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Mass-Blasted Gratitude and Greed

I am not sure if this is a breach of etiquette and am hoping your readers can advise me if you publish this one.

I recently attended a baby shower without the shower.

My cousin threw herself a shower and invited everyone with a mass text message, but this passed without comment (until now!) as she is a lovely person.

We all thought long and hard and shopped extensively to get her items we thought she’d like for her baby. I was looking forward to seeing the gifts opened and exclaimed over, and her reaction to my gift which I knew she really wanted.

The afternoon tea wore on, and eventually my cousin decided it was time to go. We must have looked a bit bemused, as she indicated the big pile of gifts and said, “I will take these home so Hubby can enjoy opening them too.”

We were disappointed as the gift-opening is the most fun and exciting part as you experience joy from watching the present received and the excitement of “talking babies” and imagining the little one to come in all the items. Anyway, being Australian, we are not all familiar with the idea of baby showers, being an Americanism that has lately caught on here.

Am I missing something, or did this shower miss the point? I was also embarrassed as I did not put Hubby’s name on the card, believing that the shower was for Cousin and the gift on baby’s arrival would be the one I addressed to both parents. When we all received a generic thank you for gifts via text message on our mobiles, it was signed from both and I felt bad for excluding Hubby. This was only because I thought the shower was exclusively for mum, as the ones who carries and gives birth to baby.

Grateful for any explanation from my etiquette-aware friends across the seas! 0307-11

It sounds like this lovely woman has some issues with being an opportunist by assimilating  all that is bad about USA  baby showers.     I hesitate to even call what she hosted a “shower” since in the USA it would be viewed as very odd for someone to postpone opening the gifts rained upon them by guests to another time and place.

When we apply the question, “Who is being served?”, to this situation,  the answer is obvious.   She is.   It benefits her to host her own shower because she gains in material possessions.   One would think people would have more dignity than to solicit gifts by hosting a party in which they are the guest of honor and main recipient of their friends’ generosity.   In essence, self-hosting a shower is a statement by the mother/hostess that she cannot trust her friends to step up to the plate to provide her with the needed items to care for a new baby so she must manipulate hospitality into a perverse form to extract what she could not freely receive otherwise.

As for the generic, mass-blasted thank you, it benefits the soon-to-be mom to be lazy in her gratitude.  God forbid she should have to actually work to express her thankfulness in personal terms.   Mom eschewed her right to be exempt from writing thank you notes when she declined to open gifts and thank each giver personally to her face.    You and every other guest were nothing more than a vehicle to transfer the asset of your money spent on a gift to her.   (To avoid this in the future, note that mass-blasted invitations lack that personal “I want *YOU* to come…” touch and this is a harbinger of worse things to come.)

{ 70 comments… add one }
  • wolfgirl March 22, 2011, 5:31 am

    I agree with everyone who says this mum was rude to invite via text, thank via text etc. However I’m always slightly icked out by the concept of showers in general (british, so we dont have them). It makes me smile when everyone gets up in arms that she “hosted her OWN shower”, as they see this as a shamless gift grab. And I agree, it is. I would not attend. But what I fail to see is how having your best friend arrange an event for you where the sole, obligatory purpose of the event is to give the “honoree” gifts, is so much better? The aim is still undeniably for the MTB (or BTB for briadal showers) to obtain gifts off her friends and family. As far as I can tell its basically compulsory to bring or send a gift to these events right, unlike say a wedding? So basically the entire purpose of the gathering is “get stuff for the mum to be “. For me, the fact that the MTB’s friend hosted it rather than the recipient herself doesn’t make it all that much better, its still a gift grab, just displaced by one person.

    The bit I also hate is it’s kind of a popularity contest. All these discussions agree that you CANNOT throw your own. Fine I do not disagree. But a poster stated that if a MTB has no-one to throw a shower for her, she just doesn’t get one. People have stated that a shower is a good thing (as opposed to a gift grab) as it allows new moms to get things they might desperately need. But according to the ettiquette, mums who might be most in need of a bit of help, say they are fairly poor, socially isolated, just moved away from family etc, would not be allowed a shower as they cannot politely throw it themselves. Whereas women who have huge groups of friends and family, and are somewhat less likely to actually be in dire NEED of baby kit, can quite happily have a huge party arranged for them in order for all their aquaintances to buy them boxes of CUTE baby gubbins.

    I may not have explained that well, but I just think the “its RUDE to throw your own shower but fine for a friend to do it ” attitude seems like it enables greed in those who are not needy of support, but alienates those without a support network to help them put materialy and socially.

    I agree it is rude to host your own shower. I just also think its fairly rude to have a baby shower full stop. If you must celebrate your pregnancy (and really is it necessary in most cases?), just have a “I’m gonna have my first baby, YAY!” party, hosted by whomever, friends or mum to be if necessary, do not mention gifts, and don’t register anywhere (ick!), host the party and make your guests welcome, and if people want to bring baby gifts, which they probaby will, then you will get the romper suits, but without the implicit gimmie! Just a thought…:)

  • karmabottle March 22, 2011, 5:39 am

    AKatC, I’ll attempt to address that, but only because you asked. Others may not agree, but here it is.

    A baby shower is not something that everyone is automatically guaranteed. (Think of it like a high school prom: some go, some don’t). Even if you had local friends, you cannot be assured that someone would offer a shower.

    Yes, it would be terrible form for your spouse to throw you a shower, as you can see in comments above. It’s just not good form. Take the money and go out to dinner instead!

    When no shower is thrown, you collect your own baby things. You and your spouse go shopping together, and the two of you have fun choosing items over the nine months of your pregnancy. Look at it this way: you get to read labels, choose colors, research on the internet, and shop for bargains.
    You don’t need dozens of other people to outfit your baby. You’ll feel the satisfaction of doing it yourselves. Moreover, it’s only as expensive as you make it. You can do this easily for a modest cost.

    Half the fun of the 9 months you carry your baby is getting your home ready. You don’t need anyone but the two of you to do that.

    Most of all, don’t sit about feeling like you missed something. You didn’t. Those who wish to send you congratulations or a gift will do so.

  • SHOEGAL March 22, 2011, 7:37 am

    Wolfgirl – you can’t host your own shower and you also can’t nag your girlfriend or family to throw you one either – you can’t even politely ask someone to do this for you. The idea of a shower is that someone in your life thought it would be nice way to honor your life changing event by “showering” you with gifts. The sole purpose of the party is to give a gift – everyone is aware of this – if you don’t want to give – simply don’t go. If you are having a baby – it is your sole responsibility to provide for your child even if funds & help are limited.

  • AS March 22, 2011, 9:34 am

    For those who asked “what if no one can throw a baby shower” – the answer is (as others have said before), you don’t have one. If a young couple cannot provide the essentials for their baby, then it is not yet time for them to have a baby. Period. It is just an additional bonus to be given a shower.

    @FunkyMunky – I think it is a good idea to get something for the MTB. Spa is relaxing, and would ease the MTB when she is stressed out, and I think it is a nice practical gift for her. I had once sent a friend of mine a gift card to a spa too, in addition to ToysRUs (she didn’t even have a shower; I just sent her because she is a close friend of mine). She liked it quite a bit.

    Just as a side note – in my culture, the mother of the MTB or her MIL throws the baby shower. It is a gathering for all women close to the MTB, who “shower” her with love and advice. It is also to “show solidarity” and welcome the baby to the world (as Jen50 said too). But it is considered inauspicious for guests to bring any gifts (back in those days when mortality at birth was high, it would have been painful for the mother to receive gifts for her unborn baby if he/she does not make it; the custom just continues), and hence there is absolutely no gift. It is just a break for the mother from regular routine of pregnancy, a lot of pampering, and “women-talks”. And of course, a lot of women recount their own experiences when their little ones were born, and some of the older ones will get nostalgic about how their little babies have grown old. There are tears and laughter, but never any presents. I think that is a pretty sweet custom.

  • Enna March 22, 2011, 10:19 am

    @ AS: sometimes babies are concieved and happen at anytime. Most pregnancies aren’t planned they just happen and no contraceptive is not 100%. Also what happens when the baby is concieved both parents are working but at some point during the pregancy one or both people loose their jobs? Doesn’t matter if the couple are married or unmarried sometimes babies just happen – or are we suposed to take monastic vows until we are married for 25 years and have paid off the morgate of a house and saved up 2/3 college funds before we even think of doing “the deed”? Theres no right or wrong. Life isn’t predicatable or easy or conivenant.

    This baby shower does sound a bit strange though. Normal showers where the gifts are opened and the givers thanked properly are different. So long as the host doesn’t expect unreasonable expensive gifts. Maybe the OP should think twice about going to a baby shower or any kind of “special occasion” event if she’ s invited by txt message.

  • Kitty Lizard March 22, 2011, 10:42 am

    I can’t begin to count the etiquette violations in this shower: from who threw the shower, the form the shower took, now opening the presents in front of the guests, teh mass blasted e-mails – the list goes on.

    The custom made it down under, but unfortunately, the rules didn’t. Lord, please don’t let this become popular in its current form. Can you spell GIFT GRAB???

  • Louise March 22, 2011, 11:35 am

    “sometimes babies are concieved and happen at anytime. Most pregnancies aren’t planned they just happen and no contraceptive is not 100%. Also what happens when the baby is concieved both parents are working but at some point during the pregancy one or both people loose their jobs? Doesn’t matter if the couple are married or unmarried sometimes babies just happen – or are we suposed to take monastic vows until we are married for 25 years and have paid off the morgate of a house and saved up 2/3 college funds before we even think of doing “the deed”? Theres no right or wrong. Life isn’t predicatable or easy or conivenant.”

    I’m not sure what point you’re making. Are you saying that it’s OK for a struggling couple with an unexpected pregnancy to throw themselves a shower? I disagree. I would hope family would rally to help them, and perhaps a friend would throw them a shower, but for them to hold it themselves? A we-can’t-afford-a-child-so-we-want-you-to-help-us baby shower? Heck no. Unplanned pregnancies are life-changing and extremely difficult to go through. I sympathize with any couple going through that. But I draw the line when you call on me to help you finance your choice to have a family you can’t afford. Ask me for help on an individual level, but don’t try to get baby stuff from me under the guise of a shower you’re throwing for yourself.

  • Bint March 22, 2011, 12:17 pm

    Wolfgirl, I feel the same recoil from showers full stop, regardless of who throws it. Obviously US culture is often different from ours though, and it really doesn’t have those connotations when it’s done properly there. To us, without that history, it just becomes a ‘bring my friend a present for her baby’ party, so it still looks greedy.

    One of my friends threw herself a baby shower. It didn’t go down well. She has offered to throw me one. I declined. She pushed it. I had to tell I’d be really uncomfortable and embarrassed (actually I’d hate it). She still doesn’t understand why, but at least she’s dropped it now. I don’t want anyone being press-ganged into giving me anything.

  • karmabottle March 22, 2011, 5:19 pm

    Love the reference, Bint: “press-ganged”.

  • Kendra March 22, 2011, 11:11 pm

    @ Enna: “sometimes babies are concieved and happen at anytime. Most pregnancies aren’t planned they just happen and no contraceptive is not 100%. Also what happens when the baby is concieved both parents are working but at some point during the pregancy one or both people loose their jobs? Doesn’t matter if the couple are married or unmarried sometimes babies just happen – or are we suposed to take monastic vows until we are married for 25 years and have paid off the morgate of a house and saved up 2/3 college funds before we even think of doing “the deed”? Theres no right or wrong. Life isn’t predicatable or easy or conivenant.”

    Sorry, this is why God invented Thrift Shops/Salvation Army. My son was an “unexpected” pregnancy. I was unmarried (still am, raised my son as a single mom), working minimum wage, didn’t have two pennies to rub together-certainly couldn’t afford the baby stuff. No, I didn’t have a baby shower. I got most of the basics from thrift stores, and they had some really neat stuff that you just can’t find nowadays, and only had to buy things like nipples for bottles new. So, no, you don’t have to have all new stuff to have a baby, and having a “surprise” pregnancy doesn’t give one the right to throw herself a gimme baby stuff shower.

  • AKatC March 23, 2011, 12:46 am

    I appreciate all the comments answering my question but I do feel that most of you assumed that I could not provide for my child and therefore REQUIRED a shower to obtain the baby’s essentials. This is not the case. My husband and I could (and will) easily afford what our baby needs, which is why we are having her now as opposed to a few years ago. My reason for wanting a shower is simple, this is my first child, we had extreme difficulty conceiving and dammit, I’m excited. I just want to celebrate with friends and family. My husband is also excited and quite frankly impressed by the whole ordeal that I am and will continue to go through in order to bring our baby into the world. He wants to celebrate me. Now I don’t wish to be confrontational, I’m just curious, why would him wanting to celebrate me be “wrong”?

    • admin March 23, 2011, 6:26 am

      AKatC, There is nothing wrong with hosting a “Meet the Baby” party once you’ve delivered…as long as you don’t mention that you happen to also be expecting gifts from people. Luncheons after a baptism or christening are common, too. I had a planned Caesarian section with my second child so we hosted what we called a “Julius Caesar Party” the night before the surgery as a kind of pun and to distract me from thinking about upcoming surgery by preoccupying my time with hostessing. We served a lasagna dinner, about 20 guests (men and women) came dressed in togas, we played games that had a lot of trivia questions about famous c-sections and there wasn’t a single gift in sight.

  • Caper March 23, 2011, 6:38 am

    Admin – if I ever need to have a c-section, I’m stealing your idea. That’s so creative !

  • rmmuir March 23, 2011, 10:30 am

    @AKatC: Perhaps you should just call it something else? I’m British so I don’t know/understand the whole deal about showers adn the rules and etiquette behind them. Just invite people round for a celebration but make sure that the word shower is not mentioned anywhere perhaps could get round the difficulties.

  • Enna March 23, 2011, 3:10 pm

    The point I was making is that there’s no “one plan/size fits all” babies don’t always happen at the best of times. If the shower is a greedy gift grab then that’s rude and greedy. Like this baby shower was just odd and did come across as being greedy and lazy inviting ppl by text.

    If the couple are strapped for cash and throw a lavish, pricey baby-shower then something’s not right. However if it is done tastefully and within the couple’s budget then what’s wrong with that? So long as the couple are reasonable about what they expect as gifts – maybe more of a”Baby Welcome” rather than a “Baby Shower” and people give if they want. With my group of firends have had babies we don’t have “showers” but people will pass on baby clothes that their child has grown out of but can still be used for another.

    It just annoys me when people say “don’t have babies when you can’t afford it” as somethings are easier said then done.

  • Bint March 23, 2011, 3:47 pm

    Enna, I don’t think any couple should throw a party that is thrown with the expectation of presents for their baby, however ‘reasonable’ they are about ‘what they expect as gifts’ – there is *nothing* reasonable about throwing a party to get presents for your baby. You have no right to ‘expect’ gifts from people. It can’t be done tastefully. It’s greedy as hell.

    I think you’re in the UK too? Surely, surely you must have seen how generous people are to newborn babies here? I’ve never seen it fail, ever. And AKatC, people *will* be happy for you, and celebrate with you. If they aren’t, having a shower isn’t going to change that and may make them think rather differently of you (as opposed to just a party). Throwing yourself a shower makes people assume you’re greedy, because ‘shower’ means ‘bring the baby a present’. Just let people be and have a little faith in human nature. They will come through and when they do it will mean a hundred times more for being spontaneous.

  • Louisa March 23, 2011, 7:26 pm

    As the OP I’d like to thank everyone for their thoughts and advice and also clarify a couple of things.
    When I said baby showers were recently catching on here in Oz, I meant it in a relative sense. The other Aussie posters are right in that I’d also estimate it has been about ten years, but that’s not a long time to me when it is a longer-term tradition in the US. It is not that widespread in my area either and has only gained momentum in the last two or three years (again, in my area and in pop culture).
    I am aware of the inappropriateness of inviting and thanking people by text message, regardless of the occasion-Antipodeans do write thank you notes (or should!) It was just the situation regarding the present-opening I was fuzzy on and the responses have clarified this for me. A shower is a shower of gifts, seems to be the consensus-and the word of the ladies from the place where it originated is good enough for me! It is a lovely idea when not hijacked by gimme-pigs.
    Also, the issue with the card was that I put only cousin’s name on-not HER hubby’s. I put my whole family’s on. When I was thrown a surprise baby shower by my cousin at her home we all shared food, a couple of games and a lovely catch-up, then I was given beautiful items from all my friends and family members with cards from each whole family on whose behalf the woman attended. I thought that was nice and followed suit here, but was embarrassed that the Cousin’s Hubby in the story was cracking open a card from my family that excluded him, as I assumed Cousin would open it at the shower.
    Someone asked about the event itself; we had high tea at a hotel, no games, and the time was spent catching up and chatting. That was really nice, but there was no baby focus-I would have loved to coo over the presents and discuss the baby to come more.
    Finally in defence of cousin, I have to say she really is nice if a bit greedy, and that’s why people went (not many though!). I should have had a clue after her wedding-we all received a thank you printed on a photo. Nice enough, but didn’t reflect the time or effort of writing individually or acknowledging what was given. Some Aussies might say this is not done here but it certainly is among lots of people-it just depends on your family and culture I guess. It’s true that we often throw (usually birthday) parties for ourselves though. Our bad!
    Thanks again for your interesting thoughts.

  • FunkyMunky March 24, 2011, 5:17 am

    @AKatC your husband celebrating you is lovely. Doing so by asking all of your friends and family to buy you things (especially things you don’t need)? Rude.

    He could take you out for a lovely dinner or even host a different kind of party. But a shower is, by its nature, about gifts. You can’t see why soliciting gifts for yourself on any scale is impolite?

  • AS March 28, 2011, 5:31 pm

    @Enna – I accept your point that babies are not necessarily always planned. But I guess you agree that throwing yourself baby showers for the sole purpose of your family and friends’ buying you what you can’t afford is a big “no-no”! You never know the economic situation of the guests who are expected to bring you gifts.
    (BTW, my boyfriend and I have actually taken the “monastic vows” until we graduate from grad school and find ourselves a job, because we absolutely can’t afford a baby now. In fact, we are holding off on getting married until we save enough too. We live together. Lot of people look down upon our decision to live together before marriage, but we really need to save, and also late in the evenings are often the only time we are home as we spend most of the time at work. Don’t get me wrong- I have nothing against people who get pregnant accidentally. In fact, I have immense respect for people who take responsibility for the accidental pregnancy, and bring them up through the hardships. But just saying that there are people who do try to try to avoid accidental pregnancy).

    @AKatC- I have often wondered too as to how you can throw yourself a baby shower without coming out as being greedy, especially when you are at a place where anything to do with babies are automatically associated with gifts. I mean, it is probably nice to hold a “Meet the baby” party as admin said. But how can you convey to the guests that you don’t want gifts? I am under the impression that it is tacky to add a line in the invitation saying “please do not bring any presents”, but I’d be happy if we can add such a line.

  • JCS April 16, 2011, 7:13 am

    @AS – It isn’t that you have to deny wanting gifts. As others have said, people close to you and moved by this life change will give you a gift whether or not you have a shower. If you want to hold a celebration of your coming or recently arrived baby, host a tea (sometimes called a Sip and See if held after the baby arrives), or a luncheon, or a BBQ, or any event which suits you. Just don’t call it a shower, which is an event expressly for the purpose of bringing gifts.

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