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Hijacked Shower

I am best friends with a woman we will call Susie. Susie is expecting her second child in a couple of months. She already has a son and she is expecting a daughter. I was talking with a mutual friend, “Emma,” about the coming joyful event, and Emma suggested we plan a party for Susie and the coming daughter. My initial reaction was “No” because I am not big on showers as it is and certainly frown upon the idea of a second shower. Emma, though, says that it would be nice have a small, intimate group of Susie’s closest friends. I was not thinking of it as a “shower” – just a party to celebrate friend – but I realized later I was clearly in the minority.

Now, I know what you are thinking because I have been reading this site for 2 years and I always thought the same thing. So, I should have known better. But, of course, I agreed. I thought it would be a really small party, no registries or anything like that.

A few issues arose at first and, while annoying, I moved past them. For instance, when we asked Susie’s husband for a list of people to invite to the “small, intimate” event, we got a list of 45 women. I also got a registry list that I discreetly put aside in the event someone asked for it. Susie’s husband also happened to mention the party to a couple women, one of whom emailed me her address for invitations. Unfortunately, she was not one of the 45 who made it to the list of 10 (almost entirely family). So, I had the unpleasant task of telling her there was a misunderstanding and she was not invited.

Emma and I had trouble finding a location near Susie’s house for the party. We decided to ask Susie’s MIL if she would be willing to open up her home for the party. We made it clear that we would take care of all the details – we were just looking for a location. I had checked local sites but for a 10am event most restaurants were closed and there were not many options. MIL happily agreed. This was my second faux pas.

So, Emma and I very excitedly start planning the event. I sent out invitations and asked MIL if it would be okay if I came at 9am on the day of the event to decorate – I never received a response. A few days later, MIL sent an email saying she forgot to invite a couple of cousins. (?) I was distracted by life so I did not see the subtle shift. We were fine for a couple additional invites, so we agreed.

Then, she sent an email to Emma and I explaining what she was going to serve and that she was getting decorations, paper products, favors, and anything else necessary for the party. She asked whether she should order the cake or whether Susie’s mom would like to make it. I emailed her back and thanked her for her generosity but explained that Emma and I were planning the entire event and taking care of all food, decorations, etc. I have extensive experience in party-planning so I like to take a unique approach to decorations, usually centered around a theme (Emma and I had agreed I would do decorations). I also mentioned that since it was a 10am shower, we were going to have breakfast foods (MIL had planned cold cuts).

MIL wrote back and explained that she wanted to decorate the night before and she was going out to shop for supplies. She also asked whether people would want to eat when they came to the shower and thought, instead, we’d eat after opening present and shower games (?! Of course, we did not intend to have games). Thus, lunch was appropriate. (Side note: I’ve been to several showers where the hostesses did not allow guests to eat immediately and it has always been a pet peeve of mine – most guests arrive ready to eat.) She otherwise expressed all the same points she made in the original email in which she explained her plan for the event.

At this point, I really did not want to compete with her for the event so I told her that it sounded like she had everything under control and that it made sense for me to step down as co-host. (Does a party of 7 guests need 3 hostesses?) She responded that she was sorry for offending me and that she would not interfere but just take care of favors and decorations (and return the paper products she had purchased). Honestly, I had spent all the energy I had intended to invest in the event. I wrote back and thanked her but said that we had different ideas about the event and she was clearly excited about her idea. I just did not want to fight with her for control — not one of the battles in life I cared enough about to fight.

Lesson learned: NEVER ask someone if she will allow you to use her house if you are not willing to make her a co-host and NEVER EVER go against your instinct to not throw a party.   0429-10


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • PrincessSimmi May 3, 2010, 6:29 am

    Well… you know what went wrong. Now you can make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t know what else to say.

  • janie May 3, 2010, 7:34 am

    I opened my home for a baby shower and was told by my sil and mil that they had the cutest decorations and don’t worry about decorations. So I put up a few balloons. They arrived empty handed….they couldn’t find where they’d put them….and they “knew” I decorate anyway. I was slightly mortified. I’ve learned not to depend on other people…unless you know that they are the dependable type to start with. Hope the party went well tho.

  • Baby May 3, 2010, 8:49 am

    see, i was wondering about this. i am pregnant with my second child, and my best friend asked if she could throw me a shower. i’m not scared to mince words with her, or anything, so i told her that i didn’t think a shower for a second child was appropriate. she insisted that this child deserves to be celebrated, as well, and i know she was excited to do this for me, so i agreed. my husband and i have rather large families, so the guest list consists of about 20 people, 14 of which are family. the other 6 are women who insisted that i let them know when my shower would be (apparently everyone thinks second showers are acceptable). my husband and i already have most of the necessities for this baby (same sex as the first, and all), so the word “shower” won’t be used anywhere, and if anyone asks where i’m registered (horrifying!), she’s just going to tell them that diapers and children’s books would be appreciated.

  • phoenix May 3, 2010, 9:04 am

    Well it sounds like this was handled as graciously as possible, and with as few sore feelings as could be had. Not bad, as far as cautionary tales go! It’s always tricky dealing with the different ways people approach “hosting” an event, since so many people are used to different levels of expectations. I am a little concerned for the actual mom-t0-be though…seems like she was hoping for a much different event.

  • Margaret May 3, 2010, 9:13 am

    I thought this story was going to end with “We showed up at her house with our food and supplies for 10, only to find 50 guests in attendance!”

    I don’t believe in the second baby shower, although I know lots of people who have showers for every kid. I think it is appropriate where there is a big gap in the kids — e.g. there has been second marriage after many years, or even just a 10 year surprise. I didn’t have showers for each kid, BUT we did have a little lunch after each kid was baptized, and my aunts brought gifts and kind of treated it as a shower. I feel a little guilty about that, because I’m not much of a present giver, and it generally doesn’t cross my mind to buy people presents when they have a baby.

  • DGS May 3, 2010, 10:24 am

    While second child showers are indeed tacky, I wonder if OP could have been firmer with friends, MIL’s, etc. regarding what she was and was not comfortable doing. Setting firm boundaries at the beginning, “I have the time and resources to devote to a small party of a few friends and family where we might have a few bites of petit fours and cake and spend some time discussing our joy at the impending arrival” and showing consistency would have saved a lot of headaches in this instance. To a 45-person guest list, one says, “I cannot accomodate that amount of people”. To a mile-long registry list, one says, “since you are already blessed with Little Bobby, why don’t we live it up to the attendees if they choose to bring a gift?” To a pushy MIL, one says, “We have already taken care of decorations, but we would love it if you could lend us some creative ideas for party favors” (or cake flavor or whatever minor detail might need taking care of at that time). And to avoid it turning into an afternoon of shower games and gift opening till Kingdom come, why not pick a theme and set a time limit, “High tea, 2 pm – 5 pm” or “Cake and punch, 1 pm – 4 pm” or brunch, or whatever and ask the guests to contribute by writing a letter or picking out a poem for a new arrival that can be pasted into a memory book and given to the new Mom at the party?

  • Chocobo May 3, 2010, 10:45 am

    I think throwing a little “yay! a baby!” party is alright for a second child, just to celebrate the coming of a new family member, but a shower doesn’t make sense and seems greedy, I agree.

    It sounds like OP needed to be much, much more clear on what kind of party she was intending to throw. I also agree that it was not a good idea to treat someone else’s house like a professional venue. Ultimately that person should (and does, whether you like it or not) have some say over what goes on at their house. If the OP wanted more control over the outcome of that party, she should have asserted herself more over the situation and not expected to be in control of someone else’s home.

  • Second Baby May 3, 2010, 11:22 am

    I don’t understand, what is so wrong about having a baby shower for a second child? Especially if the gender is different from the first child, since he/she will have entirely different needs. Most of my friends who have two children really appreciate a shower, since many of their baby clothes are worn/stained and not reusable. In addition, the second baby needs diapers, wet wipes, baby shampoo, etc. just as much as the first one did.

    Sure, the parents may not need to register for the big stuff, like a crib, but a shower is supposed to celebrate an upcoming birth, congratulate parents, celebrate with them, and help equip them with things they need. All of these things are appropriate for a second (or third, fourth) birth as much as for a first baby.

  • Elizabeth Bunting May 3, 2010, 12:02 pm

    This is not about showers, but it somewhat fits as to the enlisting the help of others when throwing a party.

    We have just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary over the whole month of April. Our family threw us a dinner in Ontario on April 11th and I was the one who organized it and they paid. Every detail worked out perfectly, though I had to double check EVERY step of the way with the caterers. The number of mistakes that could have been made were amazing even though they were being PAID for their work.

    Lastly, we threw a pig roast for the club we belong to which usually has a Spring Fling. We decided to combine this with our anniversary and pay for the pig, for the hall and for the decorations.

    The pig barbecue part of it went like clockwork because our friend Don has it down to a science with his crew of people watching it every step of the way. They had to start the barbeque at 7:00 a.m. because the pig was frozen, which they didn’t expect.

    However, the rest of the part was supposed to be taken care of by the club, which they would have to do anyway. The chair of the committee couldn’t make it suddenly until late in the afternoon because she had a rummage sale at her church. This is after one full year of volunteering her services for the party. The tables did not get set up until after 4 o’clock when most people had arrived. We had paid for the rental of the dishes, but nobody knew where they were and the cupboard was locked, etc. The chair of the committee’s husband is the manager of the hall, but 4 things went wrong with the dates, etc., right at the beginning.

    The greeter, who was supposed to have people sign the Legion guest book, give out the name tags and the complimentary CD’s (which we had bought) cancelled at the last moment, so I had to do it. I missed having a one on one conversation with my guests because of this.

    However, everything was finally done and it was a great party. In looking back, what happened was that I was away in Ontario and Florida during the month of April and could not ride herd and double check on everything.

    If you are a host or co-host, be prepared to be disappointed, have people cancel or not do things they said they would do, double check absolutely everything and do not take anyone’s word for anything.

    Just my thoughts,


  • Moby Jane May 3, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Second Baby, just a quick question: do male and female babies really have “entirely different needs”? I know that you need different models of diaper for boys vs. girls, but a burp cloth is a burp cloth, no?

    DF and I are pretty much DIYers, so we plan on buying the basic needs you mentioned (wipes, shampoo, onesies, etc.) ourselves when/if we’re blessed with kids.

    Just curious…

  • livvy May 3, 2010, 2:34 pm

    @ second baby: The essential thought is that a party (of any kind) isn’t to be thrown based on need, want or expectation of receiving gifts. Yes, of course, a second baby brings with him/her a need for clothing, diapers and other things, but one presumes that the couple in question would have thought of that when planning to extend their family.

    I think the poster made the first (and most crucial) mistake when she asked for a list of invitees. If she really was a close intimate of Suzie, she would have known her well enough to either a)know the names of a couple other close friends b)been acquainted enough with the husband to ask specifically for one or two friends names, etc. Once she asked for an open ended list of invitees, she lost control of the situation. (Also, it would have helped to have set number and location picked in advance…such as I’m planning on a lunch for 8 close friends at my house…which also would have limited the guest list.)

  • wanda May 3, 2010, 3:10 pm

    @second baby: Perhaps the parents should not have to depend on a shower to be able to afford “diapers, wet wipes, baby shampoo, etc.” For a first baby, a shower could give the parents might some guidance on what products to buy or the opportunity to try lots of different brands and items. By the time the second baby comes, the parents should know about these items already.

  • Danielle May 3, 2010, 3:38 pm

    this is an issue my family is debating right now, my cousin-in-law is having her third child (the second with my cousin) her first child is now 7 her second now 1, we are planning a small get together NOT A SHOWER as this baby is also a boy and will be using all the major stuff from the last shower, we may get some small items like new bottles, diapers etc, but in general from what i understand a shower is a rather huge faux pas for a second or third child

  • PrincessSimmi May 3, 2010, 6:13 pm

    Second Baby- your Post makes me wary as you are beginning to sound a bit gimme-gimme. Ultimately your family, your children, are your responsibility. If you can’t afford one, don’t have one. Don’t expect people to part with their hard-earned money to celebrate you and your child. Yes, if you’ve already had a boy and you’re now having a girl, you will need a few different items- and yes, people can offer things to you. Don’t ask, and don’t celebrate yourself- have a ‘welcome tithe family’ party after baby is born. Just don’t feel entitled when you’re not.

    I’ve given many gifts to friends and family for the first baby- books, toys, etc- things that can be used for either gender. My aunt got upset when I refused to spend over $200 now she’s pregnant with the second one- I have a mortgage now! And the books I gave you the first time are still good. Now I only give presents on my cousins birthdays and nothing else.

  • Princess Raccoon May 3, 2010, 8:33 pm

    I like the idea of a party to say “yeah, a baby”, because the sentiment is sweet. I can’t imagine actually registering for something like that. I’m a bit iffy on doing it for the first child.

    My friends had an adoption shower for me before I went to Russia to get my daughters. We asked that, if people wanted to give a gift, give to our adotpion agency or give us toys to leave at the orphanages. I just didn’t like the idea of someone buying something for my kid–my responsibility–when we would encounter so many in such need.

  • cal May 3, 2010, 10:58 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with a second baby shower either. I can see it being smaller than the first, but if the family wants to have one I don’t really see the big deal (and I say this as someone that got most of her baby stuff as handmedowns from sisters/co-workers) The idea of judging someone because they want to celebrate another childbirth just seems like another way for us ladies to tear each other down and revert back to high school. OMG she had a second baby shower. OMG she has a birthday party every year. Why does the kid need to have a birthday party every year? Common, they just had a party last year. If you don’t want to buy them anything, don’t. If you don’t think it’s an appropriate thing, don’t go. Better that and explaining to the person your reasons, than passive aggressive eye rolls and whispers about them being greedy.

  • Me May 4, 2010, 12:06 am

    Cal, there’s a difference between celebrating another pregnancy (which is common in my circle of friends, we have second, third, fourth baby showers with the understanding that there will be no presents), and having a gift grab for ANOTHER child. It’s usually pretty easy to spot the difference.

  • flora May 4, 2010, 8:14 am

    The difference is that a shower is a celebration for the parents, not the baby. A baby shower is to welcome new parents to the world of parenting, a sort of rite of passage. One is not introduced to being a parent twice. (There are expections to every rule and I could see having a second shower if, say it’s the bride’s first child but the groom’s second or vice versa, or if there’s a huge gap between the middle and new child.)

  • Anonymous May 4, 2010, 10:52 am

    This is why I flat-out refused to have our (very small) wedding at my MIL’s house, because I knew, no matter what, something like this would happen. She did end up inviting her cousin at the last minute (mind you, I’ve never met him, he’s not exactly close with my husband, and the total guest list of the wedding was ten people–only immediate family), but thankfully he didn’t show up because of work. I’ve met him since, and, while a nice man, he’s not someone I would have wanted there (very vocal, and doesn’t hesitate to tell inappropriate jokes).

  • TylerBelle May 4, 2010, 1:52 pm

    As with a few of these kinds of happenings I’ve seen, I thought the LW got off pretty well. It crossed my mind that the story was going to end with her being presented with a bill for reimbursement. Also it really sounds like the MIL was rather gracious with opening her home, and that she simply wished to help out with things more so than trying to wrench hosting duties from the LW or anyone else.

  • Tracey May 4, 2010, 2:15 pm

    I think having a baby “sprinkle” is the way to celebrate subsequent births. To register for baby items the 2nd go around is a little much in my opinion. But there shouldn’t be a discussion about greed if the mom-to-be (again) is offered a baby celebration. It’s the HOST’s job to spread the word that it’s a “welcome baby” kind of sprinkle and items like diapers and wipes are much appreciated. Everything else major can be reused! I think parents need to think ahead when registering for all pink or all blue with the first child. If you know you would like to expand your family, go gender neutral. Maybe some think they’ll just re-register for the opposite colors this go around? That’s the part that gets greedy/tacky! My bet is that true friends will give appropriate clothing as gifts once the baby is born.

  • Amazed May 4, 2010, 6:49 pm

    This is a classic case of the party host losing control of the party. “We went to this person for the guest list, then that person for use of their home.” This person and that person start determining the size and style of the party, not the party hosts.

    Better to firmly define what you are willing to do before going forward with plans. The party could have been, simply, a lunch in a moderately priced restaurant with the two co-hostesses, the honoree and seven other ladies. No need to mention gifts. No need for decorations. Just a bunch of girlfriends taking a pregnant friend out to lunch to make her feel loved and special.

    After a baby is born, there is nothing wrong with the parents hosting a party to “introduce” their new baby. It doesn’t have to be a shower, which is by definition a gift-centered party. Just invite friends and relatives to an Open House, from 2 to 5, and put out finger food and soft drinks. The baby is celebrated, everyone gets to count fingers and toes, and the parents don’t look greedy and gift-motivated. Some will bring gifts on their own volition; others won’t.

  • jenna May 4, 2010, 9:38 pm

    livvy – it is not necessarily true that someone who is your very close friend would already know who should be invited and what their names are (let alone how to get ahold of those people). Maybe a few decades ago when communities were smaller and more local, but not now.

    These days a lot of people hang out in more than one group and those in another group don’t always know the full details on their other friends. My Washington DC friends don’t know my New York friends, my DC work friends from when I lived there (we live abroad now) don’t know my DC everyday friends and vice versa, nobody in either group knows my DC relatives well, the language-learning social group I was in (from Meetup) isn’t known by anyone above…etc. etc.. My post-college friends know my friends from college but only barely. And that doesn’t even get into our friends in other cities and countries!

    So it is perfectly reasonable to ask the guest of honor for a list of invitees she’d like.

  • Enna May 5, 2010, 3:04 pm

    Okay if second baby showers are about celebrating a new family member bascially OP asks the firend for a short simple list of close firends and family makes some plans keeping it simple. Maybe let the MIL make some contributions but don’t let anyone have a heart attack over it.

  • Yam Erez May 8, 2010, 10:29 pm

    Oy! The pink-and-blue devolution is killing me! Does no one question the assumption that boy and girl babies need differing gear? In fact, would the world end if you put a pink diaper on your boy? Yes, despite what the diaper manufacturers want us to think, the two types are identical; I challenge someone to find a difference. The diaper manufacturers just want the shelf space in the supermarket. Oh, and heaven forefend you dress your female child in a Washington Redskins onesy. How would it affect her gender identity??? Dear God…

  • Michelle Prieur May 9, 2010, 2:36 am

    It is not appropriate to have a second shower, but I think the posts have gotten off subject about the entry. The etiquette blunder was someone stealing the spotlight of hosting the party. There’s nothing to debate about the appropriateness of that!

  • Alissa May 11, 2010, 2:23 pm

    Honestly, I thought that the letter writer sounded a little rude – wanting to throw a party at someone else’s house but not wanting to allow that person any input on the party. Dunno, just rubs the wrong way.

    As to whether second baby showers are rude…eh. I agree that, presumably, a parent of a second child already has all or most of the major things they need (stoller, crib, car seat, et cetera) so it seems silly for a redo. On the other hand, I can tell you that in my circle, whenever someone is having a baby (no matter how many they already have) we’re all very excited and WANT to throw/attend a party to celebrate. And yes, shower them with new little outfits and diapers. I think I’m of the mindset that says “no harm, no foul.” If everyone wants and enjoys the party, where is the harm?

  • Mother of the Queen May 13, 2010, 11:22 pm

    I am planning a “Welcome Baby – A Barbecue for Friends and Family” with my friend’s mother. A shower, in my circle, for a second is considered really tacky and very gimme. Whether or not one will be a good sport and attend one of these “events” is entirely circumstantial. We do want to celebrate the arrival of adorable child number two (a boy who has an older sister). It will be held at my home so that Grandmother of new baby can keep details secret. Plus, New Mom Again, Dad, New Baby and Big Toddler sister will arrive, hopefully have lots of fun, and leave with some delicious left overs that will tide them over for a few meals/snacks. Set up and break down are entirely someone else’s responsibility. Our biggest challenge is trying to set a time that works for the newly expanded family and all the guests……

  • Kathryn June 30, 2010, 7:07 pm

    “Appropriate to have showers for each child…” I always thought it was inappropriate for a bride or a mom-to-be to assume there would be a shower at all. I have three boys, and my family hosted three baby showers, but I didn’t ask–each shower was entirely someone else’s idea (probably my mom’s). I thought it was their way of welcoming and celebrating the arrival of each of my sons. Now, had I APPROACHED my family when I found I was pregnant and said, “Oh…please, please, please, will you get every together to buy me stuff?” even ONCE, I think that would have been rude.

  • Lenera August 16, 2010, 6:02 am

    It is, indeed, exceedingly tacky to have a baby shower for anything but the first child. The term “Shower” comes from the traiditon of “Showering with gifts.” To call a party such means that gifts are expected. And since this second or third child would already have all the furniture and other large items they would need and – presumably – you can afford to have a second child, there is no need for gifts.
    That being said, it is perfectly proper and polite to have a party celebrating an addition to your family. After all, you should celebrate happy things. But call the party something else, and make sure everyone knows that it’s just a party – no gifts recquired. If someone still wishes to bring a gift (I, personally, love the oportunity to buy those adorable baby clothes) they may. Just don’t open it in front of everyone else, so you don’t offend those that followed the rules of the party.

  • N Monster October 3, 2010, 10:32 am

    Seems to me the way to go in this type of scenario would be to organize a few friends to take the expectant mom out to brunch. Hosting the party in someone’s home is where it starts to veer into shower territory. Either that or use your own home and make it a hen party type gathering. The idea of throwing a party to congratulate the friend on her new baby is sweet and entirely appropriate. Personally, though, from what I hear of pregnancy and showers, I’d probably prefer a trip to the spa for pedicures over sitting through a typical shower!

  • K October 25, 2010, 3:52 pm

    Wish everyone was as sensible as most of ya’ll are. I was snubbed by a long time friend because I didn’t want to go to her 2nd baby’s shower. I knitted her a baby sweater and hat but she was upset because I didn’t come to the party with a gift. I was like, “But I just hand-knitted you a gift!” “Well you could have brought diapers or something.”