Baby Wants This, Part Two…Or Why A Family Hosted Shower Is A Bad Idea

by admin on October 4, 2012

Based on some of the comments, some clarification is in order.  The “Baby Wants This” post two days ago included this paragraph by me:

Whenever I hear such stories, I never understand why the family just doesn’t step up and provide the necessary big items for the new parents.  When my daughter became pregnant with the first grandchild on both sides of the family, she and I went to a huge children’s consignment sale and I bought her many of those large items at a reduced price.  Her MIL provided the nice but used bassinet and crib.  At her shower, friends gave her lovely outfits and diapers and other small items.   I view it as shameful to pass off to outsiders the burden of providing the large items such as cribs, high chairs, car seats, swing and strollers.   Are we as a family so poor we cannot take care of our own and have to expect that others will be more generous?   Hmmmm….

Some commentators to the post were up in arms at the thought that family had an obligation to provide the larger tickets for a family member.

If someone is pregnant, there is a looming due date that will result in another human joining the family.  Short of abortion, there is nothing stopping that day of reckoning.   While it is good to have the perspective that parents are responsible to provide for their own children,  once there is a baby baking in the oven philosophizing has to take a back seat to the practical reality.

I believe the mom-to-be in the story is a gimme pig.   Whether her piggishness is the result of mere greed or a true need that has morphed into an expectation that others owe her,  her family’s response has been to plan and host a shower for her.   Either they recognize that she has a need that the soon-to-be parents and they cannot or will not fill or they are complicit in helping her acquire the best baby equipment she can at someone else’s expense.   Either way it is an abdication of their familial responsibilities to take care of their own.   Here’s the part that was assumed and lead to my comments:  If a grandmom or aunt-to-be takes on the responsibility of planning and hosting a shower for a daughter or sister in order to acquire from friends, neighbors and co-workers the necessary baby furniture and accessories, it is a statement that they recognize in some way a duty to another family member to somehow arrange the acquisition of this stuff or else they would not be hosting a shower.   If you didn’t feel this sense of obligation you wouldn’t be hosting a shower in the first place.

If your daughter(or -in-law) or sister is so poor that she cannot afford to purchase a crib, a stroller, a car seat, you have a choice before you.   You can either leave her to her own devices to figure out how to outfit a basic nursery, 2) step up to the plate and buy them, used if necessary, for her, or 3) you can host a shower for all her friends and co-workers thus passing onto them the responsibility to provide what you will not.   The latter is shameful, imo.    If the family can pool their resources to host a shower, they most certainly can pool their resources to get the needed basics.

So,while I agree that the extended family does not bear the primary responsibility to outfit a family member’s nursery for them, once the family stepped onto the slippery slope of hosting a baby shower they made that statement that they feel responsible in some degree to make sure a  future family member has the needed items in time for their arrival.   Family hosting a shower is just passing the buck to others who probably have less of a relational connection to the future baby than they do.

To conclude, if you host a baby shower for your daughter, daughter-in-law or sister, you are making the following unspoken but nonetheless declarative statements that 1) I recognize a need or want, 2)   I’m not going to fill that need or want so,  3) I’ll pass on the responsibility for meeting that need or want to other people.

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

o_gal October 4, 2012 at 8:31 am

The last paragraph – that is not my interpretation of family hosting a shower. In this day in the US, the etiquette rule that families do not host showers, baby or wedding, has kind of been thrown out the window. Instead, a shower is seen as a fun party to celebrate the upcoming birth or the upcoming wedding ceremony. So nowadays, close family members like a mom, sister, or cousin may want to have the fun of throwing a shower. Nowadays also, an expectant mom or bride can likely expect that she might have multiple showers – work friends, close friends, friends from hobbies/interests, and family members. In none of these cases have I ever heard of any host thinking that they are passing a responsibility on to other people to buy items because they are not going to fill a need or want. I doubt that any mom or sister thinks “Hey, my daughter/daughter-in-law/sister is going to need stuff and I don’t want to be the one to buy it. I know – I’ll throw a shower and I won’t have to buy a thing!”

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admin October 4, 2012 at 9:35 am

Remove the clearly implied expectation of gifts that is associated with a shower and Mom, sis, or cousin can host any kind of celebratory party they want to welcome the baby.

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Lilac October 4, 2012 at 8:40 am

If I hosted a shower for my sister, daughter, daughter-in-law the message and statement I would be making is: “Isn’t it wonderful that *expectant mom* is having a baby. Please, family and friends who love her, come and celebrate this special time with her.”

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admin October 4, 2012 at 9:27 am

And the only way you feel you can accomplish the goal of “Come celebrate this special time with her” is with a shower that has the implicit expectation of guests bearing gifts? A BBQ or party merely to celebrate the new baby sans any mention of showering someone with presents doesn’t cross your thoughts?

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Lo October 4, 2012 at 8:53 am

I understand what you’re saying and on principle I support this viewpoint, but I think you’re assuming too much of the family in question.

In my own experience, with friends and family of the generation that are currently marrying and having children, the shower is simply what is done. I don’t agree with this viewpoint at all, but I can’t escape the pervasiveness of it in modern western culture. I think you’re crediting the family with having put much more thought into this than they obviously have or at least some kind of passive secondary agenda of letting others care for their own.

When reading the original story I had the impression that it wasn’t that the mother couldn’t afford these things, but wanted to use the opportunity a shower provided to get them. (really ugly behavior) And the family wasn’t supporting this mindset, but they were simply doing what they thought they should by hosting a shower which would include friends and family.

I hate this mentality. I fought it in my own family and I ended up getting a wedding shower hosted by my own family. The wedding was family only so no one else would have done it, but I had resigned myself to not having a shower. They disagreed, overruled, and provided. They did it out of kindness, generosity, and the belief in an unspoken expectation that I didn’t have of them. They simply could not do otherwise and if I had put my foot down I would have been throwing their kindness back in their faces.

I’d prefer to give this family the same benefit of the doubt and assume that they are hosting the shower as an expression of love (or at least going along with it for that reason) because they believe it should be done and they expect to contribute to her child’s life regardless. The beneficiary is clearly in the wrong and taking advantage. The family may need a lesson in etiquette but I wouldn’t rope them into the position of accomplices.

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Katy October 4, 2012 at 9:56 am

When my husband and I first found out I was pregnant we were financially independent, but didn’t have a lot to put back for a rainy day. A couple months later we both lost our jobs within weeks of each other. Our rainy day fund went to keeping the house while we both found new jobs. So when it came time to start getting things together for the baby we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room, and my family knew it. So they sat us down and we made a plan for the bigger-ticket items. My grandma bought the crib with the understanding that it’s going to be passed on to a sibling who needs it once we’re done with it (with DH fixing any scratches or anything so it looks nice). Furniture for the baby’s room (drawers and a changing table) were given to me by a consignment store. A stroller came from a resale shop and while it wasn’t the best, it served it’s purpose. My church had a church-wide garage sale, and a lot of parents who knew our situation sold us some more necessities at greatly reduced prices. When I got to my baby shower I had everything I needed, but not a lot of luxury items like a nursing pillow or a baby monitor. My family and friends got us many of these items, as well as nice, new clothes (that only went on baby when we weren’t hanging around the house because I didn’t care if baby spit up on the onesie I picked up for a quarter). I also got a few of the items I had bought second-hand, like a brand new stroller and a new pack-n-play, as well as a better carseat than the one I could afford (the one thing I refused to buy used). And, luckily, enough diapers to get us through a couple months (best. baby. present. EVER.) I took the duplicates and donated them to a domestic violence shelter so someone who was in need would get use out of them.
I didn’t expect anything big from my shower. I honestly didn’t even expect a shower. When I explained my situation to someone during my pregnancy I got the whole “you should have waited until you could afford the baby” spiel from someone who didn’t seem to understand we wound up in the situation after the fact. Babies are, first and foremost, the responsibility of their parents. But circumstances aren’t always ideal, and it would be nice for the family to step up and help out. But to expect them to provide the big-ticket items is a bit much. Depending on how many people are coming to the shower how many of these big items is the mother-to-be expecting? How much does she expect each person to chip in for a gift? New cribs are very expensive, as is pretty much everything to do with a baby. I’ve always been under the impression that if you get gifts at a shower then your guests are very generous, but don’t expect anything truly necessary (you may be pleasantly surprised). People who go to baby showers like to buy cutsie little outfits and make cakes out of diapers more than cutting a check to someone for a group gift.

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Ellen October 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

I think LO brings up an interesting point. In her case, the family hosted a “family-only” shower (unless I misread her comment). If the family wishes to pool resources to provide for the new baby (as admin puts it), and presents these gifts at a family-only party in order to make an occasion of it, is this really an etiquette breach such as family hosting a shower to “hit-up” friends and non-relations for presents?

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Cat October 4, 2012 at 10:14 am

I have an aunt who is older and who lives in a state where she would be snowed in all winter. I bought her a condo and paid all of her bills so she could come to the South after she promised, and promised, and promised me that she’d use it for many years. Once she was too old to use it, I could sell it and real estate values would have gone up so I could sell it.
She stayed in it four months and announced that she had decided never to come here again. No reason, she had just changed her mind. It was beautiful and perfect for her. She had had me put in climbing roses and citrus trees, but she had changed her mind.I could go over and water the plants if I wanted them to live.
Hello reality and good-bye familial responsibilties. You folks are on your own.

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Andie October 4, 2012 at 10:21 am

I agree that most people have come to see baby and wedding showers as something that’s just done, to the point that if no one offers, it implies that ‘no one cares about this baby/ my wedding!’

There may have been a time when a shower was the community coming together to help a new family or family member get started in life, and I think that’s kind of awesome, but that kind of spirit is loooong gone.

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Angel October 4, 2012 at 10:23 am

I agree with admin. Showers by their very nature mean gifts. You are figuratively “showering” the mom-to-be with gifts. There is no other way to take it other than they want gifts.

I agree with admin on all points. My brother’s wife is pregnant and her baby shower is next week. She does have a SMALL registry with a few items if people are unsure what to get her. I have no problem with registries but do have a problem with expecting extravagent gifts. There were a few big ticket items on there but her family and ours are known for going in on items. So in that case, I don’t have a problem with it and between her family and ours the kid will get everything he needs. She wasn’t going to have a shower but her mom is very excited as it is her first grandbaby. And I don’t blame her–she’s deserves to celebrate this just as much as we did for my parents’ first grandbaby nearly 12 years ago.

If it is coming from a place of love, who cares?

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Sarah Paige October 4, 2012 at 10:36 am

The way I read the post was that the SIL just wants other people to buy the big items so that *she and hubby* doesn’t have to. If it were a situation where the parents honestly could not afford these things (like a teen pregnancy or birth control failure), then I think the family should help, if they can afford to do so. Also, I got the impression that the SIL wanted all new, matching items. You know what they say about beggars being choosers…

I am also of the viewpoint that if you cannot *afford* the big items, then you probably should not be having children right now (although I don’t think that is the case with the OP) Babies are expensive and the expenses of having/raising children increase every year. It is more prudent to try to do a little saving and planning before you begin to have children. Birth control is readily available in the US and can be provided free of charge so instead of planning what items to put on your registry and what kind of “stuff” people will buy you, maybe you should drop the gimme pig attitude and be ready to accept the responsibility that comes with being a parent.

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Bint October 4, 2012 at 10:40 am

Not coming from a culture with showers, if it’s all so ok to have your sister or mum throw you a party to ‘come share this special time’ (and bring a present), why is it still unbelievably dreadful to do it yourself? I truly don’t see the difference.

Mind you, if my family did this it would be cause for public shame. People would assume nobody was going to give me anything so they got desperate. People are enormously generous here with babies, although notably less so at the very few baby showers I have attended. Sometimes I do wonder if that is the case where they are common?

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hanna October 4, 2012 at 10:47 am

Showers are FUN! We love to present little tokens of love to the new baby!!! WE never host a shower with the expectation that we are fulfilling all the “needs” the family has, but rather, maybe some of the fun “wants” a family has–what baby needs frilly, little lacy bonnets, or yellow, squeeky tub toys? None!! And that’s why we give showers!! If we happen to fulfill an actual need once or twice during the party, then great–but otherwise showers, IMO, are for fun, celebration, happiness, and fellowship.

Not everyone holds a shower with that premise, but I do.

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Jays October 4, 2012 at 10:58 am

I agree with Lilac. I hosted my SIL’s baby shower, which is absolutely the norm here. Do you really think people invited to a BBQ or party wouldn’t also feel that same obligation to bring presents? Not in my experience. I think the issues come in when people request the BIG items from shower-goers. Make it clear that if people want to, they can bring anything from a nice card to a tiny package of washclothes to a crib set, and I don’t see the issue.

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Shoegal October 4, 2012 at 11:14 am

I also didn’t interpret throwing a shower as passing off the burden of responsiblity of providing the things a new mother needs to friends and coworkers. I don’t agree that the entire family collectively was “making a statement” that we all recognize that she needs this stuff but we don’t want to buy it. In fact, if I threw a shower for my sister-in-law I would have invited mostly family members and close friends – and probably not the coworkers and friends the admin refers to numerous times in this post. In many circles – this is a celebration of sorts – and yes it is to buy gifts – but I had no idea the enormity of its implications. I, for one, did not think I was saying that I wouldn’t provide for that child – and this is my way of getting out it.

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essie October 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

I agree with admin.

The first time I married, I had one shower I remember, hosted by 3 of our neighbors, and I think there was another, which I don’t remember, so maybe there was only the one. On the other hand, my beloved godmother hosted a tea for me, where the ladies came, offered me their best wishes, and celebrated my upcoming nuptuals by sharing funny (and sometimes hilarious!) stories about other weddings, my childhood, and the groom’s childhood.

Once you use the word “shower”, it’s understood that gifts are expected. If you want to hold a party to celebrate an upcoming event, great! Call it a party, a celebration, a get-together, even a luncheon, barbeque, or picnic; just don’t call it a shower.

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Lisa October 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

Perhaps I’m old and clueless, but I just love celebrating new life, and if the soon to be mother appears to be a bit of a gimmie-pig on the invite, I purchase what I can afford and know in my heart that whatever gift I bring will be able to be used by the new baby.

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Harley Granny October 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

Wow..way to over-think a baby shower.

While I agree that the mom-to-be in the story is a gimmie pig, someone had to give the impression that this behavior is ok.
I was brought up to believe that the showers, be it wedding and/or baby, were a way of saying Congrats! Let us help you get started.
In my opinion if a crib/furniture is given is should be a family piece. Or if the grandparents can and want to provide it, they should do so at their own free will.
NOW, if the family if financially unable to or unwilling to provide the funiture for the baby then it is up to the prospective parents. Not the entire family.

Sorry, Admin, with your train of thinking on this one having a “party” or “BBQ” to celebrate the event is the same thing only the men are invited.

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Kristi October 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

I am not a big fan of showers in general. I think it’s a society-accepted custom that has outlived its original purpose and intent, and become an expectation.

When my ex-SIL got married, she was thrown 3 or 4 different and separate wedding showers. She was, at the time, already living with her fiance. So…the purpose of the shower from years gone by would be to help the new couple out by providing simple household things, like rubber spatulas, kitchen towels, a toaster, etc. Because back then young couples just starting out had nothing, and needed everything. Ex-SIL had everything she needed to comfortably keep house, but went along with all of these many showers, I think because she thought she was entitled. Clearly the people who hosted all of these events must have thought so too. I thought it was disgusting, but did attend the one I was invited to. I had purchased some pretty, but not super expensive, picture frames and a plaque with a wedding verse on it. I thought this was appropriate for a shower gift, as we were planning a larger and much more expensive wedding gift.

When it came time for her to open her gifts, it started to become clear that I had underestimated what was expected or normal for wedding shower gifts…one friend gave her an entire bedding set (not a bed in a bag set either, separates from Kohl’s) comforter, shams, bedskirt, sheets, etc. Another friend gifted a beautiful cream colored handmade afghan, it must have taken her months and months to complete! Everything she opened was so extravagant that I started dreading her opening my gift, as it now seemed inadequate and cheap in comparison to what others had gifted.

It would be wonderful if the ‘shower’ tradition could be replaced by something that did not involve gifts, just genuine celebrations of a coming baby, or marriage, or even a birthday.

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WillyNilly October 4, 2012 at 11:44 am

Well I for one “got” the Admin’s point in the last blog post and appreciate this post to clarify. I agree there are lots of ways to celebrate impending motherhood. A shower is merely one way. But to say its not about the gifts is to take naivety to a ridiculous extreme. Its called a shower because you shower the guest of honor with gifts. If you have a “meet the baby” party, or an “afternoon tea” or a “last bash before the baby comes” well that’s all well and good and no gifts required. But if you have a shower the hosts are, by way of using the word “shower”, telling guests “you are supposed to bring a gift to this.”

And I think that’s the exact reason people do throw showers – to get their friend or loved one gifts. I would go so far as to say almost every single shower was thrown with the express expectation of gifts for the guest of honor. Otherwise why have a “shower” at all? Why have the word “shower” when its culturally known it means “bring a gift”? Why have the expectation of part of the event being opening the gifts? Why be prepared with a gift table and a notepad and someone ready to write down what was received and who gave it? Why not just have a party to celebrate pregnancy? Because it really *is* about the gifts, its just many people are too polite to want to admit that. So they say “its just done” or “its simply to show love” but really there are lots of ways to to love, support and celebrate a soon-to-be mom without a “shower”.

And really its fine to have a shower be about gifts. I’ve been to dozens and I gave the gift with love; I wanted to give the gift. But lets not pretend a shower is not about showering the GOH with gifts.

So if we do accept that premise, and we take into consideration the idea of a family spending money on throwing a shower, I think its reasonable to say the family would be better off spending the money on gifts the themselves and leave the showers, and their implied required gifts, up to friends, or at least the family should pony up the big gifts thus leaving the smaller gifts for the friends to pick up.

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barbarian October 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

There may be one solution for this family. If mom-to-be has a registry with expensive gifts selected, go to the store and ask them to print out a computerized registry omitting the expensive items and use that for the shower invitations. Then guests won’t be offended by the request for high ticket items. Use the full version of the registry among intimate family and friends who may be willing to help buy the expensive gifts.

That may help the hostess save face if she does not want to be an accomplice in a gimme pig scheme.

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Jill October 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I have to disagree a little on this one. While the mom in the story did seem greedy, this isn’t always the case. I recently threw my sister-in-law a baby shower because she’d wanted to have a party with games and friends, and her friends were unable to host. I had the means and space to host, so I did. The mom-to-be was not involved in the planning, made no specific requests, and I think everyone had a good time eating yummy food and playing games. She got lots of lovely gifts (including several from me), although no big-ticket items, but that was really sort of incidental.

I hesitated to throw a shower for a family member, but when it was that or no party at all, we opted to go with a small tasteful party to honor my sister-in-law, and I think it was very nice.

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b-rock October 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Just a note about registries in general. I don’t love them, but I can see their purpose. But regarding putting lots of items or expensive items, most registries offer 10-20% off any items that are not purchased by the time the date has passed. For example, you put a vacuum cleaner on your registry for a wedding taking place on January 1, and as of January 2, you can then purchase it for yourself at a discount. I didn’t even tell people about my registry unless they asked, and I put items on it that I knew I would then be able to buy at a discount later. Most people didn’t use or know about my registry, and I got great deals on things I bought for myself. So don’t automatically assume that everyone who does that is a gimme pig. Plenty of them are, but with no other evidence to support that, it seems disingenuous to make that kind of blanket generalization.

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Spuck October 4, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I think that registries and communal gift giving are going to keep existing no matter what. On the other hand, big ticket items should never be discussed in a shower capacity. Whether its a wedding or baby shower. If you need help you should be able to have a frank discussion with families while at the same time having no expectation. In turn those family members should not discuss the financial situation with anyone else.

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badkitty October 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I agree with admin 100% on this one. I had a discussion with a friend about this recently; she didn’t understand why it’s okay to host your own barbeque or other party but it’s not okay to host your own shower/birthday party. I pointed out to her that the difference is presents. It really is that simple: if the ACCEPTED focus of a gathering is to bestow gifts, the recipient cannot host. Yes, you can host a party to welcome a new baby, or celebrate a new addition to the family but let’s be honest: if the function of the party was to celebrate the new thing, you would have the party after you have the new thing. We don’t have housewarming parties before we buy the new house, right? And the reception is after the wedding, and a graduation party is after you graduate. You may still get presents a these events, but they are not expected or required (graduation gifts are given separate from the party, either AT the graduation ceremony or at another time and are attached to that event, same as wedding gifts can be sent at any time). So, if you just want to have a party to celebrate your reproductive success, have it after you’ve got a baby to show off, and please stop pretending that the shower is not about the gifts.

That said, I’ve nothing against showers and have been to some that were lovely and special and unique. None of those were hosted by the mother or her family. All of these mothers understood that you cannot be a good host if you are also the guest of honor. All of these mothers understood that they were going to be accepting gifts for the new baby, and they all hoped that each gift would be personal and thoughtful, a daily reminder of the kind friend or family member who gave it. They were not expecting to get their ‘big-ticket items’ because they were prepared to find a way to manage those themselves – not because they were necessarily so well-off that they could make a crib happen without feeling the financial pinch, but because they knew that they were going to be financially responsible for this child for at least the next 18 years and it’s always best to begin as you intend to go on.

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Twik October 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm

You know, I think that part of the problem is that people are somewhat brainwashed that showers are the *only* way to outfit a new baby. As if one could not simply buy stuff for themselves, or buy for someone else without the structure of a shower to somehow legitimize it.

For those who want simply to “celebrate new life”, I understand the quandary, but there are other types of parties, such as celebratory luncheons. Inviting people to a shower for one’s daughter/DIL can be boiled to sending invitations saying “I want you to come and give my daughter/DIL stuff”. That is, somehow, different than saying, “Hey, let’s get together at my place and give Best Friend some presents.”

Very few people will actually show up without presents to something billed as a shower, because they (with reason) believe that many people will go around sneering, “Can you believe those cheapskates?”

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Cami October 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

***You know, I think that part of the problem is that people are somewhat brainwashed that showers are the *only* way to outfit a new baby. As if one could not simply buy stuff for themselves, or buy for someone else without the structure of a shower to somehow legitimize it.***

Who are the people who think like that? I don’t know any. Thankfully.

I must be totally out of the loop on baby gifts, in general, however, since I’ve also never encountered the idea that it is the family’s obligation to provide big ticket items for the baby.

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Another Alice October 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Am I the only one that thinks it is absolutely none of the guests’ business as to how the host of a party is contributing to the child? I feel this regardless of whether it’s a blood relative or a coworker.

Unlike in the original post, simply throwing the shower does not mean they are not also contributing in some way to the baby, gift-wise. At all the showers I’ve been to hosted by the person-of-honor’s family, the host had given that person a large gift, in addition to the shower. Of course, they didn’t put up a huge sign saying so or anything, but simply chatting with people, you find out.

I find it rather presumptuous to say that it’s an automatic gift-grab when a family member hosts a shower. It’s rude to me to sit and judge the host and try to find out, “Well, are THEY giving anything to the baby? Why should *I* show up and give a gift when they’re the grandma and I’M not?” Frankly, we have no idea what they’re giving. Perhaps they’re going to be that child’s primary care-giver when they get back to work; maybe they’re supplying diapers for the entire first year. And really, no matter WHO is hosting the shower, related or not, it is not a guest’s place to decipher that person’s contributions. If you want to gift someone with something, or attend a party or not, that is totally up to you. Exactly who is hosting a party is irrelevant to me.

(This is completely in regards to the etiquette of a family member hosting a shower, NOT in regards to dictating exactly what gifts you get, as in what the OP discussed. Of course that is rude regardless of the situation, but whether a close friend gets you a crib, or your mother, OR even a group of friends who decide to go in on it on their own accord, as a guest I feel you simply get what you would like and call it a day.)

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Electric Blue October 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I always get confused with what is acceptable when it comes to baby showers…never ever been to a “wedding shower” don’t think they do those in Australia…

I am pregnant with our first and my mother and brother’s girlfriend are going to host a baby shower. However I do not expect “large ticket items” we already got a cot, change table and tall boy second hand from a couple selling these items online who no longer needed it.

In fact, even if people rocked up with no gift at all…I wouldn’t be disappointed..I will just be glad they want to come to see me and celebrate.

I’d like to know the etiquette when it comes to 2nd baby showers. 2nd time mothers who I use to go to school with all seem to be hosting showers for their 2nd baby and it’s not like their 2nd baby is years and years apart from their first.

My husband and I know the sex of our baby but have chosen to keep is a secret and I will reveal to the guests at the shower. Reason for this is because I didn’t want all blue or pink items. I intend to use these items again in the future and do not intend on any future showers.

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Me October 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I don’t mind a modest shower that’s hosted by a family member – the kind I grew up with, where there was no registry, no nursery theme, no requests for gift cards or cash, where you got together, talked, had some refreshments, and gave *small* gifts – a book, a teething ring, a packet of onesies. That’s a party that’s about celebrating the new baby with friends. Close friends or family members would often give bigger gifts, personally arranged.

If your shower involves a registry, or requests about the desired gifts (Only My Little Pony Themed items, gift cards preferred, all organic hand-crafted, no plastics, no imports only) then the party *is* centred on the gifts. And that is much easier to take if it is being hosted by someone who doesn’t hope to financially gain from the party.

A shower hosted by a close family member with a demand for either large gifts or gift cards? That’s incredibly tacky no matter what you call it or how you try to justify it.

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Kimstu October 5, 2012 at 6:16 am

Yup, the Admin is right. As I’ve noted before, the root of the problem is that so many people now think that it’s acceptable, or even mandatory, for shower gifts to be big-ticket items instead of the traditional fun little presents.

If you’ll excuse my quoting a post I made a few months ago over in the Hell’s Bells division, I think it’s appropriate here:

“Miss Manners still insists that a shower ought to be an informal party for intimates bestowing small inexpensive presents, and nobody is obligated to treat it as anything else.

It takes some teeth-clenching sometimes to deliberately buck the shower inflation trend, especially since many people participating in it are simply generous and well-intentioned; they don’t understand that it comes across as greedy and financially burdensome to a lot of the guests. I recollect occasions where I’ve shown up at a wedding or baby shower wearing a simple dress or skirt and seen my cheerily-wrapped little gift of an indoor-outdoor thermometer or two hand-embroidered cotton dishcloths or a carved wooden baby rattle looking AWFULLY puny next to mountains of professionally assembled gift wrapping surrounding expensive kitchen appliances or a state-of-the-art baby monitor or high-end stroller or what have you. I’m sure a lot of the other guests in their elegant party outfits must have secretly thought ‘gosh, what a stingy beeyotch’ or at least ‘dear me, she must be terribly poor if that’s all she can afford for a present’.

But I’m not giving up. We shouldn’t have to abandon the fun American tradition of informal intimate showers and the joys of little gifts just because some greedy people (and companies that encourage them) will seize any excuse to pump up any party into a massive present-grabbing jamboree.”

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illstillglow October 5, 2012 at 7:59 am

Original OP here! My brother and SIL have been trying to get pregnant for several months. So this was by no means an Oops! pregnancy. They both also have nice, secure jobs. They can afford to buy their planned baby furniture. I don’t know if she just thinks all that stuff would be more special as gifts, or if she legitimately doesn’t know that asking people to pool in for specific large items, and if people don’t want to do that, to get them gift cards, is very tacky. She said she wanted gift cards to buy diapers and things like that, so I’m guessing she wants SPECIFIC items that only she feels comfortable choosing.

As far as who hosts showers… I think a more “acceptable” host (like an extended family member, friend, church member, etc) all expect a mom or a sister to throw a shower. I think it’s going to be pretty rare to find one of the aforementioned people throwing a shower because everyone just expects the mom or sister to do it, and people don’t want to step on any toes.

I will say, after reading all of this, I am questioning whether I want to have a baby shower in the future at all! For my bridal shower, I told the host that I wanted it to be a celebration. I’m not going to open gifts at the shower, and the party shouldn’t be focused around gifts, that’s the only thing I requested. It was a very nice intimate party where we played cute games, ate and chatted. I thanked everyone for the gifts and went home to open them, and promptly send out thank you cards.

But I don’t know if you can even get away with not opening gifts at a baby shower? That’s why people GO to baby showers! To see all the cute onesies and booties. I *know* a ton of people are going to want to throw me a shower, and I don’t want it to just be one big gimme gimme party, but I’m not sure how to divert that. At a bridal shower, you can celebrate (I think) without the expectation of gifts. Celebrating a new baby without gifts sounds like a harder task.

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The Elf October 5, 2012 at 8:00 am

I think part of the problem is that the word “responsibility” implies an obligation, and the family does not have an obligation to the new baby. Only the new parents do. I think functional families of means voluntarily take on part of this responsibility as an expression of love and help outfit the nursery, but they are not obligated to, nor is it shameful not to.

The idea that this is all tied to the family hosting the shower in the first place was lost in the original post. Thank you for clarifying it here. I agree that the family should not host the shower, and if they still do for whatever reason, definitely shouldn’t push the purchase of big ticket items on to the guests. My objection was merely this idea that the extended family has some sort of obligation to the new baby to purchase big ticket items, regardless of who is hosting the shower.

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The Elf October 5, 2012 at 8:12 am

Electric Blue, baby showers are supposed to be for the first baby only, as it is assumed that the second baby (and third, etc) can use the first baby’s gear. That said, second (and third, etc) baby showers are becoming more common. It’s part of the whole “shower inflation” thing. I would exempt those whose second baby comes long after the first, because the baby gear is presumably already passed on, sold, or trashed. That’s a modern twist – it used to be very rare to see years (or even decades) between kids. Now, especially with blended families, this is more common. I also partially exempt those whose second baby is a different gender than the first. Though I loathe the idea that boys MUST have blue and girls MUST have pink, as if the baby even cares, I can understand the parent’s desire to get little boy outfits if all you have are pink ruffled dresses in flower prints (and vice versa). However, in that case, the gift giving part of the shower should be smaller, as so much baby gear is gender nuetral.

But there’s nothing wrong with having a little get-together (not a shower) to celebrate a new life whether that baby is #1 or #11. The arrival of a baby is worth celebrating!

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The Elf October 5, 2012 at 8:13 am

Sorry – that should be “many years (or even decades) between kids.” I mean, there’s got to be at least 9 months between them, right? You all know what I meant, I hope.

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sillyme October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

This is slightly appropos of nothing, but I need to get this out. Maybe it will be an e-hell story on it’s own, I don’t know. I’ve posted before that my husband and I adopted three pretty amazing kids from the state foster care system. We had eight days notice before two of them moved in, and another six weeks before the third. Thing was, one bedroom was still being remodelled and the other was being used for temporary storage of items. I don’t know that makes any difference, but it’s “backstory.” We never got a shower. Not from anyone. Not from my husband’s work (I was unemployed), not from family. We didn’t need a thing, except a right-of-passage ritual and maybe a cake that acknowledged our new role as parents, and shared in the happiness that after five years we were finally starting our family.
I finally hosted my own “welcome to the family” party for the immediate family once the children moved in. I didn’t care about presents, but those that brought them were very nice, and I was grateful. I wanted to celebrate my children, and have them celebrate with us that they had finally, after many years of disruption, educational neglect, rejection in other foster homes, they had finally found their Forever Home.
For many people the shower is probably about the gifts. For us, it wouldn’t have been. To this day the sadness about that chokes me up.

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Sarah Paige October 5, 2012 at 9:13 am

I agree with @Kimstu about how showers have become inflated and many people think you have to give big-ticket items. The mother to be in the OP seems to think she is entitled to big ticket items at her shower instead of being thankful that people are going to bring her anything.

I have been to many baby/wedding/bridal showers and have enjoyed them for the most part. I have a “standard” gift for baby showers- personalized, embroidered diaper covers, diaper pouch (travel size wipes and a couple of diapers fit for a quick trip) and changing pad, if they know the sex and have a name picked. If not, I give a gift certificate to the lady who makes them to get these items after baby is born. If the shower is for one of my friends, I usually add a few more items.

I am not against showers at all, but they really have become almost a competition to she who is going to get the biggest, best, most expensive gift. Ugh.

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Sarah Paige October 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

The last line of my comment should say “see” not “she”. Sorry. :(

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LawGeek October 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm

People call it a “baby shower” because that is the traditional way to celebrate someone’s first child. Yes, the word implies gifts, but at this point that’s really only part of the reason we call it that; it has simply become the term we associate with these parties. Awkwardly renaming the party just to make people feel less obliged to bring a gift is one way to go, but I can also understand why people wouldn’t want to shed this rite of passage. It isn’t as if people feel obligated to buy a crib or stroller; someone could just as easily bring some books or clothes.

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Laura October 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I’m not sure I agree that it’s the families responsibility to provide for a new baby. When a woman gets pregnant- that indicates to me that they are taking a step into a new life that includes a willingness to support another human being. They have usually at least 7-8 months to get their act together and be ready to provide for that new human. Sure, it’s awesome when the grandparents, aunts and uncles etc are willing to help out and give something, but they should not be considered to be responsible for providing for that child- that’s what the parent is for. You can accomplish a lot in the pregnancy time frame- layaway, careful shopping, thrift stores, rummage sales, consignment stores. You can outfit a baby at a fraction of the cost, especially these days.

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Electric Blue October 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Thanks for clearing that up Elf, I always believed it was first and first only. Which is all I intend to do…most certainly do not intend to have children anymore than 2 years apart.

I agree that it really doesn’t matter whether clothing be blue or pink; but I know I’ll be given so much clothing of that colour if the guests knew. It will happen after the baby is born with grandparents no doubt spoiling their first grandbaby (first on both sides)

Besides I’m sure if will give the guests some anticipation at the shower of the gender finally being revealed. Bit of excitement =)

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Heather October 6, 2012 at 7:57 am

“And the only way you feel you can accomplish the goal of “Come celebrate this special time with her” is with a shower that has the implicit expectation of guests bearing gifts? A BBQ or party merely to celebrate the new baby sans any mention of showering someone with presents doesn’t cross your thoughts?”
To think that the guests invited to such a BBQ or party wouldn’t interpret this as a shower by another name and bring gifts, is simply naive. I agree with many of the other comments, hosting a shower is simply a way of being part the experience, not a tacit acceptance of responsibility.

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sv October 6, 2012 at 11:01 am

I my neck of the woods ( Nova Scotia, Canada) showers are almost always given by family. This is so common that I honestly cannot remember ever going to a shower that was thrown by a friend, unless it was a wedding shower and the friend was in the wedding party. And although I have seen many people go together for one large gift, it is generally, ” The ladies from work” or something like that, never family members or random friends. Homemade gifts of knitted sweaters, baby blankets etc still reign supreme around here, as well as the traditional diapers. For myself, I always give a modest basket I make up of my favourite tried and true creams, washes, powders, and those late night medications you have no idea you need until 2 am :)

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Allie October 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I am 28 weeks pregnant and shortly after the pregnancy was announced my sister-in-laws raised the spectre of a shower for me while we were gossiping (shameless, I know, but a harmless family activity) about the shower of a cousin. I made it clear I did not want a shower as I would hate it. I detest being the centre of attention and avoid any kind of celebration in my honour like the plague. My husband thankfully feels the same and has never, bless him, tried to throw me a birthday party, surprise or otherwise. I am quite content for everyone (except DH, of course) to forget all about my birthday and I don’t even have it on my Facebook page. I hope my outright banning of a shower in my honour is not considered rude. Several close friends and family with young children have offered me larger items they no longer need, which will be gratefully accepted if I can use them. If not, I will suggest they be donated to charity. Meanwhile, my sisters-in-law are looking forward to buying pink, frilly things (we have six nephews and this will be the first girl in the family, so they are starved for girlie shopping). I have suggested we go out for a nice dinner after the baby is born, when I’m more comfortable and can enjoy myself a little more. Not a shower, just some friends getting together for a nice, celebratory dinner in honour of the new arrival. A few months after the baby is born, my husband and I will host a dinner party in honour of our new arrival, which is customary in his culture. I’m not happy about it, but it’s expected. The custom is that friends and family come to see the baby, are wined and dined and in exchange are expected to give money to the baby (not large amounts, but a reasonable amount depending on the closeness of the relationship – like acquantances might give 10-20 dollars, cousins 40-60 and grandparents and aunts and uncles perhaps 100-200). This money will go straight into a registered education savings plan.

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Sugaryfun October 6, 2012 at 11:37 pm

I still don’t really see the logic of family members holding a baby shower being tacky. I gather the idea is that then the mother might be really running the show, but could not that also be the case if a friend were hosting the shower? I can see why you think asking for large items is tacky, but if they don’t do that it shouldn’t make any difference who is hosting.

Here in Australia at least it’s pretty common place here for baby showers to be hosted by a family member (mother, sister, sister in law, aunt). I’ve only been to two, but of those one was hosted by the grandmother, and one by the couple having the child (they had a big BBQ for all their friends instead of the women only thing that tends to happen, which I quite liked).

I don’t really like baby showers at all. It becomes very materialist (whoever is hosting) and there seems to be a lot of telling of horror stories to scare first time mums. I much prefer Blessing Ways, which are just a celebration of the coming birth and a show of support for the pregnant woman. Each guest brings a bead to be strung on a necklace for the mother to wear during her labour. Apart from that no gifts are expected.

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melissa October 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Honestly, I think part of the reason that its so acceptable for a family member to hold a shower, particularly for the first baby in the family, is that everyone is so excited and may overestimate the level of happiness from outside the family. If my little sister or SIL was to get pregnant, as a functions planner I wouldn’t be able to resist creating a perfect celebration party for them, and no doubt her friends would use the opportunity to surprise her with gifts (because they love her, not because we expect it). The difference is they would probably try and source intimate tokens of love like rattles or toys rather than large items the parents can sell later.

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SLT October 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm

*The following statements are only applicable to the Western culture in which I live and have experience. YMMV in other cultures and countries with different reproductive laws.

Practical reality is that in this day and age, conception can be prevented. It is not an expectation anymore that people have children to continue the family line. It is not the extended family’s responsibility to provide the basic necessities for a future child just because it is coming into being. Is it nice to provide that show of support? Yes. But that support is a GIFT and not an obligation.

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Jarrett October 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Where I am from, baby showers are usually held after the baby is born. I’m not sure if this is to ensure the safe arrival of the baby first, or so that everyone can meet the baby that they’re gifting to, but this is how I remember it being done my entire life. This also eliminates the want for presentation of any large gifts, such as crib, car seat etc., as to get the baby home and through the first few weeks the parents would have had to already obtained them. Showers are a nice surprise, not a right.

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Nancy October 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I don’t think it’s wrong, per se, to put big ticket items on a registry. A registry isn’t a shopping list, it’s a list of things the expectant mother THINKS she would like. My mother in law often has a bit of money to spend on nice gifts, and would probably expect and appreciate those things being on the registry. I think it would have been a faux pas if the family didn’t also register for small things. And of course, saying that you want others to buy it for you so you don’t have to is totally bad taste.

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GleanerGirl October 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I agree with the admin, and feel that while a baby (or wedding, for that matter) is worth celebrating, a family should not be hosting a shower.

Now, if the family just really want to party and celebrate, why not host a party, inviting all the interested people, and when they ask what it is for, just say, “We’re just so hyped about Sister Sue having a baby, we have to CELEBRATE!!! Come and celebrate with us!” Absolutely no mention of a registry, and if someone is interested enough to ask about a registry, or gifts one might like, you can tell them then, but also tell them to please NOT bring anything to the party, as you don’t want it to be a shower. It’s a celebration!”

I’d go for the same approach if I wanted to party on my birthday. Of course, I used to live in a country where the birthday-boy or girl would actually give presents to their friends, instead of the other way around. “Yay! I lived another year! Woohoo! Have a treat!”

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GleanerGirl October 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Jarrett – I like that. I’ve met some people who say that is how things are done in their culture. They say that even mentioning the baby before the birth could jinx it, so they do not celebrate in advance, for fear of losing the baby. Then they have a big blow-out after the baby is born.

That makes a lot of sense to me, as I have known too many women who lost their baby in the last month, or had stillborn babies, or babies who died very shortly after birth. Modern medicine is a marvel, but it does not prevent all tragedies, and complications with pregnancy and childbirth are still happening, and can be fatal, even in the best hospital in America.

Coming home from the hospital without your baby, only to be faced with a fully-done nursery, is heart-breaking. In such a case, the less baby stuff to deal with, the better.

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Cher630 October 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Honestly, when I’m invited to a shower, I WANT there to be a registry so I know what the couple needs/wants for their home or baby. In my opinion, they aren’t being greedy or gimme pigs. I want to be able to get them something they will enjoy/like/not bring back to the store.

As for relatives hosting showers, some people don’t have a lot of friends or have a family only wedding party, as one of my friends did. Her sister was her MOH and so her mom and sister threw the shower. No one thought anything of it. Family and friends WANT to bring gifts. So instead of directly asking the person “What do you want for your shower?” they can just print out the list and buy something.

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