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Grandmother Showers – The New Trend In A Gimme World

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!


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jessica February 9, 2012, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.

  • felice May 29, 2014, 2:44 pm

    First of all, no immediate member of the family should organize or host a baby shower, or a shower for any other occasion. Precisely because it is tacky and self-serving. It should preferably not be a member of the family, like a close friend, or it could be forgiven if it’s a cousin. But not a mother or sister. The most appaling one is when the pregnant woman herself actually organizes a baby shower for her future baby! Appaling ! Open any etiquette book, and as far as I know, that etiquette on who should host a shower, is still in the books !

    This ties in with wedding or engagement or birthday or anniversary invitations ! There should NEVER be a mention of the preferred form of gift (such as cash). The only time a preference can be mentioned is for a funeral when the grie=ving family says something like, “in lieu of flowers, please donate of the deceased’s favorite charity.”

    This country is getting so tacky, as manifested in all those sordid reality TV shows about “Wives.” Desperate Housewives, Wives of NYC, etc. !!!!!!! TACKY, TACKY, TACKY !!!!!! Free etiquette books should be distributed to everyone !

  • Nicole May 29, 2014, 3:16 pm

    I’m on the fence. I am a single 34 year old woman whose life consists of showers as of late….bridal, home and baby. I have to find a present every 5 seconds. And then I was hit with a curveball–my younger cousin, about 18, is pregnant. She still lives with her mother and has no intentions on leaving. She wants to continue her education and since mom is retiring when the baby is born (works for the NYPD), her mother’s new role is Grand-nanny while mom (my cousin) will be at school…or work (because she still has to work to support her child).

    I think, in this regard, a Grandmother shower is appropriate. After all, isn’t the rudimentary role of the shower to give love (absolutely) and presents to the person for whom will need these materials to keep the child happy and healthy? True, her mother is there, but quite frankly, her mother has NOTHING. As my grandmother used to say, “Not a pot to piss in, nor window to throw it out.” Meaning, her mother will be footing the bill on all of the baby’s needs, even with my cousin getting a job.

    In this instance, I do think a Grandmother’s shower is appropriate.

    • NannyPink May 29, 2014, 10:33 pm

      But this is really not a grandma shower. The mother of the baby lives in the house you aren’t buying gifts for moms house and grandmas house!

  • NannyPink May 29, 2014, 10:29 pm

    Grandma shower! Give me a break! Hello it’s not about you…grandma. I’m a grandmother of 8 and I would never think of having a baby shower for me to get baby stuff. So, you now want people to gift the parents and grandparents?

    You know who will make money on this? The people that came up with the idea and made things relating to grandma. What happens if no grandma but a grandpa?

    What next u may ask … Let’s have a party for the children expecting a brother or sister we don’t want them to feel left out. We can call it “Siblings Shower”. Don’t be stealing my idea! Lol

  • Rupa May 30, 2014, 9:09 am

    In our custom, we have a shower only for the first baby. It is a highly religious event and there are certain things that have to be bought by the mom-to-be’s parents. My parents and inlaws were in India, while I live in the US. My parents came over and we conducted the ceremony. Most of the things that were needed for the ceremony were bought by my parents. Only difference is that my in-laws kept it there with them. It was a huge embarrassment for my parents when the priest asked for each item and we did not have it. But we had a wonderful priest who found alternatives to each item. My husband and I have never forgiven my inlaws for this and the worst part is that they have never even shown the items to us. Its been 12 years now, but my in-laws made my pregnancy and the birth of our son all about themselves. Never ever mentioned to anybody “our son and daughter in law are going to have a baby” It was always “we are going to have a grandchild”. It was especially painful because this baby was truly God-given, after multiple miscarriages and the two of us having reached a state of desperation.