Baby Showers: A Rant
I do not like baby showers.
It's not that I'm an unsocial person, nor is it that I abhor children. I just don't like baby showers -- or, for that matter, bridal showers or those pre-wedding stag parties. I'm not going to go into my dislike of the other two, as I'm at a place in my life where such happenings are few and far between. Baby shower invites, however, seem to be increasing as my friends and family add to their broods.
Mind you, I'm not adverse to providing assistance to new parents. I'm more than happy to drop by the hospital or in the days preceding the birth and bring some casseroles, diapers, baby clothes, what have you. It is the baby shower I loathe -- and a very specific type of shower. The 2nd child+ shower, when the gracious mother already has small (in some cases numerous) children, and is accepting someone throwing a shower on her behalf.
I loathe the excuses: "Well, I know little Moxie is only 18 months old, but now I'm pregnant with a boy, and I only have pink clothes!" . . . Um, it's a baby. They don't care what color they're wearing, and I don't see why I should pay for their new wardrobe when you're the only one who cares what color the onesie they're spitting up on is.
"It's not that I want a shower, but my best friend/ mother-in-law/ sister-in-law/ mom/ sister/ estranged friend who made up with me after birth of 1st child wants to throw one for me. I can't say no!" Sure you can. At the very least, you could tell her you don't need any presents, but you're happy to have a celebratory pregnancy party or something.
"Well, I know I already have four daughters, but their clothes are just out of style and I want Kori to look nice!" or, alternatively, "I had two daughters after my son, and I lost all his hand-me-downs." . . . again, it's a baby. Seriously, does nobody get the concept of infant? You've already had at least one, you know what it's going to do for the first year -- poop, spit-up, cry, sleep, and occasionally do that cute gassy-mouth smiley thing. Also, they grow out of clothes really, really fast. Have you not found those second-hand stores that cater exclusively to new parents and have cute, inexpensive baby clothes? Hint: They do trade-ins.
"I just need some help with diapers/ etc." Okay, fine. Maybe don't get pregnant with a second/ third/ fourth kid if you can't afford it. I have my own family and my own bills to deal with. I really don't see why I should be supplementing your income when birth control is readily available and cheap. Your decision, your pocketbook. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.
The games, oh god, the games
Admittedly, if I actually liked baby showers, I might ignore the aforementioned irritations. I mean, any excuse for a party, right? Um, no. Not so much. I cringe at the idea of baby shower, mainly due to the games. Who came up with these? At various baby showers over the years, I have suffered through the following "fun" games:
Who Will Baby Be Like? Pass around a sheet of paper with two labeled columns. One column says "Mommy," the other says, "Daddy." Down the side are listed things like, "Nose/ Eyes/ Chin/ Athletic Ability/ Intelligence/ Feet/ Night Owl/ Early Bird." The goal is to pick which parent we think they're hoping to take after in each category. I don't know about you, but I always feel highly uncomfortable picking this out -- if I pick, say, "mommy" for intelligence, then aren't I essentially saying "daddy" is kind of an idiot? Or if I pick "daddy" for nose, isn't it sort of a passive-aggressive way of saying, "Gee, I really hope this poor kid doesn't get stuck with your elephantine honker."? I mean, it just seems . . . rude.
What Kind of Poop? I am not making this up. There is a baby shower game wherein diapers with melted candy bars inside are passed around. The guests were required to examine the "messy" diapers and decide at what month baby's poo will look like this. Extra "points" if we could also identify the candy bar. It is horrific and disgusting. Also, it ruins candy bars forever. Although I have a kid of my own, I never made the mental connection between a melted Skor bar and meconium until that game. I can't eat Snickers now.
How Does it Taste? I am sometimes convinced that baby shower planners want nothing more than to torture the guests. This is yet another cruel game that tortures the senses unfairly. In this one, the guests are given baby food jars and baby spoons. The labels are off the jars, and I don't know what the rationale behind the baby spoons is. To fit the theme of the party? Anyway, each mom must taste-test the variety of pureed baby foods and match it to a circulating list. First, baby food is disgusting. Second, it's also gross to get a jar you just watched the coughing guest two ladies over dip her used baby spoon in, and everyone is smiling and laughing and teasing you for being a wuss because you don't want to eat germ-contaminated baby food.
Spit the Pacifier I've also heard about a "bob the nipple" version of this. Anyway, this is under the genre of baby shower games that over reach to make everything "baby related" somehow. In spitting the pacifier, you stand at a distance and see how far a distance you can "spit" (forcefully pop the pacifier) out of your mouth. Farthest distance wins. The other version is like "bobbing for apples," but with pacifiers instead. I do not understand this.
Daddy Knows Best This is another I'm just uncomfortable with because it seems basically intrusive and problematic. What happens is that the party organizers quiz the dad beforehand on how he would respond to hypothetical parenting situations. Then, at the party, this background is explained and the questions are brought out. There, on the spot, the mom is supposed to respond with her answers. I always feel uncomfortable when this happens; it seems intrinsically divisive. Doesn't help when the guests catcall and hoot whenever it's revealed that daddy would do something differently than mom. It seems, in short, as though they're trying to sow discontent between the new parents for cheap entertainment.
Guess the Girth This one is just appalling. It's amazing how in the name of fun and games, it becomes okay to humiliate our friends -- and if they complain, they're a party-pooper. Basically, all the shower guests are asked to put an estimate of how big the moms belly is/ how much weight she's gained during pregnancy on a piece of paper. Near the end of the party (probably so mom-to-be isn't crying through the party itself), mom-to-be is measured or weighed, depending on which tack her "friends" took with the game. The guest whose guess was closest wins a prize (and the ever-lasting hatred of her pregnant friend).
Baby Price is Right . . . And this game just seems designed to guilt-trip the guests. In this game, a basket of everyday baby items -- diaper lotion, diapers, pacifiers, bibs, baby aspirin, etc. -- is passed around. Guests must write down how much they think each item cost. The guest who's most accurate gets a prize. Also, anyone familiar with the expecting moms financial situation feels horribly guilty and selfish, even if they brought 12 packs of Costco diapers.
The guest list
This, I am beginning to realize, has more to do with tradition. See, I grew up LDS. When I was pregnant with my first (and only) child, some friends of my mom threw a baby shower for me. It was pretty low key -- none of the aforementioned games, just ladies 40 and over sitting around, chatting, and eating little cupcakes. I opened some presents and talked a little about how my pregnancy was going. The only downside? My husband really wanted to attend, and it was made really clear that this was a ladies-only event.
In the ensuing years, I've noticed the no-dads thing over and over again. Baby showers are weirdly gender-segregated. I've read online about inclusive baby showers, but I have not yet experienced one. I've been to a few where the dads are present, but relegated to the back room to take care of the kids while their wives and girlfriends play games and eat cookies. But I haven't been to any with a balanced guest list. Instead I find myself sitting uncomfortably in a room full of women as they compare their war stories.
And when women get together and talk about childbirth and their bodies, it is gross. I really don't care to hear that someone I know in passing tore three times, and had to go back for stitches when they ripped during sex, and that she's had UTI's ever since and sex hurts. Really. I don't need to know that. None of us need to know that. Why would you share that, other than to terrify the mom-to-be?
Then there's the women who buy into the whole gender-divide and think men can't do any parenting-related activity right. They sit there and complain about how their husband lets the baby toddle around unattended, and how he doesn't check the milk he just heated with his wrist, but instead with his finger -- and everyone knows your finger isn't sensitive enough! They mutter about how untrustworthy and awful their husbands are, and if you pipe up with, "My husband is a good dad," they warn you in dire tones of the calamity you are courting by letting *gasp* a man help. Or they take that opportunity to sigh in dolorous tones and opine that you're so lucky to have a husband who actually wants to interact with his kids, completely and gloriously unaware of how their micromanaging is distancing their spouse and partner.
I hate these situations. I hate these highly uncomfortable "parties," with the divisive gender segregation, avarice, and the humiliating games that shoe-horn any potential baby reference in, no matter how far the reach. I hate how they seem to reinforce the idea that dads can't do anything right. And I hate that I continue to be invited to them, and (especially in the case of close friends/ family), I can't see any way to bow out. Why, after all, would I not want to celebrate the impending birth of a new niece or nephew? Am I so cold and heartless that I hate their joy?
A final word
No. No, I do not hate their joy. I am more than happy to cook meals to help them out after the baby is born. I will eagerly offer my services as an occasional babysitter, and I am perfectly happy to bring gifts of diapers, pacifiers, and even baby clothes when I happen to run across something I can afford. I happen to think it is morally and ecologically preferable to have only one child per family, but I also believe in freedom of choice. If you choose to have multiple children, I'll celebrate your growing family with you.
I am unhappy that my willingness to do these activities increasingly seems to be contingent upon my willingness to perpetuate this gender-divisive parenting mentality and how happy I am about attending baby showers. Again, I am happy to attend a so-called "traditional" baby shower for firstborns. I mean, first time for everything, and I'll suffer through with a grin and no complaints. But the second/ third/ fourth child "traditional" baby showers? I will come. Reluctantly. I will also arrange to leave early if it proves to be the sort that is gender-segregated and cheesy-game-heavy, and with gracious apologies back out of the party shortly after dropping off the requisite gift. I see no benefit to my presence, and the shower is merely a vehicle for the gifts in any case.
But, dear friend/ family member, please do not call me up in two days and berate me for leaving a "really fun party," early, and please do not complain about my "pre-conceived notions." Thank you, I stayed long enough to get a feel for the party, note the guests, and listen to some conversation. I saw no evidence to convince me to stay.
* A note: When bemoaning multi-child baby showers, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I am not including a certain (slightly rarer) subtype of younger child: The baby-to-be who is 10+ years younger than their nearest sibling. At that point, it's completely believable and understandable that the parents would have given away/ thrown away/ sold all the baby clothes/ cribs/ changing tables/ pacifiers/ diaper genies/ baby einstein videos/ etc. Sure, I'll pitch in.
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