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!

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

CaffeineKatie February 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

How awful! I’m speechless.


JUSTME February 7, 2012 at 10:24 am

I too became a first time grandmother this past summer. I’m very dissapointed in my friends for not throwing me a grandma shower (not!). If Grannys’ friends want to do something special for her, ie. a afternoon tea or lunchen, thats fine. But a shower?! Come on!


twik February 7, 2012 at 10:26 am

If she asks again what to do with the presents, look puzzled and say, “But Mom, they’re *you’re* presents. Do what you want with them.”

If she then asks what she’s expected to do with five packs of diapers, and several onesies, just shrug and say, “Well, that’s why I was puzzled about the whole idea of a shower for you. But I’m sure you’ll find some use for them.”


NOPH February 7, 2012 at 10:39 am

A grand mother shower, especially if the grand parent is not going to be the primary care giver, does have a certain gimmie pig flavor. However, if the event is to far for you to attend and/or stop, then try to make the best of it. Consider telling your mom you’ve had a change of heart and are very happy she is so excited – however, since you are so far away and (hopefully) already have what you expect to need, you would like to ask her (and her friends) to instead make donations to an organization like St. Jude Children’s Hopsital (or a favorite local child-centric charity such as a local pediatric aides day care center that would love donated items).
Word it to her you are so pleased that you are blessed with more than you need and would like to start your child’s journey in this world off with sharing your many blessing with children that may not be as fortunate.
Yes, it is still a gimmie flavored request that under normal shower cicumstances might be a faux pas. Yet if you can not stop this grandmother shower (and is it really worth upsetting your mom over?), then at least you could balance the absurdity of the shower by helping a charity.


Laurence February 7, 2012 at 10:39 am

I just recently became an aunt. Can I have a shower too? The birth was totally stressful!


gramma dishes February 7, 2012 at 10:39 am

Ummm … okay, I’m not sure Grandma isn’t being unfairly judged here. I have never been to one of these Grandma showers, but I have heard of them through close friends.

The only one I know much about was thrown by friends of the Grandmother with no expectation that the daughter (new mother) would be present or even necessarily KNOW about the shower. It was for the Grandmother only. The daughter wasn’t even invited.

Gifts included a basic “entry level” Pack and Play with mattress pad and sheets, high chair, simple stroller and a box of ‘next size up from newborn’ diapers. They were to be kept at Grandma’s house for when the baby (and any future babies) came to visit. The Pack and Play, high chair and stroller were all collapsible and could be stored in a closet when there was no baby present.

It definitely was not a “gimme” situation. There were, in that particular situation, financial issues involved with the Grandmother which would have made it difficult for her to have purchased these things for herself and I think her friends did a wonderful, sweet, generous and supportive thing by having that shower for her.


Nicole February 7, 2012 at 10:45 am

When my sister had her first child, my mother happily acceptef gifts of SECOND-HAND baby things, (a crib, a swing, a car seat etc.) for her spare room so she was equipped for all baby-sitting contingencies. These were passed among her friends who were grandmothers and when she was done, she passed them on to someone else. My very correct mother would have fainted away at the thought of a shower held for her!

(p.s. yes, I know you have to be very careful about second-hand cribs to make sure that they are safe and not subject to recall. This was enough years ago, that no one was thinking about that!)


Lucy February 7, 2012 at 10:51 am

While I agree that grandparent showers sound like utter and total hogwash, I also get a little bit tired of OP’s babbling about how they “graciously” do this and that and how appalled they are by whatever, etc. Patting oneself on the back isn’t in the best of taste, either, folks.


Baku-chan February 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

I love how Granny says it has nothing to do with the OP. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if the OP wasn’t pregnant then there would be no shower, yes?


Flora February 7, 2012 at 11:11 am

Honestly, if the shower follows all the rules of any bridal or baby shower, I don’t see a problem with it. Did grandma-to-be make a whiny fuss until her friends gave in? Does she have an insane regestery? No? Then I don’t really see a problem, expect on what to do with all the gifts, if she’s passing them on to you. And really I don’t see that as a problem.


claire February 7, 2012 at 11:15 am

WHAT??????? (sorry, i know it’s rude to shout) I find baby showers odd enough (I’m from England, we don’t traditionally do them here, we give presents AFTER the baby is born as a rule, though I have seen an increase in pre birth parties among the younger generation of mothers (Im a fairly new mother at 40).

To me the idea of a Grandmother shower is reallyrather obscene. Celebratory/congraulatory tea party, fine, but gifts, no.

Your mother may do as she pleases with the gifts, or as directed by the giver (eg if she is asked to pass it on to the Op, then do so).


Cordelia February 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

I wouldn’t have a problem with it if the grandmother is going to be a regular babysitter, or if the baby will be living with the grandmother. Most or all of the standard baby-shower gifts would be appropriate there.

It also seems like a nice thing to do if Grandma needs but can’t afford supplies for when Baby comes for an overnight stay. Once babies are old enough to move around on their own, it’s not safe to just pad a drawer with blanket. The gifts in this case should be limited to essentials like a high-chair and portable crib to facilitate those visits.

Otherwise, the “grandmother shower” sounds like it’s just a gift-grab/attention-getter.


coralreef February 7, 2012 at 11:25 am

Never heard of a grandmother shower… just waiting for registeries to pop up.

I just bought a new car… can I have a shower? Gifts can be windshield washer fluid, 5W30 oil and gift cards for gas.

I only attended one baby shower (my office threw me one, I was completely caught by surprise, it was not something I even knew about). Maybe I’m lucky that showers are not that common in my family or into our general culture, but that is changing as the world is getting smaller (and greedier, it seems).


BalloonBall February 7, 2012 at 11:36 am

If grandmother-to-be has a history of hijacking the submitter’s life events for attention I can see where she’d feel like this was yet another power play. I also doubt making a plea to her to donate money to St. Jude’s instead would make an impact, because G2B made it very clear with her statement that “it has nothing to do with you” that it isn’t about M2B’s wishes at all.


Stacey Frith-Smith February 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm

This might be a case of semantics as well as of custom. It’s a lovely idea to have an excuse for a party. It’s true that grandmothers are often the caretakers of their offspring’s offspring, whether occasionally or otherwise If a grandmother’s friends want to throw a party in her honor and arrange for gifts centered around the new VIP in her life, fine. Just don’t call it a shower. Different circles have differing norms, no problem. As long as the honoree is the grandmother and the honored relationship that of grandparent, and the honoree doesn’t throw herself the party, the remaining harm or fallout is between mom and her friends to sort out. Yes, it’s bad precedent. Yes, it’s imprudent. Yes, it is going to cause some in her circle to groan, roll their eyes and plan on having a prior commitment. The assessment that it’s a “gimme-pig” occasion may be accurate. However, your mother is entitled to her own social faux pas, and I think you are not entitled to do more than express mild consternation. Privately, of course, you can swear that you will never, EVER commit the same offense. But criticizing one’s mother and trying to control her actions with more than mild attempts smacks of trying to raise her, and has only accomplished the end of annoying her thoroughly. Of course you needn’t attend (and might not have been invited?), but you should not be trying to suggest that her enthusiasm is unwelcome even if you must hint that it is misdirected. As for what to do with the gifts, as Admin so perfectly stated, do as you wish. Frankly, I see no need to be constrained by a moral objections as to how they were obtained in the enjoyment of them since you weren’t party to the social crime, weren’t able to influence her to another course of action and are further shielded by distance from the scandal. Should anyone raise an objection to the event in your presence, you can make a small grimace and tsk without being disloyal to your mother, while murmuring that your mother has a kind heart and loves her grandchild very much. Should you wish to be extravagant in your attempts to compensate socially, you can obtain a list of those who attended and write a letter of surprised gratitude for their kind interest in your infant, filled with reflections of their significance in the life of your family (if that can be truthfully asserted) and attempt to follow their own progress as grandparents in order to reciprocate (not necessarily with gifts of substance, perhaps with a note or small trinket as time and your affections direct). I suppose what this lengthy comment hopes to plead is that ties of social and familial connection should prod us to gracious intercourse. It can go a long way towards undoing the harm someone caused by a faux pas of any sort.


aka Cat February 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I don’t see any indication that the OP’s mother asked for this party or for the gifts. I can’t help but wonder if the grandma-to-be lives in a community of empty-nesters? If so, I can see how grandma showers might become a “thing”. As gimme as it seems, maybe it’s just a bunch of slightly older women looking for an excuse to shop and party.

If that’s the case, then I don’t see any reason for the OP to do anything but gracefully decline the invitation, and smile and tell her mom to have fun. Later if her mother passes on some of the gifts, well, they came from her mother. She can thank her, and give the party no more thought.


Angel February 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm

OP, fwiw I think your mom is being ridiculous, narcissistic, and unreasonable, but not necessarily greedy–she wants to turn the gifts over to you. Just smile, accept the gifts, keep what you can use, and donate the rest. I don’t think you can tell people they have to donate to a charity, most people want to give actual gifts at a shower and it’s a little dicey telling people which charity to support. You could always either sell the gifts on ebay and donate the proceeds to the charity of your choice, or donate the gifts themselves to a children’s charity–children’s hospitals could probably use them. Especially diapers and stuff.

I wouldn’t even bother confronting your mom about this because she’s not going to change her mind, narcissicists rarely do! I think it’s a shame that she manages to make her daughter giving birth, all about her. Grandmother showers IMO are a big farce, you get one shower when you become a mom for the first time and that’s it!


jena rogers February 7, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I have to say, although in OP’s case, Grandma sounds terribly self-centered and dismissive of daughter’s wishes, Gramma Dishes brings up a good point (as does Nicole). Knowing that Grandma’s home is well stocked with baby supplies makes the travel to her home far less cumbersome. There’s enough schlepping and worry with a newborn; it might be nice knowing Grandma has a stroller, etc. at the destination, for both her use, as well as for the parents’ use during family visits. That said, a Grandma shower akin to what friends would throw an expectant mom is, IMHO, in poor taste. There are other ways to support and celebrate.


Joley H. February 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

OP – if you can’t use the items, please contact the county Foster Care program in your area. There are so many new foster parents who need equipment and furniture and would really appreciate the items. Thanks for considering this. God bless you and your new little one.


Gelly February 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm

@NOPH – I don’t think the right question to ask is, “is it really worth upsetting your mom over?” I think the right question to ask is, “Why is the grandmother continuing with the shower even though she’s been told that it is upsetting to her daughter?” This is a major life event for the couple having the baby. The grandmother not only chose to make their life event all about her but told the daughter that it’s too bad if the daughter doesn’t like her making her daughter’s event all about her. It doesn’t sound like the geandmother has much concern over the daughter’s feelings. Who chooses a party and some gifts over the reasonable request that this personal, life-changing event be respected and left to the primary participants? What kind of a parent butts into their child’s moment and pushes them aside? More than the gift grabbing aspect, the cavalier disregard for the wishes of the woman having the baby extremely selfish and narcissistic. I can’t believe any parent would take their child’s big day and make it all about them and their needs. What’s next? Will grandma throw herself a bridal shower when the next kid gets married? Or perhaps she’ll have have a graduation party for herself, complete with gifts of course, when the grandchild graduates from high school.

The birth of a baby is cause for family celebration but the focus should remain on the baby and the parents.


Jojo February 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

A party to celebrate a new grandchild sounds lovely. To expect other people to bring expensive gifts to furnish a nursery at granny’s when the kid is unlikely to spend more than a couple of days there at a time? Odd.
Also, why are gifts for a Granny Shower not gifts for a mature woman? Why would you buy the mother and child gifts and not, say, a ‘Greatest Granny in the World’ t-shirt and a celebratory bottle of Mumm or some such?
I’m having a bit of a baby shower etiquette issue myself at the moment ( we simply don’t have them in the UK but my friend is keen to prove otherwise with the help of my unborn sprog!). None of my or my fiance’s family will be helping out financially in any way, they may give us a lovely gift when the baby is born but we absolutely do not expect anyone but us to provide for the child we have chosen to bring into the world. So we see even the suggestion of a shower for the baby as a bit of an imposition on friends and family who can ill afford to buy for their own children just now, let alone ours.


Cat February 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I don’t think you have a dog in this fight. It’s not your shower; you are not invited; you don’t have to accept anything from Granny. She can do what she wishes with her gifts.

Maybe she should have a registry: adult size diapers for her later years, baby food for when she can no longer accept adult food, a walker, etc. Things suitable for an older grandmother.

If she insists on giving you things she receives, it would be wonderful of you to donate things to someplace who aids unwed mothers/mothers in financial straits who have newborns.The recession is still upon us and there must be many women who would love to have things for their babies.


AS February 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Where I am from, baby showers are thrown for the MTB during her 7th month, and the guests don’t bring any gifts. The MTB is dolled up and pampered by her mother, and may be MIL too, and other close female family and friends; but the only gift given is some amount of money or a clothing item that the grandmother(s) to be gives her daughter (or DIL if the other GMTB is involved too). NO baby item is given. By the 7th month, most pregnant women would not mind being pampered for a while and de-stress themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to compare two different cultures and say one is bad or good (every culture has their own share of both). But I am just trying to say that “baby showers” can have a benign non-gift-grab connotation sometimes. But it seems that some greedy people have spoilt it for everyone. The GMTB showers are taking it to the extreme!

Commenting on the OP’s story… just tell your mother that you are not being selfish or ungrateful, but rather you are selfless enough that you would like your mother to keep the gifts because as she said, the shower has nothing to do with you. After all, your mother’s friends gave her the gifts and not you.


L.J. February 7, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I hope this doesn’t catch on. Imagine the gimme pigs who would expect a grandma shower for the birth of EVERY grandchild. The ones who will whine, “why isn’t the fourth grandchild as worthy of a party as the first?”


AMC February 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Wow! Egotistical is right! I will never understand people who have that kind of gall and nerve to bogart someone else’s special moment and make it all about themselves. Shame on grandma!


MellowedOne February 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in reading the OP’s tale I have discerned that:
-The grandmother is a co-host/planner, and not merely an honoree
-The grandmother has no need for the gifts whatsoever
-The OP is being pressured to attend.

I’m ‘guessing’ GM is feeling what often affects people when they get to share in someone else’s big ‘life event’ (like people who are asked to be part of the wedding party, etc.). Sometimes they get so carried away in the how they’re feeling they forget how they got there in the first place 🙂

What I found most interesting about the OP’s story is that she kept quiet about her mother’s actions until she started to be coerced into participating in them. I find this entirely proper…regardless of what the circumstance is, there is a time to keep quiet and a time to speak..and speaking out when one is being pressured to do something they consider inappropriate is the correct thing to do.

Politely decline attendance, your presence is not needed..after all you’re not the guest of honor! Since your mother is a co-planner, if it’s not too late have her tell her friends nothing except their “presence” is desired at her shower. Accept the gifts you do receive, as they were generously given for your baby. A kind thank you note would be quite appropriate, with no mention whatsoever of your feelings behind the event at which they were given.


JF February 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I highly dislike Grandmother showers and don’t feel they are appropriate when the person won’t be a primary caregiver. With that said, my mother-in-law pressured her friends into throwing one when our baby was born, though we never knew about said shower until after the fact. All of the items except for one or two things have been kept at her place and never used once.

Then again, this was the same woman who thought I should throw SIL’s bridal shower because SIL’s maid of honor was in jail up until a few weeks before the wedding, and she thought she should get a shower for being the mother of the bride. No thanks MIL – I had my hands full with an infant and your gimme attitude is why you don’t see your grandchild that often!


BagLady February 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I’m not ready to cast Grandma into e-hell for this. And the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.

I’ve been to my share of showers (bridal, baby and one that was sort of a grandparent shower*), but I’ve never been to a luncheon, tea or any other pre-wedding or pre-birth gathering of women that was not called a shower. (Never known anyone who had or wanted a bachelorette.)

(Generic) we seem to have this mind-set that this sort of celebration — honoring someone for her impending status change (to wife, mom or in this case, grandma) must be a shower. And because a shower means gifts, well, people bring gifts.

I actually think it’s sweet that GTB’s friends want to celebrate her impending grandmotherhood. If it must be called a shower and involve gifts they could be gifts for her (World’s Greatest Grandma shirts, blank albums for the baby pictures), for the baby (I’d vote for cute outfits rather than diapers and other necessities), or for her to use with the baby (fold-up crib for when baby visits).

If that’s the scenario, then I don’t think it’s rude at all. If this GTB is actually throwing (or co-throwing) the shower for herself, that’s tacky. I also think it’s tacky to pressure the MTB to attend. MTB should be focusing on *her* impending life change, not her mother’s impending status change.

In short, a grandparent shower *can* be an occasion for entitled gimme-pig behavior, but it doesn’t have to be.

*The grandparent shower was for friends of ours whose daughter and SIL had just finalized a long-awaited adoption. Grandma (who looooves babies) was just over the moon about becoming a grandmother, so we wanted to celebrate that with her. Also, we all knew and loved the daughter, who grew up in our circle. Daughter and her family were living out of state, so the grandparents were the guests of honor at “our” shower, where they got gifts for the baby to pass on to daughter.


Kira February 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

“MY what a lovely idea to donate these gracious children’s presents to the needy/hospital!”
“Thank you mum and please let EVERYONE know how I thank them for celebrating the coming of this child by giving to others!”
That way not thank you note required – not presents to you, nor are you the guest of honor so nothing to do with you.


Mistral Fire February 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I’m another person who thinks the idea of a “Grandmother Shower” is decidedly off in most circumstances, particularly if the grandmother in question isn’t going to be a normal caretaker for the child. Besides, shouldn’t it be a “Grandbaby Shower” if we are simply extrapolating out another generation?

I think that it would certainly be lovely if the friends of a new grandmother wanted to get together and do something to celebrate, but the gift expectations that come with a shower seem greedy. Based solely on the handful of new grandmas I know (my mother and her friends), I would suggest a lunch or tea where the new grandmother’s friends exclaim over the adorableness of Baby (in pictures or in person, based on parental preference) and let her spend some time bragging over all of Baby’s wonderful talents and traits. I would also recommend having some sort of activity scheduled that would naturally change the subject before this went on too long (for the particular group of friends, length of time will vary).


Xtina February 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

I have less trouble with the loose concept of a grandmother shower than the kinds of gifts and expectations that could come with it. My mother’s friends gave my mom a grandmother’s shower, but it was really more just a gathering and a tea, and the ladies gave her a few small items such as baby memory books and picture frames–it was not giving baby supplies that should be reserved for the parents of the baby–that just seems tacky in a whole new way and IS improperly taking the focus from the new parents-to-be. Grandparents got their baby equipment showers (presumably) when they had children.

As for the OP’s situation–she should just decline to attend (nicely) and let her mom worry about the shower and the gifts. OP is also under no obligation to write any thank-you notes since the gifts are technically given to the OP’s mother. If she is dead set on not accepting any of the gifts, then she should also request that her mother donate the items to charity. However, OP, you cannot control who gets to throw what party for your mother, so although I agree that it seems tacky, I guess your mother does not, so just let it go.


Teapot February 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I have to wonder how Grandma-to-be handled her daughter’s wedding. Did she (as did the mother of a friend of mine) wear a lacy white dress with flowers pinned in her hair?

Laurence, you stole my line! 😉 My Auntie Showers are 22 and 25 years overdue, but I will still graciously accept gifts.


NotCinderell February 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I don’t know, if the grandma’s friends decided that they all wanted to send gifts to their friend’s new grandchild and were looking for an excuse to have a party, I would probably just let this go.

My favorite story of how grandmas induct one of their own into the fold was what happened to my mother after my son was born. She was at work when DS was a couple of days old, and two coworkers of hers told her that it was now time to induct her into the “Grandma Club.” They all sat down together, took out pictures of their grandchildren, and started beaming to each other about how wonderful they were, and invited my mom to do the same, now that she was a member of the club.


Lilac February 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I would hate to see this catch on as a “must do” with every birth of a new grandchild. With that being said I could see it as a fun excuse for a party amongst a group of friends-particularly in a smaller community or a retirement community. If it becomes tradition within the group to throw a little party for the new grandma with a few SMALL gifts that would be kind of sweet. Some women like to attend and to throw parties (hence the existence of showers and home sales parties) and this seems like a relatively benign excuse for on as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. The trick would be only inviting people that would be appreciative of the idea and would keep it casual so that the party doesn’t get hijacked into gimmeville.


Another Alice February 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Wait – does this mean when I’m 60, I’ll have ANOTHER milestone event to attend and give a gift for? I’m only 26, and I’m already getting tired of the constant stream of wedding and baby showers. It’s not even that I don’t “believe” in them, it’s that the traditions people already have are turning into total gift grabs, what with inviting random people you barely know just to get more stuff. And now, to add another?! Uggghhhh.

I would do what many others have suggested: A polite, “No thank you, I cannot attend,” and doing what you want with the “gifts.” (I put it in quotes because they’re not even really for her.) I think of a group of older women, of grandmother-age, want to have a luncheon together to celebrate one of them becoming a grandmother, that’s lovely. Even if some give a cute, small gift to the honoree as a congratulations. But to throw a formal shower?! How obnoxious. I think my own mother would be appalled at the suggestion.

Baby showers are sweet, I think, because even if a woman who gets married may be established in life and have plenty of supplies normally given for bridal showers, baby supplies are things no one just has lying around. And from what I’ve seen of baby showers, there will be enough sheet sets, changing pads, and clothes to keep a hefty supply at a grandmother’s house, if the mother chooses to do so.


Kendra February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

@ Twik, I totally agree with your answer. It is perfect advice for this situation and I hope the OP follows it. Neither the gifts nor the shower are for the OP, they are for OP’s mom, so it’s up to mom to figure out what to do with them. As far as politely refusing the gifts, just say “Mom, I couldn’t possibly take gifts meant for you.” While it is kind of people to give gifts, etiquette does not require you accept them regardless of the circumstances. It provides a way out of accepting gifts, “No, Thank you”. Bean Dip, Rinse, Repeat as necessary.


Cat Whisperer February 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Wow. Just….wow.

Grandmother showers?!? Well, it’s a free country, and if a woman whose son/daughter is about to make her a grandmother has friends and/or relatives who want to throw her a shindig, have at it. Personally, I think a celebratory party for a grandma-to-be, particularly if this is her first grandchild, is kind of a sweet idea; but without the obligation of presents, please.

OP has no obligation to participate in this activity if she finds it distasteful; if she is presented gifts that result from the “shower,” she is obligated to politely thank the giver, but I think that ends her obligation. If she chooses to do something like donate the gifts to a charity that provides infant and child supplies to mothers who are in need of such things, that would be a nice thought.

This situation makes me think of my own paternal grandparents, who I only met once. My dad was the 8th of 9 children who were born over a span of something like 24 years. By the time my dad started his family, his parents had grandchildren from his oldest siblings who were old enough to become parents themselves, thus making my father’s parents into great-grandchildren.

Neither I nor my three brothers ever received any kind of attention from my father’s parents. I never got a birthday card from them, never got a letter from them, never spoke with them on the phone. Kind of the polar opposite of the hooplah OP is experiencing from her parents.

In a perfect world, every child who is born would be wanted and loved and cherished by all members of the extended family, and in a perfect world the celebrations of the impending birth of a child wouldn’t be about giving or receiving gifts as a matter of obligation or entitlement. But it’s not a perfect world, so we have to make the best of things that we can.

My advice to OP: be glad your mom is there to celebrate the birth of your child, and that it obviously is a meaningful event for her. If you receive gifts as a result of your mom’s grandmother shower, thank the giver appropriately and do what you want with the gifts.

And as an antidote to this sort of gimme-grabfest, give some thought to charities that provide support for mothers who aren’t blessed with family or resources to help them provide for their children. Believe it or not, there are mothers out there for whom this sort of fuss would be literallly a dream come true. With very little effort, you can brighten things for them if you feel up to trying. And who knows, maybe your mom will be inspired to take a page from your book if she sees you doing this?


Robin February 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm

My mother had a grandmother’s shower but it was a very small affair with only a few close friends. The gifts received were sweet tokens like “Meme” picture frames, a Grandma Loves Me blanket, and the like. Babies are to be celebrated, be they the first or tenth. If the grandmother and her friends follow the accepted rules of baby showers, I don’t see a problem.

Plenty of babies come into the world neglected and unloved. If a proud grandmother wants to celebrate, I say bravo!


Dear! February 7, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Wow! Just when you think people cant think of new ways to be tacky….Wow! Like you, I would not take part in anyway because this idea makes me a bit ill.

I wonder if the GM asked for this party- I’m thinking she did. Her poor friends probably won’t hold you responsible for your gimme mom’s actions, as this is probably not the first time your mother has oinked a gimme. If it was your mother’s friend’s idea, then the gifts were given with you in mind, and were genuine gifts to be accepted graciously. In this situation, they really did make it about your mother, and not you, so what can you do other than not participate…..You’ve made it clear that you didn’t ask for the gifts, as you will not be present, so no thank you notes needed unless you want to. But I would feel bad giving them away knowing that your mother’s friends spent their hard earned money on them.


Maggie February 8, 2012 at 3:44 am

A grandmother shower? If I ever got invited to one of those the presents to take that come to mind are: adult diapers, hair dye, walking frame, denture cement, etc. *wink*


Jessica February 8, 2012 at 5:51 am

The whole concept of baby showers, whether for mother or grandmother, is culturally very alien to me. I understand they are appropriate in a US setting. Possibly in a UK setting, I wouldn’t know. But in my country pregnancy is surrounded by both very old and very new customs that kind of go in the same direction. The direction of barely acknowledging the pregnancy and the mtb would be embarrassed and maybe even offended if someone threw her a baby shower.

I will try to explain.

Old: pregnancy and child birth used to be a dangerous thing both for mother and baby. Even today there are risks and unwanted outcomes that can’t be protected against. It may differ but in my area expecting mothers only get the most necessary baby stuff ahead of time and gifts for the baby are presented after safe delivery of the baby. People may “stock up” on pressies ahead of time but most of the time you run like the Dickens to get a pressie once you hear that everything went well. You just don’t want the mother to stand there with all the unused baby things if anything goes wrong. I guess you can call it “not jinxing it”.

New: It would be completely inappropriate to throw a workplace shower. Why is like trying to explain why Brits don’t hang in their front gardens. It just isn’t done. Pregnancy is not part of your work. We have a very comprehensive parental leave system. Both parents have three months paid at 80% of salary or a guarantee sum if not in employment at commencement. (You retain your last salary as target for up to a year after leaving. If you leave for parental leave you retain it for the next baby if it is born within three years of your last working day even if you didn’t go back between the babies.) The three months are tacked to either parent but can be written over to the other parent in situations where the parents don’t live together and one will be the only carer, for example. Apart from these six months (which can only be taken consecutively, i.e one parent at a time is home.) there is then one year which is divided to the individual needs of the couple.

Earlier this leave was only for the mother but these days it can be divided anywhichway. But because it used to be the mother, employers were reluctant to hire women of fertile age so any pregnancy discussion became very hush-hush and it became illegal to ask if you planned kids etc. Mothers still use most of the parental leave – although fathers are getting better at using their half – so there is still some sensitivity over this. Due to the economy, many workplaces do not always cover parental leavers so you will inevitably unload your workload on your colleagues if you step away to have a baby.

So your family will not throw you a shower out of fear that anything will go wrong and your workplace is not supposed to acknowledge that you are pregnant. (Also, you are expected to do work during working hours. We don’t really socialize as much. No birthday cakes etc.)

The third reason is even harder to explain, but many parents to be in my country would feel that presents for the baby imply that they, themselves, don’t have the sense or the means to care for a baby. We are big on individualism and at least first time parents like free range of their tastes. You buy them a three month supply of nappies? They plan to use cloth nappies. etc. More seasoned parents, however, may be grateful for gifts or help but usually, they prefer hand-me-downs as that isn’t an imposition.

The same goes for wedding showers actually. You get gifts for the wedding. Not ahead of the wedding. We don’t hold engagement parties and certainly no bridal showers. Hen nights are a nightmare to most brides and does not include gifts but more likely a task to sell kisses for cash around town. (Which is why hen nights are feared.) And there are never registers or wishing wells. Most people who get married have lived together for decades and already have stuff for their home so instead the guests get presents that are more personal.

We do seem to be obsessed with birthdays, though. Birthdays, name days and graduation is where we expend our energy.

These are valid cultural differences. You may think we are frugal, cheap or weird but without understanding the cultural context, someone from my country who was not aware of the customs may very well see the showering as weird gimme-piggery.

I guess context is everything.


VltGrantham February 8, 2012 at 9:20 am

I can’t wait to hear what my Mother has to say about this one. I guess she’ll be getting out the wet noodles since we neglected to throw any kind of shower for her in preparation for the upcoming birth of our daughter and even though she is the daycare provider when I work. We simply purchased the items she’d need and delivered them. Who knew we had such an opportunity here?

I definitely would refuse to attend and even if Grandma’s friends want to throw her a shower, she could simply say “thank you for thinking of me, but let’s just gather for tea instead” and refuse it.


Gina February 8, 2012 at 10:20 am

We had one of these at my work. It was sort of odd…like, what do we talk about? Someone we’ve never met (your daughter) and her baby?


Kendra February 8, 2012 at 11:17 am

I found your post to be very interesting. I love hearing about other cultures. If you don’t mind my asking, which country/culture are you from? I admit, I have encountered similar ideas in old victorian novels/history books. It was considerred bad form to make any to-do about an impending birth. On the one side, the Victorians felt that discussing personal intimacy and the results of that intimacy to be completely improper. So, good manners dictated that the pregnancy be ignored. Once the baby was born, everyone pretended that the parents just woke up one morning and there was the baby. On the other side, pregnancy was much more dangerous then for both mother and child. It was believed that making to much of the impending birth before the birth was “tempting fate”. I think it is intriguing, Jessica, that your culture seems to have similar customs. I would love to hear more.


Shoegal February 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

Never heard of a Grandmother Shower. Although I don’t know all the particulars. what if this was just a little get together the friends threw to get the new GMTB a couple baby items to keep at her house. It was a good excuse for a party – and a nice thing to do for her. If that is the case – I don’t think the GMTB felt it was a tacky thing – and didn’t want to squash the idea since her friends were simply being nice. (Another story completely if this is the GMTB’s idea) My mom has baby things at her house – toys, pack n play for when her grandchildren come to visit – a package of diapers on hand. Is this so horrible? To me, the MTB sounds as if her mother is “stealing her thunder” somehow. Would it be better if her Mother wasn’t excited about this?

I would never throw a GMTB shower myself – and I sincerely hope this doesn’t become a tradition – I don’t really care for baby showers to begin with – all I’m saying is that it need not be construed as a gimme pig situation.


Meegs February 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm

@Jessica – if you don’t mind me asking, what country are you from?


mom2kids71 February 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm

When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother’s circle of friends gave her a “grandmother” shower. She was not going to be a primary care-giver, but would be keeping the baby at least once every week or so. The idea behind it was to give my mom some basic necessities that I wouldn’t have to lug to her every time (play-yard, high chair, bounce seat, blankets, etc). It was only kept to her circle of friends and I was not expected to attend, even though I knew all of them. They just wanted to celebrate her milestone and equip her home with stuff. It was never about me and most of the stuff was gently used, but cleaned thoroughly. I was her only child and this was to be her first grandbaby.


gramma dishes February 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm

mom2kids71 ~~ The neat thing about your Mother’s circle of friends is that as your child outgrows things, such as the bouncy seat, she can pass them on to the “next” new grandmother. These relatively permanent but necessary items, especially the Pack and Play for sleeping, are relatively expensive and if they can be passed around they can be used a lot more, especially if these women have grandchildren that only visit a very few times a year. They just keep making the rounds to whomever needs them at the moment.


Cat Whisperer February 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Jessica said:

“…Why is like trying to explain why Brits don’t hang in their front gardens…”

We Americans don’t hang in our front gardens, either, at least I hope we don’t. We hang OUT in our front gardens.

I sincerely hope that any hanging of Brits in gardens involves trapeze or exercise equipment, and not gibbets and rope. ;^))


Gelly February 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

@ – gramma dishes

If the items are only used a few times a year they aren’t necessary or needed. Handing down these items is good, and there’s nothing wrong with grandma keeping a few things at her house, but you don’t need to throw a party for someone to pass down a gently used pack and play. Especially since the someone in question isn’t having a baby, didn’t have a hand in creating the baby, and isnt the baby’s primary caregiver.

Pack and plays are designed to be portable, not permanent.


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