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Talking About Thank-You Notes - And Who Writes Them

Published on: December 30, 2013

Who maintains social relationships in your household -- remembers birthdays, writes thank-you notes, accepts or declines invitations?

Katherine Rosman, pop culture and technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal, says that's it's her:

I hand-write on beautiful stationery 125 thank-you notes a year. That is a conservative estimate, and it excludes holiday cards. In addition, I wrap with velvety ribbons and thoughtfully selected paper about 70 gifts per year. Often, I dip into my special drawer and fish around for special adornments to decorate the wrapping -- tiny cloth flowers with wire stems, ink stamps, Strawberry Shortcake stickers.

Her husband, Joe, handles their finances, and she sees her efforts to keep up socially as a way of balancing their contributions. He, however, doesn't see her contributions as equal.

...Joe doesn't necessarily see the letters and gifts as tokens that reflect upon the whole family. Last summer, we had a blistering argument on this topic: "No one thinks that those letters come from me, even if my name is signed at the bottom next to yours," he said. "People say to me all the time, 'We got the most beautiful note from Katie.

Keeping up with relationships -- writing thank-you notes, wrapping beautiful gifts -- is still seen as "women's work," she concludes. Even if a woman likes doing it, it doesn't get much respect. The effort it takes to remember birthdays, take time to write and send notes and presents, is discounted.  And women who don't like to do this kind of work have to decide whether to bear the brunt of social disapproval or take on a task they know they won't be recognized for.

He said: "You're measuring your thank-you notes -- which generate love and warmth that boomerang back to you -- against my banal and totally thankless job of paying bills, getting the house repainted and negotiating leases for station wagons. What I do is grunt work."

I said, "You act like the money I spend on stationery is a self-indulgence. You think it's nothing to write note after note, never using a boilerplate message."

He said: "I often come up with cool gift ideas for people, but when you wrap it all beautifully and give it with one of your notes, no one has any sense of my role."

So I said: "You wanna switch jobs?"

And he said: "Not even for a day."

Who writes the thank-you notes in your household? Are you teaching your kids to write them -- and do you have different expectations for your daughters than for your sons?

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