Baby Shower Dread
Parties are the best. A celebration to enjoy the company of others and have a grand ol’ time. There are so many reasons to throw a party: a milestone, a birthday, a farewell, a wedding.
There’s one type of party, however, that is not fun: a baby shower. These gatherings often demand a certain type of etiquette by following old, outdated rituals.
As Priya Parker explains in her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters:
“We often let old or faulty assumptions about why we gather dictate the form of our gatherings. We end up gathering in ways that don’t serve us.”
Because of this, baby showers can feel like a miserable obligation for all those involved, even the mom-to-be.
What needs to change, then, is the way in which we celebrate. We need to bring meaning and purpose to these parties because otherwise, what’s the point?
Baby Shower Rules
Baby showers celebrate the expected birth of a child by showering a new mom with baby gifts and advice on motherhood. Typically, only women are invited and showers are only given for the family’s first child. It’s usually a daytime event (think lady’s luncheon). They will eat, they will ooh and ahh as they watch Mom-to-be open gifts (watching an adult open a pile of gifts in front of a group of people is so awkward), and they will play silly games like bingo and, “Guess the Baby’s Measurements.”
While some couples now embrace the baby shower as a unit, it’s shocking how many of these parties still exist for mom only. Sure, the woman is carrying the child and going through the craziest experience of her life, but this is a huge deal for her partner, too, assuming her partner plans to be involved in the baby’s upbringing.
Perhaps they both have fears and questions about parenting. Perhaps they both need support as they prepare to embark on this parenting journey and transition from couple to family. Besides, traditional roles of dad as breadwinner and mom as caregiver are no longer relevant. Even if they are, most couples have shared responsibilities when it comes to their kids.
Stuck In Old Ways
Baby showers are not the only parties that adhere to outdated parameters. A bridal shower is basically the exact same thing - minus the cheesy games. As if the bride needs to prepare for married life any more than the groom does.
Instead of moving away from these antiquated traditions, people seem to be holding on tighter than ever. Enter the sprinkle: a baby shower for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth child. It’s pitched as a celebration of the child, but this is just a mask for the truth: it’s a gift-giving party. (Don’t even get me started on gender reveal parties.)
Weddings are increasingly moving away from old standbys and evolving into an experience the couple really wants, but it’s still a battle. Try telling your future in-laws you won’t be having a cake and kids aren’t invited. Someone’s head might explode.
Letting Go Of Judgment
I refuse to have a baby shower (just like I refused to have a bridal shower) because the last thing I want is to be showered with gifts and have everyone watch me open them. I have a serious aversion to a party being held for the sole purpose of gift-giving.
That said, now that I am pregnant, I do realize how overwhelming it can be to think about all the things we need for our baby. It’s A LOT. It’s not fair to judge a gift-giving party, especially if that’s not the way people see it.
Some family and friends just want to be there for the new mom (and dad). They want to alleviate costs and be helpful and contribute to your new family. They are thrilled to be by your side during this pivotal moment.
During an interview on NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Parker tells a story about an expectant mother dreading her baby shower. The new mom didn’t want to play games and open gifts:
“[She wanted] to address her fears of her and her husband’s transition to parenthood. So on a sunny afternoon, six women gathered. And first, to address her fear of labor - she was terrified - they told her stories from her life to remind her of the characteristics she already carries - bravery, wonder, faith, surrender - that they believe would carry her and help her in labor as well. As they spoke, they tied a bead for each quality into a necklace that she could wear around her neck in the delivery room.
“Now, you might be thinking, this is a lot for a baby shower, or it's a little weird, or it's a little intimate. Good. It's specific. It's specific to them, just as your gathering should be specific to you.”
Not every baby shower has to follow old and continued traditions. Just like my husband and I made decisions for our wedding that people didn’t like (e.g. renting neighboring villas and hiring private chefs instead of booking an all-inclusive resort), we can make decisions about our baby shower that people won’t like.
“Forcing yourself to think about your gathering as stand-taking helps you get clear on its unique purpose. Gatherings that please everyone occur, but they rarely thrill.”
A New Perspective
Being pregnant for the first time is overwhelming and my husband and I do want to lean on the support system of family and friends.
Hypothetically, if we were going to have a baby shower, I would want close friends and family in attendance - males included. I would want to hear birth stories of all the women who have had kids. I would want to know the things that no one told them as parents - wisdom they can share with us. I definitely would want to know what items they couldn’t live without, and what items really don’t matter, because we can’t possibly buy all the things Google is telling us we need to buy.
I’d also consider a beautiful tradition that happens in India: “A musical event to please the baby's ears is the highlight of the ritual, as it was common knowledge that the baby's ears would start functioning within the womb.”
If I were to have a baby shower, my husband and I would define what a baby shower is to us. We would agree on the purpose of the party, and not let other people tell us that we have to do things a certain way. We would look forward to the party; to being surrounded by our loved ones. Afterwards, we would feel safe, loved, and a little more prepared for our new adventure.
Come to think of it, a baby shower sounds like a pretty cool party.