Grandmother Showers – The New Trend In A Gimme World

by admin on February 7, 2012

My husband and I are expecting our first child in a few weeks. I declined to have a baby shower but that hasn’t stopped my mother and her friends from throwing a grandmother shower for my mom. For those who are unfamiliar, a grandmother shower is not a shower you throw someone who is lucky enough to adopt a grandparent later in life. Oh, no! A grandmother shower is a shower thrown in honor of the soon-to-be grandmother. It’s like a baby shower in that people are expected to bring baby gifts for the grandmother. Sometimes these showers are held when grandmothers are to act as a day care provider and want infant care items they can keep at their house to make things easier for themself and for the infant’s parents. In this case, I live nowhere near my mother and she wants to pass the gifts along to me. Normally I would graciously accept any gift given to me, and accept it with appreciation because no one has to give you anything ever! Gifts are not an entitlement, they are a kindness. I feel somewhat silly even making a fuss about the situation. I can’t believe I’m complaining about getting gifts but this feels like my mother appropriating the birth of my child and making it her own or about her. I understand that she’s excited, and I find her enthusiasm sweet and touching, but she’s not the one who is about to give birth.

When I heard about the grandma shower I was uncomfortable but did not voice my concerns or objections because I did not want to cause conflict. I did not want to embarrass my mother by letting her know how insensitive and egotistical I find her behavior. Nor did I wish to discuss how appallingly gimme-piggish and presumptuous I find grandma showers as a rule. However, I finally had to speak under continuous pressure to attend an event that I find both inappropriate and an intrusion into my life. My mom’s response? “Tough. I’m having it anyway and it has nothing to do with you. You can’t stop me from having it and you can’t stop my friends from doing something nice for me. What do you want me to do with the gifts?”

I don’t know how to respond to this. I can’t stop her and her friends from throwing her a shower but I don’t want the gifts. I can’t think of a way to decline them politely. I know any attempt to decline will be met with protests that I’m being selfish and ungrateful, even though I’ve made it clear that she has crossed a boundary and she’s made it clear that this shower has nothing to do with me. Is there a way to decline politely? If I do accept them, am I supposed to write thank you notes? It feel strange to write thank you notes for gifts that weren’t given to me. Gifts that were, in fact, given to my mother despite my protests. Can you help me escape this etiquette nightmare?   0205-12

As readers of this blog know, I became a first-time grandmother this past summer.  This is the first I’ve ever heard of “grandmother’s shower” but I suppose I am now forewarned of the impending new “tradition” that may rear its ugly head in my social circles.   I view equipping family members with the tools to enter into a new season of life as the obligation of family so when my daughter became pregnant, she and I gleefully went shopping at a very large, semi-annual children’s consignment sale and I bought all the necessary equipment to set up a nursery.   Friends hosted a lovely shower for my daughter giving her all kinds of adorable girly things.   Ultrasounds can lie so when the anticipated baby girl made his debut as a boy, youngest daughter and I promptly hightailed it over to the nearest baby clothing store and had an outrageously good time buying boy clothes. It would have never occurred to me to expect others to do this.

If you live nowhere near your mother, it seems the answer is simple. Decline to attend on the grounds that it is too far to travel.  Pregnancy can provide one with all kinds of legitimate excuses for declining to attend potentially wearisome functions.    Your mother most certainly has the option to dissuade her friends or decline the honor they wish to bestow upon her but she didn’t.  She’s made it clear this all about her so let it.   She carries the obligation of writing thank you notes for the gifts she will receive.   And if she passes them on to you, thank her for them and dispose of them in any fashion you choose.  Donate them, sell them, use them.


Do you have an etiquette dilemma or question?  Submit it here!

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica February 9, 2012 at 9:25 am

@ Posters who wonder where these strange customs live, the country is Sweden although, I haven’t lived there for a while so things may be changing.
@Cat Whisperer, as far as I can ascertain from my colleagues, “hang” is correct in UK English. “Hang out ” must be a US construct.

British people don’t spend any leisure time in the part of their gardens facing the street. Any time spent there is for tending it. Most houses with gardens are semi detached so often the two will be connected only through the house. The front garden is for display, the back garden is for living. I have found this to hold true for everyone I know who lives in a house with attached garden/s but no one has been able to tell me why, only that it “isn’t done”. Or: “Why _would_ I want to hang in my front garden?” as one of them explained it. My uneducated guess is that it has something to do with the fact that this is a crowded island and we/they (I’ve lived here a while now) like our/their privacy. (I honestly don’t know to what degree I’ve adopted British habits, so I’m unsure whether I am included in the term “Brits”. I certainly would not put lawn furniture in my front garden and then sit in them for everyone to see :) ) If any born and bred Brits have an idea, I would love to hear it!

I am intrigued by social anthropology – and unspoken rules in particular (since they are usually a mystery to me).

A habit I can’t seem to shake is to automatically veer right if I meet someone in a corridor or on a sidewalk but since traffic is left in the UK, everyone else is accustomed to veer left which usually leads to a merry dance. I have found that even when aware of this my legs just step to the right automatically when I try to give some space. I keep doing it even though I have noted the “rule”. For some reason, Sweden has adopted British table habits though so I’m home free there, balancing three peas at a time on the underside of the fork.


claire February 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Jessica I am born and bred English middle class. Do ask any questions you wish!!

I think the use of front gardens directly relates to teh location of the home. I use mine, but I live in at the end of a very quiet “cul de sac” and therefore do not have any passing traffic or pedestrians. We are a very private lot and prefer to conduct our business unseen, hence the avoidance of front gardens if tehy are subject to passing traffic and the excessive use of (shudder) net curtains especially on ground floor rooms.


Jen February 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I know that grandmothers get very excited about becoming grandparents, but this idea is over-the-top and borderline disrespectful. For one thing, I was very particular about the products I wanted to use for my baby. I carefully researched everything before creating my registry. There were some items that I felt strongly against, and would have been offended if my mom had purchased or otherwise received them and used them when caring for my son.

Second, a “grandma shower” threatens to upstage the mother. My mom, being older and in a different stage of life than I, has many more friends, and they have more income at their disposal. When I had my shower, my friends were either just starting out in their careers or trying to afford new families of their own. How would I have felt if my mom got all kinds of great gifts for her house, while I was left to pay for the pricier things I needed? Hopefully she would share.

I think the idea of celebrating and sharing a grandma’s joy is wonderful. Small gifts that have clever quips about “grandma’s house” would be nice. But an all out “shower”? No. These people should be asking how they can help the mother!


Christina February 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

While I don’t know how often grandmother showers happen, I can tell you that my own mother had a surprise grandmother shower shortly before my niece (the first grandchild in our family) was born. That was almost 35 years ago. I had never heard of having such a shower prior to that particular occasion, but it went well, and was certainly fun. Friends and co-workers all came together at a local restaurant and there was a great deal of food, fun and nice gifts for a first-time grandma to enjoy.
It is odd that the grandmother-to-be, in this instance, is not planning on keeping the gifts, herself, but perhaps she feels a little bit cheated that she will not be able to go to showers planned for the actual expectant mom. Birth is like marriage. There is a lot of ceremony involved in many instances, and maybe she lamented privately to a friend, that there would be no social occasion associated with her grandbaby’s entrance to this world. The friend may have decided to intervene, and create a social event to mark this time for her. Stranger things have happened. . .


Liz February 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Oh heh, I would have told her since it’s got nothing to do with you, she can donate her gifts to a charity for mothers in need!


Mabel February 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I think, unless the grandmother will be the primary caretaker of the child, that this is tacky. This particular example is especially so since the OP’s mom is one of those planning the shower and tried to push her into coming. She sounds like an attention hog.

I think the OP does not have to attend if she doesn’t want to. If she does get anything she can thank her mother and donate stuff she doesn’t want or need.


Allie February 13, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I think I would decline to participate and if mom passes the gifts on, donate them to charity.


Katie February 23, 2012 at 11:21 am

I think my mother-in-law started this trend in 2005. My BIL and his GF were having a baby so my MIL basically threw herself a shower by inviting all of her friends and telling them to shop from a registry set up independently of what the expectant parents set up.

She claimed it was for the girlfriend but all the gifts went to MIL’s house after the shower and no thank you notes were ever sent of course. Interesting… I would be appalled if my mom did this, as is the submitter.


Teddah July 14, 2012 at 1:17 am

If OP’s mom wants to know what to do with the gifts Donate them. There are children crisis centers, teen pregnancy places, homeless shelters, foster care places that would welcome new stuff. Take it to the local hospital especially if it’s in a not so well to do neighborhood and donate the baby stuff there. New mothers will appreciate it trust me.


Julia July 31, 2012 at 11:31 am

Just chucking in 2 cents to this one – I was raised that showers in general are a bad idea, because the baby may not be born healthy, and then you have a lot of very upsetting objects around your house as you are trying to deal with that. My mother is English, and she’s the one who said this, so I do believe there is a cultural disconnect for some of the commenters (my Russian friend also said she was kept in an open drawer for the first week because her mother had refused to buy a ton of stuff to prep in case of bad luck – she turned out just fine!). In general, it’s a very American, optimistic thing to buy a lot of stuff and “nest” for the baby, but not something I would be comfortable with if it were me. After a baby is born, I think it is probably very nice to have your friends offering you supplies and support – but before the birth? Gives me the chills.


erica September 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Just send her the link to this post.

That should dissuade her. At least I hope so.

I too think they are tacky.


Missy November 14, 2012 at 3:59 am

Grandmother shower, what next? A grandad shower, uncle shower, father/mother-in-law shower? When will this silliness end.
I do like the idea of a baby shower, AFTER baby is born. Great idea.


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