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The British Baby Shower…Just Say “No”

As a long-term reader of this site, I’ve come cross many “baby shower” related stories. This is another.

I’m in the UK and the Baby Shower has only very recently made it’s way to us from the US – I’d say within the last five years or so. Admittedly, I know very little about the whole “process” as I don’t have any children nor do a lot of my friends. My family members who have recently had children didn’t have a Baby Shower.

I am currently 27 weeks pregnant with my first (a little girl!) and I’m beyond excited about her arrival. I work full time and I’m quite organised so I budgeted carefully over the past six months or so and managed to purchase the majority of equipment/clothes/nursery furniture for her arrival (with the help of my partner). Of course there are still a few items I need to buy as well as stocking up on nappies and more general things like that – but I’m getting there! I haven’t asked for help or money from parents and I haven’t been gifted anything for the baby just yet.

Having said that, the girls in my office are constantly asking when I’m throwing my Baby Shower. As my pregnancy progresses, the asking has turned to Impatient Demanding near enough with comments such as “you must get this Baby Shower arranged” and “you need to let us know the date of your shower so we can work around it” – also it’ll be thrown into conversations “X will be good for the baby shower!”. These women are excited and impatient about a Shower I have no intention of throwing.

I have said each time the shower was mentioned that I won’t be arranging one. Each time I am met with horrified stares or confusion and so I elaborate further with my reasons – I don’t require one & I am not comfortable with the idea of one and I certainly won’t be throwing myself one. This is met with more strange looks as though I’m being rude and anti social. I suggested instead of a shower situation, we could all go out for a nice lunch before I head off on maternity leave and we can do all the “baby discussions” there! I’m not adverse to receiving gifts for my baby – in fact I’d be so touched – but I certainly don’t want it to be a requirement. The lunch idea was met with near silence pretty much. This isn’t what they had in mind.

I was wondering how I go about this situation now? I’ve already been clear about my personal opinions on the shower idea and tried to suggest an alternative that’ll still show that I’m grateful for their effort and support but I am still being hassled about throwing myself a shower. The rude part of me feels like saying “if you want the shower so much then YOU throw me one” but that seems aggressive and still goes against all my above reasons for not wanting one anyway. I feel these women are getting quite offended by my declining now. Do I .. throw MYSELF a shower anyway just to please them? 0617-18

You have co-workers who are not out for your best interests but rather theirs.   They are cruel to offer gifts only under the condition that you host a party.   If you want baby gifts you’ll have to work for them.  Even worse is the implied exchange of baby gifts for your expenditure of time AND money to host a party for yourself.  This isn’t kindness and generosity, it’s bartering of goods and services.   Their free time beyond work is far more important than yours since hosting a party in your honor is obviously too onerous to even consider doing.

As has been written here on Ehell many times,  you are under no obligation to cater to the demands of rude people who insist you behave in ways you are not comfortable doing.

Think of your remaining weeks at work as preparation for parenthood of very small children.   Demanding, incessant whining, selfishness, confusion when confronted with “No”, tantrums, etc., are all childish behaviors every parent encounters when rearing and child training their offspring to eventually be good adults.

{ 43 comments }
{ 43 comments… add one }
  • OldMom June 18, 2018, 7:02 am

    If the custom is just making its way over to the UK, one essential part of it got dropped along the way. You don’t ever throw a shower for yourself. Someone in your own family should not do it either. A friend or a more distant relative may. So, if these people want to have a shower for you, you could let them. But for them to suggest you should host one yourself… “oh, I would never be so rude, and besides, I am already well stocked with baby supplies.”
    Some of these basic rules are routinely neglected, for example, I have heard of mothers of the bride hosting wedding showers. However I have never heard of anyone putting on a shower for themselves, bridal or baby. In an office, it is usually given by the “social committee” or a core group in the new parent’s department. In a workplace they usually include all genders and stay away from graphic childbirth stories.

  • sam June 18, 2018, 7:08 am

    clearly not ALL of the shower traditions have migrated over to the UK.

    first of all, a shower is something that *other* people throw for the expectant mother/bride/etc., not something you throw for yourself. So if your co-workers want you to have a shower, they’re free to organize one.

    Second, you are under no obligation to participate.

  • Barb June 18, 2018, 7:18 am

    “I would never DREAM of throwing MYSELF a baby shower!!! How gauche!!”

    lather, rinse, repeat.

  • AMC June 18, 2018, 7:40 am

    If these women are American or otherwise from a culture where baby/bridal showers are commonplace, then they should darn well know better than to demand that an expecting mother host her own shower! This is uncommon, not only because hosting such a party for oneself is a blatant gift-grab, but also because hosting a party is a lot of stress, the last thing a mother-to-be needs. As an American who has attended and hosted MANY showers, I have yet to personally witness one that was hosted by the guess of honor.

  • Margo June 18, 2018, 7:44 am

    No, you don’t have to throw a shower .
    Next time they ask them, push back “[Name], why do you keep asking about a shower? I’ve already told you I have no intention of having one.”
    If they continue then “[Name], we’ve had this conversation. There isn’t going to be a shower. Now, can we talk about [inset work related stuff]”
    Stick to the same response every time.
    (As a fellow Brit is strikes me as really weird that they are so pushy. Showers are not a thing here, I think the majority still see them as pretty tacky* , and there is also a sizable minority who feel that giving gifts before the baby is born is unlucky. It seems so odd to me that I wonder if there is something more behind it. Maybe one o the pushy brigade is early in pregnancy and has a vested interest in making showers a Thing in your workplace?!)

    (* In the UK context. I know showers are a Thing in the US and are not seen as tacky there)

    • Kate June 19, 2018, 4:02 am

      Oh no, they’re seen at tacky here too. Can they be done “correctly”? Of course! But that’s becoming a thing of the past. The correct way is pretty basic too, and I think the “rules” transcend continents. You don’t throw a party where gift giving is expected for yourself. Nor do you ask people to throw them on your behalf. Close friends or family members should not throw them either. They should be thrown by people who will not benefit (or be perceived to benefit) from such a party. It’s supposed to be a “out of the goodness of your heart” type gesture.

      • gramma dishes June 22, 2018, 4:47 pm

        I would think close friends would be exactly the people who would throw a shower. In this particular case, the co-workers could throw one and I’m surprised they don’t realize that since they seem so incredibly enthusiastic about her having one!

  • Cleosia June 18, 2018, 7:47 am

    Baby showers, just like bridal showers, are NOT supposed to be thrown by the honoree. It’s supposed to be hosted by the honoree’s friends for the benefit of the honoree. And it’s usually supposed to be a surprise.

    If someone doesn’t want to have a shower, that wish should be respected and if you want to give a gift, give it. It shouldn’t be dependent on the throwing of a shower.

  • Doris June 18, 2018, 8:03 am

    Wait a minute – in Great Britain you are expected to host a party at which you will be the guest of honor?

    I’m sorry, but I think etiquette anywhere and in any time does not condone hosting any type of party for yourself.

    Not only are your coworkers asking you to plan and pay for a party (Ostensibly for you, but it really seems they just want it for their own entertainment) but they are asking you to fling yourself into EHell. Step away from the ledge!

    It is past time to either change or ignore the subject when it is brought up. A simple, quiet “no thank you” should suffice.

    • Kirsten June 18, 2018, 2:42 pm

      No. We have no culture of showers. In the UK, they’re seen as tacky and grasping. I don’t know what these women think they’re doing, but it’s not the norm.

    • Anna June 20, 2018, 5:39 am

      “I’m sorry, but I think etiquette anywhere and in any time does not condone hosting any type of party for yourself.”

      That’s a sweeping assertion, based on the assumption that US norms are universal–but they are not. In the UK, it’s fine to organise and host a party around your birthday. We don’t expect gifts, just for people to turn up and have a good time. All they’ll likely bring are a card and a bottle. There’s nothing *here* that would cast the birthday boy or girl into eHell.

  • BellyJean June 18, 2018, 8:28 am

    I agree with the Maven. It is weird, and suspect that they crow for you to have a party, and yet no one has stepped up to host. It’s not even that hard to do at work, and yet they keep poking you. Good for you for holding your own!

  • AFS June 18, 2018, 8:31 am

    Moreover, @OP, you can school your colleagues over in Blighty that one never throws oneself a shower–it is thrown in honor of the guest. (Surprised that Admin didn’t point this out in her answer.)

  • Liz June 18, 2018, 8:46 am

    Wow. No you aren’t under any obligation to do ANYTHING you don’t want to. As you said, you offered an alternative, which they don’t seem to be too interested in, so I’d just let it go, and concentrate on finishing up what you need to do before your baby arrives. If they get offended by you not having a shower, so be it! It’s their problem not yours.

    On a side note, I hate it when people try and pressure you into doing things you don’t want or don’t care about, just because “everyone” does it. Like Valentine’s Day. I’m single so it’s a non event for me, but I also have friends who are married, etc. and could care less about it. But everyone around them seems to think they’re strange or its just “wrong” that they don’t care about it.

  • Wilson June 18, 2018, 9:25 am

    As they have imported the baby shower, why aren’t they importing the etiquette that goes with it? You do not throw your own baby shower in the first place, and in best-case circumstances, your relatives don’t either, but that’s slightly more acceptable than you throwing your own. Throwing your own is the epitome of gimme-pig.

    • Louise June 19, 2018, 8:10 am

      The etiquette part hasn’t made it over here because pretty much our whole understanding of American culture comes from movies/TV shows, and it’s not always clear who has planned the baby shower in chick-flicks. To us it just looks as though Americans hold parties exclusively in order to receive gifts, which seems odd to us, but obviously very tempting for some 😛

      Also in the UK we don’t have as many strict rules around etiquette as there seem to be in the US. Parties in particular – it’s fine to host your own birthday party, for example. No one is expected to bring you a gift (unless you are a child), just a bottle of whatever you want to drink at the party. I think we’re just a lot more casual about social gatherings, maybe?

      • MzLiz June 21, 2018, 5:19 pm

        Right, Louise but when Americans use the same excuse about being a bit clueless of the reality of other cultures due to getting the majority of their info from films & TV, they’re usually vilified for not doing proper research & for making assumptions via a fake/romanticized narrative. As a European living in the States, it makes me laugh & roll my eyes when I see & hear oblivious double standards from my fellow EU-ers, esp regarding the U.S.
        Due diligence isn’t just for ‘Mericans!

  • Carrie June 18, 2018, 9:29 am

    I find it odd they are demanding you plan this event. Don’t they know it’s a faux pas to throw your own shower?

    Either way, if you don’t want one, then don’t have one. I like your idea of a nice lunch instead.

  • Morgana June 18, 2018, 9:51 am

    Not to mention that you aren’t supposed to host a shower for yourself. Just that part hasn’t finished swimming across the pond.

  • jokergirl129 June 18, 2018, 9:51 am

    OP I would continue what you have been doing and keep telling your co-workers that you don’t want a baby shower and that you will not be throwing yourself one. If they don’t like it then tough luck. It’s strange that they keep insisting that you throw yourself one when logically if they want to attend a baby shower so bad they would arrange one for you instead. It also doesn’t sound like your close to any of them which makes the whole thing seem even weirder.

    Either way you’re not being rude and if you don’t want a baby shower then you don’t have to have one. Just keep telling them no.

  • viviennebzb June 18, 2018, 9:57 am

    Your coworkers are strange. Continue to ignore them regarding this “party”. I think your lunch suggestion was the perfect solution, but if no one is interested, that’s off. I guess those ladies will have to get their” cooing and oohing while eating bakery cake and regaling the new mom with war stories of their own pregnancies” fix elsewhere. Enjoy your baby and congratulations!

    • galatea June 20, 2018, 3:41 am

      Is it just me, or does anyone else think that maybe they don’t really care about the OP, or her baby, and don’t want to “shower her with gifts for the baby” so much as they want the opportunity to gossip, quite possibly about how gauche she is for throwing her own shower. If they really wanted to celebrate, they would have taken her up on the offer of a nice lunch, right?

      It just smells of a set-up, to me. But maybe I’m just paranoid.

  • NostalgicGal June 18, 2018, 9:59 am

    OP you are under NO obligation to hold a party because the others want you to. Whether it’s to celebrate the first day over 27c (about 80f) or Fluergelmmas Day or your impending child. If they get nasty about it, ignore them. You do NOT have to have a party and you especially don’t have to host a party. If they didn’t like the idea of a friendly lunch together before you head to maternity leave, then, do nothing. Further, bravo, that you’re mostly prepared. Congratulations and may your little one bring you much joy.

  • Elisabunny June 18, 2018, 10:00 am

    You could always say, “Since baby showers are a relatively new thing in our country, I checked it out and surprise! You’re not supposed to throw yourself a shower!”

  • Skaramouche June 18, 2018, 10:27 am

    OP, you already have the correct answer so I have nothing useful to add to this post beyond a grammar lesson because I just cannot help myself. Please forgive me :P. I’ve seen these this adjective misused quite a bit recently, including twice or thrice on e-hell so I’m going to give in to my temptation!

    You cannot be “adverse” to something. The word you’re looking for is “averse”. Averse (noun: aversion) means “to be opposed or strongly disinclined” and is often used in the negative. Example: I’m not averse to receiving gifts.

    Adverse (noun: adversity) means “harmful or unfavourable”, among other things, and can be used like this: “The adverse side effects of the drug have caused it to be discontinued.”

    /gets off soap box

  • NightSky June 18, 2018, 10:34 am

    Well, you could let them know that it is actually custom for someone ELSE to host/throw a shower for the mom to be, and that it is actually considered rude to throw one for yourself (not that it stops most people). Then they can either put up or shut up. Of course, all of this should be worded much more politely than what I can think of in my sleep deprived state 😉

  • VickyJoJo June 18, 2018, 10:50 am

    Not only do you not have to have a Baby Shower, you certainly should not be the one hosting it. That is a big faux pas and beyond narcissism. I don’t understand why they expect you to host your own baby shower. Perhaps something has gotten lost in the translation from the US to the UK.

    Regardless, they are being very rude to pressure you into this. Congratulations on your little one.

  • Dippy June 18, 2018, 10:52 am

    When I was born, more than 50 years ago, baby showers were not the norm in the US. They were mostly considered bad luck. They are popular now, and I had one when I had my 1st kid, but I sure did not throw it myself. I knew it was happening, because I think it’s dangerous to yell SURPRISE! at an expectant mother, but I had no part in the planning.

    If you don’t want one, don’t have one!

    • Dee June 18, 2018, 2:22 pm

      Dippy – I’m over 50 and I believe my mom was given a shower for my older brother. She did have bridal showers, and others had baby showers back when I was a little kid, so maybe it’s a regional thing? I’m in the Canadian southwest. Nevertheless, it’s never to be held by the guest of honour or her close family/in-laws, and not for more than the first baby. But so many things get skewed, etiquette-wise, over time, that I’m actually not surprised that Britain has imported the custom without any of the rules that allow it to stay in good stead, as far as etiquette is concerned.

      I must say I’m concerned about the way the OP words her preparations for baby – she says she has a partner but then makes it seem as if she’s all on her own. It sounds sad, really. Whether this has anything to do with the way her co-workers are behaving, I do not know, but maybe they are concerned about her and this is their way of showing it. Still does not make sense to me but neither does the situation OP is in at home, by the way she describes it.

      • LizaJane June 18, 2018, 8:22 pm

        Dippy, I’m not sure where you are, but in my part of the midwest, bridal and baby showers go back much farther than 50 years. My daughter has the rolling pin that was given to her grandmother at her shower in 1939.

  • shoegal June 18, 2018, 10:56 am

    You should let these ladies know that in America it is considered bad form to throw your own baby shower. Perhaps a frank discussion about showers should be had – it is not a common practice in the UK so maybe they just don’t understand the etiquette surrounding it. Throwing yourself one would mean that you are asking all of your family and friends to finance the expense of bringing a child into the world and it is something you aren’t comfortable doing. This isn’t something that every new mother automatically has – if no one steps up to the plate, then the financial burden of having a baby is completely on the parents. Asking you to throw a party is ridiculous. Do they realize that a shower is a party that usually includes lunch for everybody and games and prizes? On top of everything you are already doing, a shower is time consuming and expensive and not something you should be asked to do. It is completely unreasonable t and so wrong to bully you into it. If a dear friend says that it would be her honor to throw you a shower to help with everything – that is completely different. This person hosts the party and arranges and pays for everything. This dear friend would like for her friend to have some help in that area and it would be her pleasure to do so. This is how showers should work if done correctly.

  • Ellen Penniman June 18, 2018, 11:45 am

    Sounds like a group of ladies who want an excuse to go out drinking and eating on company time. You are selfishly depriving them of that opportunity. Also, if there are plans to legitimately fund this event from petty cash or some such expense account, well, double-shame on you.
    How dare you???
    (Please know how sarcastic I am being.)
    That they are looking to you to provide them an excursion, and to plan it, etc., under the guise of a baby shower is … well … poor form.

    If they want you to have a shower so badly, why on earth aren’t THEY planning it??

  • Nenetl June 18, 2018, 11:55 am

    The fact your compromise of a lunch gathering is met with radio silence speaks volumes about your co-workers simply wanting to indulge in their own benefit, and not for your own!

    I find the idea of a baby shower tacky, being in the UK and it not being a done thing might have me more jaded towards them, but even I know you don’t host your own baby party, UK or otherwise, lest look like a gimme pig!

    It’s possible your co-workers are just the type of people who enjoy social gatherings and parties, no matter the occasion, and feel scorned at missing this golden opportunity

  • lakey June 18, 2018, 11:57 am

    I have a particular aversion to people who won’t take “no” for an answer. I’d stop giving them reasons. And I wouldn’t cave in to having a shower, because that is pandering to their demands.

    Are your coworkers people that you normally socialize with away from work? In my circle wedding showers are common. Baby showers happen, but not as much. If someone I am close to has a baby, I give them a gift shortly after the child is born. I do it because I’m happy for them, and I want to give them something cute for the new baby. It is entirely voluntary, not an obligation. If these people are really excited about your new baby, they will do something nice, without expecting a party. Your idea of going out for a casual lunch was good. If they aren’t interested in that, I would let the subject drop.

  • PJ June 18, 2018, 12:53 pm

    Like others have said, the tradition of the baby shower is spreading overseas, but the etiquette of hosting hasn’t made it across, yet. Not only is a shower not hosted by the guest of honor, but it also isn’t hosted by a close relative, either.

    If I remember correctly, it is OK in the UK to host some of your own parties, so maybe this hosting rule for showers seemed unnecessary to some folks. I think the big difference is that self-hosted parties are usually casual affairs that don’t require a gift, while showers are all about getting gifts. Hosting your own shower isn’t like saying “come hang out with me and let’s celebrate and talk about babies,” but rather like saying “come hang out with me and give me stuff.”

    For the OP, I’d continue on with the statement that you don’t feel comfortable hosting a shower, and keep offering the luncheon as an alternative.

    I did that when some friends wanted to throw a baby shower for me. I’m in the US, and it would have been my 3rd shower (there was already a family one and a work one). I didn’t want my small circle of friends to feel like they had to make yet another big t0-do over me, so we had a low-key lunch and a really nice visit.

  • Me June 18, 2018, 1:19 pm

    I am finding that the older I get, that the younger generation( who are probably in the baby rearing stage of life) don’t want to host parties of their own. I hope I’m very wrong about this but rarely are we ever invited anywhere unless somebody says “hey let’s meet at a restaurant”otherwise parties being held by younger folks don’t seem to be the norm anymore ,at least where I live. So what happens is a lot of times they pester other people to hold parties and it could be that this is what’s happening at your work place. They don’t see the importance of hosting a party- they’re just going to hold out for somebody else to do it. So they say it often as they can and repeatedly bring it up in hopes that somebody will finally cave and be the host.

  • Lisa June 18, 2018, 1:55 pm

    Previous posters have already mentioned the lack of etiquette in throwing a party for yourself.

    But beyond that, what kind of people think a working pregnant woman should have “plan a large party” heaped on top of her responsibilities? Moms-to-be should be focusing on getting ready for baby, decorating the nursery, finishing up work responsibilities, and generally enjoying the last of their child-free time with their partners, not planning a party just to make a bunch of demanding people happy.

  • kingsrings June 18, 2018, 6:53 pm

    They are odd. They want you to have a baby shower, but they want YOU to throw it? That makes no sense, and it’s against etiquette since it’s very tacky to throw your own celebration for yourself.

  • Tracy W June 18, 2018, 11:38 pm

    I had a baby in the UK and we wanted to celebrate this big change in our lives but didn’t want gifts so we hosted an afternoon at a conveniently located pub with a private room to mark the occasion and put “no gifts” on the invites. Very free-flowing, people came and went, we bought some rounds of drinks and food for communal sharing and so did attendees, and the pub staff did all the other work.

    It was a nice afternoon and avoided winding up with a bunch of gifts that we didn’t actually want.

    • galatea June 20, 2018, 3:53 am

      In my opinion, the best way to celebrate a special event with a party, while receiving no gifts is not to put “no gifts” on the invitation, as a lot of people (wrongly) assume that it means either “No, really, we want gifts, and you’d better not take us at our word, here!” or “give us money, instead of stuff!” I think the best thing to do is simply host a party, possibly using the word “celebration,” or maybe having “celebration” in the décor, but not actually telling anyone the reason behind the celebration until they are actually *at* the party, and it’s in full swing.

      For example, when you bring out the cake is a nice time to say, “It’s my birthday! Thank you all so much for celebrating it with me!” or “I’m sure you’ve all been dying to know my secret. I’m pregnant! The baby is due next week!”

      I also think hosting at a restaurant (where you actually host, and pay for all the guests!) is a grand way to host a party, if you’re just not set up for it at home. If you have a small home, or a messy home, or a strict landlord or cranky neighbors, a restaurant is a great venue choice. As long as you remember that “host” means you supply all the food and fun, then it’s all good. Although, if a guest wishes to contribute, it’s gracious to accept the contribution in the spirit it was offered. I don’t like those parties where the “hosts” surprise us at the end with splitting the bill by averaging out the cost per attendee (regardless of who ordered the expensive stuff), and asking us all to cough up the cash right there. UGH!

  • Marozia June 20, 2018, 8:08 pm

    It’s your baby. If you don’t want a shower, it’s up to you. Remember what we were taught about peer pressure.
    Your colleagues will get over it.

  • Lauren Alergant June 21, 2018, 1:41 pm

    I went to my first baby shower 2 years ago. The mum to be booked a lovely cafe and we had afternoon tea and played games. She and her husband paid for the food and drink. I guess she hosted it as she invited me. I brought a gift as I would have bought her one anyway as she is a good friend. We had a lovely afternoon. At no time did I feel it was tacky and I was happy to attend.

  • MzLiz June 21, 2018, 2:44 pm

    From the letter, I get the feeling that being straight-forward isn’t going to help the OP (it hasn’t so far, anyway!) Neither will trying to school them in shower etiquette or point them towards this (or any other) site. She’s stated her preference & ‘obviously’, what they want is more important. People like this piss me off, esp when it comes to pregnant women; it’s not being kind or thoughtful, it just smacks of ‘owning’ a woman when she’s pregnant, an attitude that’s far too prevalent for my liking. British, American, Martian; that’s not the issue. This is aggressive behaviour thinly veiled as generosity. It should have been more then enough for these harpies that the OP said “no”, regardless what the cultural ‘norm’ is.

    Unfortunately, since you have to get along with these nosy little agenda-pushers as they’re your co-workers, I think it’s time for a justifiable white lie; tell them that you discussed the idea with your doctor & they felt the exertion of hosting a shower or the excitement of attending one would be too much for you. Oh well! What a pity…but you don’t want to go against medical advice & I’m SURE they wouldn’t want you to either, right? (And as far as I’m concerned, it’s not even a proper lie – Stress isn’t good for expectant mothers. If this nonsense is causing her anxiety, then it ISN’T healthy for the OP). If that doesn’t work, the last resort might be to involve HR. I doubt any company in their right mind would want to hear that the OP is getting hassled about this kind of BS while trying to do her job.

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