.
December 22, 2008 9:13 pm
I have always wondered about those cards long before TTC. What’s worse is when they then sign it, “the Smiths” without adding everyone’s actual name and you spend the afternoon wondering who sent it to you.
If I photo-shopped santa hats on my cats’ heads and wrote Meowy Christmas I am sure 70% would get the joke and think it was cute and the other 30% would think I am pathetic.
December 22, 2008 9:36 pm
I have never been the type to send anyone anything with my own picture on it unless required by law.
even if I do get one of those kids one day, I’m sure I will take a zillion pictures of it. but you can damn well bet that I would never send them to my fellow infertile friends.
and zee, the ultrasounds? ugh. that’s just awful.
December 22, 2008 10:01 pm
Sending out my cards this year, I asked myself what would I do next year when I can be one of those people who send child-only picture cards. I know of several family members and friends who have or are struggling with trying to have children and I know I couldn’t send something like that, knowingly, out to them. I would like to share a photo with family and friends who I know aren’t struggling with infertility, but, what about the others who I may not know about? I don’t want to unknowingly hurt them.
Right now, I’m leaning towards starting a blog just to post pictures for my family and friends and including that link on Christmas cards so at least they have the choice to view pictures or not.
December 23, 2008 12:28 am
I think you’ve tapped into my brain, PJ, because I’ve thought the exact same things so many times! I don’t entirely mind the photo cards, but I really do wish people would take photos of the ENTIRE family every now & then. I have friends I haven’t “seen” in 20+ years, although I’ve received a photo of their kids every single year.
By the way, dh & I have sent out photo cards of the two of us on occasion. And we plan to do it again too. : )
December 23, 2008 12:51 am
Because of this website, I have come to terms with my holiday reaction to cards. Last night I opened a card of 2 children from an old college friend. I didn’t even focus on the photo as I tossed it in the trash. Walking away, I praised myself by saying, “This is how I feel about this practice, and I’m not going to feel guilty about throwing kids’ faces in the trash. I AM allowed to feel this way.” Then I moved on with my evening. The matter is not what’s wrong with us, but what’s wrong with their radar.
December 23, 2008 5:16 am
Uhh.. are we being just a TAD oversensitive here ladies? For me as for many, if not most women, christmas cards are a damned chore that I give little thought to. BTW, I sent snowman cards this year, but never have I questioned the integrity or the supposedly ‘perverted’ motives of those sending pics of the kids. Are we paranoid now? WTH? I doubt the parents in question give two thoughts about it besides thinking it looks cute.
I learn a lot from this site and the total heartbreak of infertility. I’m so glad infertile women feel like they have a voice and a right to grieve and share their journey with the world. Unfortunately entries like this one do not help the cause. I mean… christmas cards with kids only… REALLY? Maybe the parents were just digging through the photos they already had to get the cards out just in the nick of time. Must there be some kind of perverse motive attached to anything and everything which accidently, unintentionally causes you pain?
Be pissed if you want, it’s your blog and your right. I’m sure you hear dissenting opinion often enough but then again, this is posted on the internet for all to read and critique so I assume you desire to hear more than one side. Please don’t assume that if something strikes you as distasteful for some reason that there must be sinister or unhealthy motives at play.
I wish you the very best and only happiness this christmas.
December 23, 2008 4:32 pm
I appreciate very much, Rachael, that you take the time to read my blog. It’s good to know that my readership extends beyond the infertile community. Since you’ve taken the time to share your thoughts, I’ll elaborate further…
Oversensitive is what we become when a life experience and its associated loss(es) affects us so profoundly that it has the power to permeate every thought and experience in our lives going forward. At its worst, it goes beyond causing us to be thin skinned. As one woman so aptly described it, infertility can hurt so badly that it feels as though you have no skin at all.
This post (and many of my other entries) concerns the often ham-handed *lack* of sensitivity that others show in the face of such an experience, which makes coping with it all that much more difficult, onerous really. The child-only cards are not criminal or perverted, they’re simply, well, odd. If the intent is to show the family, then show the family. Using their logic, it would be the equivalent of me sending an empty picture frame, right? You gotta admit that would be weird.
If you don’t know someone well enough to know why they didn’t have
children then perhaps it’s best to take them off of your mailing list
or at least take a half-second while you’re addressing the envelope to give some thought as to how your card might be received — otherwise you’re defeating the purpose which is to spread joy, not land a sucker punch, right?
I don’t assume that insensitive remarks or actions by fertile folk are sinister or unhealthy. On the contrary, I think they happen as a result of ignorance and thoughtlessness. The best way to remove ignorance and to get people to think is to try to educate. The conventional wisdom that couples stop feeling the loss caused by infertility and become altogether immune to painful reminders is just plain false. It’s not as easy as getting over not being accepted into a particular university or feeling envious about a high-end sports car or travel opportunities that a neighbor might have. In fact, I wish those and related pedestrian disappointments were the biggest challenges in my life.
A year or more ago I might have elected not to publish your comment. That’s because it would have been deleted quickly after the sting it delivered. Yeah, that was my initial response when I first read it. Then I got up, walked around, poured a cup of coffee and realized that you didn’t share your thoughts to cause pain but to provoke discussion, and that’s part of the point here. Your comment did feel like one of so many sucker punches that land for infertiles around the holidays.
In re-reading your comment, I see that what stung is the eye-rolling exasperation contained within. You gotta admit there’s chastising going on in it. So, okay, chastise me, but understand that sometimes one has to hold up what might appear to be extreme examples (child-only cards) to make a point.
As I re-read my response, there’s equal amounts of chastising going on here from me, so let’s agree on one thing isn’t it best given the choice to err on the side of being oversensitive than insensitive? Okay, now let’s all have a ‘Nog…
December 24, 2008 5:35 am
I admit I’m very impressed that not only did you read my response through, but that you posted it with a thoughtful response included.
The thing I question is that most people give much thought to mass mailed cards. I bought mine based on what was the cheapest which seemed halfway decent. Having cards with pics on them seem to have the advantage of not requiring me to hand sign anything. I DO hear what you are saying, but it only makes sense to me IF people are really being thoughtful in the least bit about their Christmas cards, running across your name, and realizing your struggles still sent you a card to show off their newborn. Yeah I agree, that’s over the top and at best a thoughtless gesture- just as inviting you blithely to a baby shower would simply be a sucky thing to do. But I think of a couple printing off a pic they think is cute and sending off cards; I don’t think they even conceive of their card as a ‘kid only’ card.
Let me ask this: Would you send a Christmas card with a happy picture of you and your hubby to people who are single? How about those struggling in their relationships? How would you even really know the difference between people? I imagine the terminally single, who never even get to the point of dreaming of the possibility of children are stung every time they see happy couples anywhere. How about skinny, fit people including pics of themselves to those who have terrible struggles with their weight? I hope you see my point- where does it stop? Where is the line between decency and leniency? At what point will it become nearly impossible for someone to be considered completely decent?
When it comes to matters of such grief and pain that infertility can cause maybe it is simply that there is no easy answer to this. Maybe it’s that the pain is too great. But I do believe that a sense of balance can only help the cause of spreading compassion.
Thanks so much for listening.
December 23, 2008 7:14 pm
Rachel — I don’t think Pamela Jeanne or any of us said it was “perverse” to send kid-only cards. Just a bit insensitive and thoughtless. As I pointed out, I understand that it would have been insensitive of me to
send out a “happy couple” card to a friend who was just divorced — or indeed — to any single friend. I’m pushing 50 and my friends, especially the male ones, are really lonely about their status if single. I know a “smug married” card would be received in a way I didn’t intend it. Which is simply — You know us, here’s us, Hi! But to a male friend who doesn’t know my husband however, this could be a slap in the face, if opened when he’s in a blue mood. The point is, me, self-centered childless person that I am (sic) has the empathy to put myself in my single friends’ sometimes lonely mindset at this holiday time. Similarly, I wouldn’t send a pic of me looking slim and tan and living a life of luxury to a friend struggling with five kids.
Some of the mothers on this blog,however, say they actually embrace the fact that they’re showing off. I just don’t get that. I know you’ve been through a lot to get/raise your kids. I’ve been through tons of hardships and triumphed over them, too — but I don’t see a need to “brag” or “show off” — in your own words — in a Christmas card. That’s not what the season’s about.
Yes, we’re sensitive sometimes, but we childless people are also more sensitive to the feelings of others than parents appear to be, at least judging from the responses here.
December 23, 2008 2:44 pm
oh lord, our banister is just filled with these cards. i am so used to it. not that i like it, but… for whatever reason, my friends and relatives embraced the picture card phenom with zeal a long time ago. there is only 1 friend who sends out a whole family photo and i love it. she got breast implants last spring and wore a nice shapely sweater in the photo to make sure we could all see. i applaud that!
the thing that seems to bother me most are the form letters that come with the cards. like i really give a sh.it what your family does on a month-to-month basis in a calender year? if you can’t call or email me some time during that year, why do you think i’d be interested at christmas?
i vow that if i ever get to be a mother, i will NOT send picture cards and form letters.
December 23, 2008 4:44 pm
THANK YOU for this. I always get annoyed when my friends do this.
December 23, 2008 4:59 pm
another comment to add:
yesterday we got the most hilarious card ever. best wishes from our neighbors for a happy, peaceful and prosperous year, beginning with a big toast on Jan. 20, and inside was a picture of little obama! (and these neighbors have two adorable little girls they could have featured instead.)
December 23, 2008 5:13 pm
Guilty as charged.
My thoughts were “hell, I’m not looking my cutest this year, I have no desire to brag about that” (having issues with having turned 40) and also thinking “it took me five miserable long years of enduring cards just like this to earn the right to send my own.”
But, I was mindful of who I sent it to. (at least I hope I was.)
I was also mindful that I was doing it. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. But it was a choice. A conscious one. That probably does make it worse.
It does seem that it’s all about the children in so many ways. For me, this year I’m OK with that, but it’s also funny in a way. The minute we had a child, the rest of the family took the opportunity to announce that we should stop exchanging gifts amongst the adults now. I’m not sure how I feel about that except that they probably all took a deep breath thinking Whew thank goodness that we don’t have to shop for them anymore.
Infertility aside, I think society has lost the point of the holiday altogether anyway.
December 23, 2008 5:25 pm
I’ve always wondered what it is about the motherhood experience that causes perfectly endearing, intelligent, interesting ADULTS to sacrifice every last shred of their own identity to become “the mommy”.
I get that motherhood can be all-consuming from time to time, that it is likely (and rightfully so) a person’s top responsibility, and first priority. But does “Sue” have to stop being “Sue”, and become only “Billy’s Mommy”?
December 23, 2008 5:30 pm
I didn’t reply to this post earlier because I was worried about what you would think of me, to be frank.
This year, I had professional pictures taken. I then had the most beautiful cards made from them (in my not-so-humble opinion). The card has a picture of Mr. DD and I on the front. Inside are pictures of Mr. DD and XBoy; Me and ZGirl and then one of the four of us. On the back is a pix of ZGirl and XBoy each. Overdone? Probably, but dammit, I walked the fires of hell and fucking back to get to where I am, I am going to show it off.
Is that what it really is? Showing off your kids? Yes. Yes, it is.
Now, PJ, you have already figured out that THAT was not the card I sent you. I sent the picture card to family and neighbors only. I didn’t even sign the damn things as it was already done by the card company. For the card exchange, I not only kept it neutral by NOT sending photos, but I also make sure to send cards neutral in holiday reference (no “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Channakah”, just Happy Holidays) since in today’s ultra-sensitive society, I want to offend the least number of people. I say “least” because no matter what you do, no matter what I do, someONE will be offended. Even NOT sending a card would be found offensive in more cases than not. I also made sure to write a note in each card. For me, I feel seriously let down when I get a card, picture or no picture, and there’s nothing inside but “Happy New Year! Love, Jon and Jane Doe”. Wow. Talk about effort and lack thereof.
Next year? I may go all out again. Then again I may only send pictures of ZGirl and XBoy. I don’t know, but I will certainly now be unable to NOT think about this post whatever I decide.
Personally, for the record? I do like seeing pictures of the children, if there are any. I truly enjoyed your card because I love having a face to go with the words, the feelings, the opinions I see here. And if I had to decide between getting a card with no pictures and one with, even if it is one of the dog? I’ll take one with the picture, thank you.
December 23, 2008 5:53 pm
Funny. I totally did wonder when I received your card if I might have gotten one specially sent and you know what? It made me feel, well, special in a good way because I knew you were thinking about moi — that you took the time to consider what went inside the envelope. And therein lies another point to be made … aren’t cards suppose to be sent with care?
Based on the range of responses here, there is no one correct answer. We’re all different and we’re all going to respond in our own way. Some people don’t give a flying fig about what’s in the envelope, some prefer a handwritten note that’s uber-customized, others a mini novella/newsletter, and then there are those who are just glad to get something in the postbox other than third class mail. It comes down to thoughtfulness, really. Just some additional food for thought as the ‘Nog makes its way around: are cards about the sender or the receiver?
December 23, 2008 5:48 pm
I always enjoy your entries. As a mother of a young child after years of infertility and treatments, I must admit that I do send out the child only card. In case you would like some perspective from someone who does this, I started thinking about why I do it, and here’s why: First of all, I had no idea that child-only cards are more offensive than family cards. When I was going through infertility, it hurt just as much to see a family with a young child versus a young child alone. I don’t think I even noticed a difference. Second, everyone else is doing it (great reason, right?). What I mean is, more often than not, most people are sending out child-only cards. Sending one that includes me and my husband honestly felt too arrogant. Why should we show ourselves off if no one else is? This is not a justification, just an explanation of where someone like me is coming from. In these comments, I noticed only one other person mention that they did not like the family cards. Is that really the case? For me, it’s more of a matter that most of these cards are impersonal (no hand written note) versus whether the parents are included or not. Does anyone else feel like that too?
December 23, 2008 5:54 pm
Thank you for this post. My husband and I have a child but he refuses to let us send kid-only Christmas pictures and hates when women post pics of their children only as their Facebook profile for the same reason … “did your identity just disappear when you gave birth?” As someone who has several friends who are single or dealing with infertility, I really appreciate being made aware of how it feels.
December 23, 2008 7:08 pm
This year was the first time I received a kid-only xmas card, which I thought was weird, but the kids in question were my cousins so I didn’t think much of it. Now that I’m (finally!) pregnant I realize that this is something I’ll be dealing with next year.
My plan prior to this post was to get pictures to give to family only and continue with the pan-holiday handwritten cards. I will now definitely stick to that plan.
December 23, 2008 8:56 pm
I am a mother of one after IVF and I admit I sent out a card with a photo of him only. Honestly I never thought to put our picture in but not because I hate how we look or think we matter less, but rather, because we look the same, while he changes all the time, and I have always viewed the picture card as a way to get a super-current picture of the child (we took a picture and made the cards the same night). I’m a little ashamed to admit as a veteran of infertility treatments that I never thought about how they would be received. I just kind of figured everyone would be happy to see what he looks like now. Thanks for this post, it will help others (me included) to be a little more mindful.
December 23, 2008 9:51 pm
A merry christmas and happy healthy holiday season to you and yours, PJ,
December 24, 2008 12:17 am
I am IF (15 years) and Christmas cards with family or kids don’t bother me. In fact I like them because they are from people I love and care about. I like to see how the kids have grown.Time passes by so quickly.
Although, I would like more pics of the parents too. I don’t care if you’re fat, old, or ugly. I still care about you no matter what you look like and it would be nice to see some smiles from my old friends again.
December 24, 2008 12:32 am
Count me in the minority, I guess, because I LOVE those cards! I think they’re adorable.
I receive photo cards picturing single people or couples without kids standing in front of monuments or places visited on their travels.
I receive photo cards picturing a happy couple on their wedding day.
I’ve received photo cards of people with their animals, sitting in front of a Christmas tree.
I receive photo cards picturing families.
I receive photo cards featuring just the kid(s).
I love them all.
Why send a card featuring just the kids? Because kids change quickly and it’s fun for some people (like me) to see how they change year after year. Or maybe it’s because the parents don’t like their own picture and/or were too tired to get themselves dolled up after getting the kid(s) dolled up and hauled out to the studio. There are lots of reasons that are innocent enough.
I’ve always thought that it’s fun to see how my friends’ children have grown throughout the year. True, there were times when the cards have made me wistful, but mostly they make me smile. And when they’ve made me wistful I’ve never once thought the parents were being insensitive my childlessness any more than I’ve found the cards featuring couples only to be insensitive to my singleness.
People are just sharing their lives with others they love. I can’t find anything wrong with that.
December 24, 2008 6:02 am
btw, I just wanted to wish everyone a great Christmas and lots of ‘nog. Good times for everyone!
December 24, 2008 10:56 am
Do you know, I don’t think we do this in Britain. Send cards with family pictures, that it. I suppose some British people do it, but by and large, it’s not done. Some people send photos with an ordinary Seasonal card, but then only to close family.
One friend did send out a card of her baby in a festive hat last year, which was exceedingly cute, but I do wonder if I was fine with it because it was just the one card and not a deluge of them. I wouldn’t know what to feel about a deluge.
What is more common in Britain is the ’round robin’, or newsletter typed up and sent out to everyone along with the cards. There’s a lot of satirical fun on TV and radio about how amazingly boastful and smug people who do this can be – so it obviously it stings many many people, and not just the childless being smacked by the fertile. There’s the single being punched by the happy marriages, those with difficult or ill children being smacked by the healthy high-achievers, the unemployed or stuck in poor jobs having their faces rubbed in success and fulfillment, the poor being shown holidays and yachts, even the overweight being stung by effortlessly trim tummies.
The important thing to consider, when preparing your cards or letters, is, is this ACTUALLY going to make the receiver smile, or am I showing off? Am I ACTUALLY sharing my life with my loved ones, or am I boasting and attempting to make myself feel good? Because quite a lot of the letters I have received have turned out to be insincere – in my own family we’ve had yes, Junior got into Good School, but is lonely and has no friends. Yes, you lost 40 pounds, but mostly because you were miserable and stopped eating. Yes, you have beautiful children, but you dress like a sack of potatoes and your husband has stopped sleeping with you.
One aunt sends a very honest, funny ’round robin’, and I love that, and can take genuine pleasure in the successes of my cousins and the lovely babies being born. My grandfather sends a completely ridiculous and very boastful and often factually WRONG letter and makes everyone very very cross indeed. Another aunt sends an accurate one, but the tone is exceedingly smug and contains digs at those family members she doesn’t approve of.
I think we are able to divine intent from cards and letters. I think we can tell the sharing, rejoicing ones from the smug boastful ones. All it takes is five extra words, or an honest, loving attitude. And it’s the choosing to boast of what you have to those that do not have it, that is obnoxious.
To those that say they don’t have TIME to customise the cards like this, you really have to consider whether you are sending your cards for the right reasons. If your friends and family are not worth the extra few minutes to ensure you don’t hurt them, why are they your friends at all? Why send them a card?
Apologies for the EXTREMELY long essay.
December 24, 2008 3:24 pm
We don’t get many cards period (we don’t celebrate Christmas) and it’s really only my niece who sends a pic which includes her and her husband as well. But the whole “I am no longer me, I am my child” thing makes me NUTZ!!! Thanks for this great post and all your wonderful commenters – great food for thought as always, Pamela Jeanne!!!
Have a happy Christmas!!
December 24, 2008 3:38 pm
Coming in late on this…reading the post and the comments, I have gotten a sense of this. I find the newsletter cards much much more offensive. The pictures–I look at, and if they offended me–off they went to the trash (sorry folks). I never really felt that people were trying to show off their children–they were just proud of ’em (as they should be). I don’t find that too bad. Its the EXPOUNDING on what Johnny and Jenny did and what wonderful accomplishments they all did–cuz you know those newsletters never tell you BAD stuff.
What I normally do: I send a secular card, if I want someone to see my kid(s), I send them a picture inside. AND sometimes, I do a family photo–I just don’t do those too often (not sure why).
I did sympathize with Leah’s comment and Rachel does have a point–perhaps it is something that is offensive because it is over-thought.
Overall, my thought is that everyone could do less cards and more meaningful communications with the ones you truely want to keep in touch with is the most important thing this time of year. And if you want pictures of my kids–you can call me/email me.
December 26, 2008 4:46 am
Guilty, as charged. After four years of infertility treatments culminating in DE, we were blessed with a child. I’m back in the midst of infertility treatments with another donor, having gotten BFNs with our leftover embryos. That’s not looking so good either at the moment, but hope springs eternal.
I hate photos of myself; I think my husband feels the same way. I would never, ever send a picture of myself to someone — ugh. So, we have been putting photos of my daughter on the cards, and getting favorable responses in return (not that that matters, but it does happen). I don’t think that we will do this forever, but we have been doing it for the last couple of years.
Would I send this card to an infertile friend? Not on your life. Am I defined by my child? Nope, not at all. I probably would have been if I’d gotten my wish to be a SAHM, but it didn’t work out that way. I’ve kept my friends, though life is more hectic with a child, and I don’t get to see them as often as I would like (thank goodness for e-mail).
So, if someone doesn’t like my card, I assume that it will be relegated to the circular file along with the others. Actually, even if they like my card, it will be sent to the circular file anyway (only my mother used to save them). And, I really like receiving these types of cards, even when I was in the darkest days of treatment, because I love the moms who sent them, and they gave me hope. I also knew that I wasn’t going to stop until I had a child, no matter how that child came to me, so it was a matter of time and endurance. I also like cards of couples, of the dog, on vacation, etc.
I don’t even mind the newsletters, though I can’t really write one. Our lives are pretty dull, I’m sorry to say. Even my daughter has a routine. My husband and I talk about this every year, and we pass on the idea. But I do like to read them, and I don’t think they are obnoxious.
I must be in the minority.
December 26, 2008 11:34 pm
I never could stand family cards. I guess I’m in the minority,I’d rather just see the kids. I always think people who put themselves in cards are really cheesy. We only get one family card every year and it’s from a couple that are in love with themselves…now they’ve added their kids. That’s just me though!
December 27, 2008 9:11 am
thank you for this post. So far I thought only I am strange that I can not stand Christmas cards with cute babies with Santa Clause hats on.
Obviously this is a new tradition all over the word.
lots of love from sLOVEnia.
December 27, 2008 11:29 pm
I am guilty of this this year, but with good reason. I got the picture cards free when I had the kid’s pictures done, and those pics didn’t include a *family* shot. So of my 36 free Christmas cards, I sent only 24 of them. To family far away, to friends I see every so often but *always* ask about my kids, and to some of my forum sisters who asked for them.
I just appear to be a fairly fertile Myrtle, no one really knows the struggle we had to get pregnant and stay pregnant. So I am a little more empathetic when it comes to my friends with IF.
If I had thought for a moment that those cards were painful reminders to someone else, then I wouldn’t have sent them one. But that’s just me.
I don’t think I know 100 people to send cards to, much less 100 people who would want to see my kids. So some of us who sent those cards this year aren’t really guilty of being mean or thoughtless.
I’m sorry that you have been upset by them in the past. Anyone who really knew and loved you wouldn’t have rubbed it in your face.
Can I still have some eggnog?
December 28, 2008 12:14 am
Absolutely! One shot or two?
December 31, 2008 3:31 pm
Pamela–I’m very curious. (Perhaps there’s a post on this somewhere else in your blog?) Why did you and your husband not choose to adopt once it was clear having a biological child was out of the question?
January 5, 2009 7:22 pm
I always disliked the holiday photo cards and miss the days of my childhood when the doorways were covered with beautiful images. I have always (yes even preIF) disliked them as I find them incredibly impersonal. After IF they really upset me though, regardless of whether it was a photo of the family or kid only.
It seems that almost all I receive now are photos with a preprinted greeting sent with preprinted labels. Why bother? Most people don’t even sign a name.
After years of dealing with IF and succeeding with LOTS of help I wasn’t sure what to do this first Christmas. Would people find it odd if we didn’t send photo cards? My sib told me I was strange for not wanting to send them. Everyone does after all. I ultimately decided on regular greeting cards (one of my favorite things to do at christmas is choose that year’s card) that had a short message. I then included a handwritten message and in some I also included a photo of our family.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just old fashioned. And in the end I guess it’s the thought that counts. But it just seems that people are putting more thought into what they are sending out as opposed to what someone is getting.
Sorry – that was long. This has just REALLY bothered me for some time now.