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Author Topic: Baby Showers  (Read 4625 times)

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Baby Showers
« on: October 13, 2011, 02:23:18 PM »
This is prompted by the latest post on the Home page, where it seems that everyone is (pleasantly) surprised by the no-gift shower idea.

In the UK, I think most of us would be horrified by the idea of work colleagues feeling obligated to buy individual gifts for someone you work with and may not even be friends with! The tradition in my office was there was a collection taken up for someone who was going on maternity leave, which was anonymous obviously, and a gift would be bought from everyone through that collection.

It is not usual either for friends or family to throw showers for the mama-to-be. Gifts are usually bought AFTER the baby is born, and usually are just tokens (maybe a baby outfit or a teddy bear) but certainly not a way to "kit out" the parents-to-be.

I am not knocking the tradition of showers as this is obviously an accepted and even treasured custom in the US, but in my experience it would be very unusual and slightly odd to have one over here. (I am aware that by posting this, many other UK E-Hellions will post saying they had one themselves, but I think most would agree that it is not the done thing to have one over here).

It may be a superstitious thing also; I personally would not buy a gift until after the baby is safely born. Although I must also add that after my daughter was born in January, it felt like Christmas for about 6 weeks after she was born - cards, gifts and flowers arriving every day! We felt quite sad when it all stopped and everyone else returned to their own lives!!


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2011, 10:53:17 PM »
Even in Canada/US - there will be people who are opposed to a before-birth shower.  Either they feel that it's unlucky, or they feel that the purpose of the shower is to meet the baby.

I acknowledge the superstition-aspect and I can certainly understand the reluctance of a mother who had previously lost a baby to having a before-birth shower.  On the whole, however, I like them.  Really, the purpose of a shower is to give the woman small gifts that she will need in her new role.  A wedding shower - small, useful household items such as kitchen utensils.  Baby shower - basic items such as receiving blankets, onesies, baby bath items etc.  These are the things you need before the baby arrives, not a month later.  I will agree however that in Canada/US shower gifts have morphed beyond "basic" items.

IME workplace baby showers are fairly common (I had one (surprise) and attended one) but there's no pressure - it's just a blanket invitation and takes place at a nearby location shortly after the office closes.  Also for family parties - sometimes someone such as a grandmother hosts a "shower" for family members only, and naturally these might include more expensive presents than casual-friends might be likely to give.


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2011, 04:23:16 PM »
I definitely think showers have changed a lot in the US (not sure about Canada). I am only 30 and I remember a time when showers usually were for the very close friends and female family members of the MTB. There were games, homemade foods and cake and the whole thing only lasted a couple of hours. Most of the gifts were baby essentials (diapers, bottles, thermometers, blankets, etc.)

Now, showers seem to be much larger, are often times co-ed, seem to be catered a lot more and feature a lot more extravagant gifts. I don't mean to knock those trends (although, I personally don't like all of them), just that the whole concept seems to have changed a lot in the last 15-20 years.

I often wonder what a baby shower in the US will look like 15-20 years from now. 

Also, I've been to a number of workplace baby showers, and I find that most of the time there is a collection and one large gift off the registry or a gift card is purchased with only the closest of the MTB's coworkers getting individual gifts. I've never seen a workplace shower where each person purchased an individual gift.


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2011, 04:17:19 AM »
Baby showers have sprung up in Australia in the last ten to fifteen years. I think as an influence of American TV as there is no etiquette history behind it. From what I have experienced most women organise it themselves, or a family member does and they are done about 6 weeks before the baby is due. I have seen Jack and Jill ones which I think reflect how much more dads want to be involved so I tend to like them. These tend to be more of a BBQ style party and rarely have games.

Presents don't tend to be extravagant and I have never heard of anyone registering for a baby shower. The mother to be may leave a list of things with a friend but these are usually small items.


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2011, 04:25:30 AM »
I'm in the UK and didn't really hear about people having baby showers until about five or so years ago. Even so, they are still very unusual here.

That said, I was amazed at just how much people bought for us before our first baby arrived. The pram was bought by may parents and the high chair was from my work colleagues. We were given an incredible amount of clothing and other baby items. The only things we bought were the cot and some of the bedding, a breast pump and bottles, nappies and some clothes (although we didn't even need to buy those, given the amount of things we were given, both new and second hand) DH's colleagues in particular were very kind and gave us a lovely set of baby clothes, and several ladies made hand-knitted items for him. We were given a lot of things before DS2 was born as well.

A good friend of mine (mother of four) warned me not to buy too much stuff before the baby arived, because we would be given a lot of things, and she was absolutely right. People were incredibly generous.
NE England


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2011, 04:49:23 AM »
My experience is very much like mechtilde's.  People have become aware of baby showers very recently through American TV and other influences and a few people have tried to get it to catch on. 

I've never been to one and I don't intend to, its not superstition that makes me dislike the idea of celebrating a baby before its born, but unfortunately just bitter experience and having known women who've lost babies in the last few weeks or had still births.  You're celebrating the safe conclusion of an incredibly dangerous and risky event before its happened. 

A friend of mine asked if she could have a baby shower, I responded with "No, we're not American!  In this country you don't get the presents till you've put the hard work in!"  We're close enough that it was ok, and I did of course get her a lovely gift after her son was safely here.  During my SIL's pregnancies I have purchased a 'big' item ahead of time because they're my immediate family and that's different.  No party was necessary for this though!

Thankfully, the concept of the bridal shower doesn't show any signs of crossing the atlantic, I think that would be a step too far for nearly all Brits!


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2011, 03:53:50 PM »
I think some of the reasons for a baby shower have been lost in the trip across the seat.  There are three major reasons to have a traditional baby shower (middle-class economic stratum):

1. To mark the transition to motherhood.  (Hence only getting one before the first baby except in extraordinary circumstances.)
2. To equip the couple with the basic things that new parents often underbuy and need at short notice, such as diapers and bodysuits.  People are free to give fancier gifts or pass on sentimental favorites, but this is not expected.
3. To provide the mother-to-be with support and pampering on what may be the last occasion for a long time that won't have to begin with the question, "What do to with the baby?"  This includes relating personal experience with labor, etc., hopefully in positive terms although there are always people just itching to tell scary stories.  The conversation may become extremely anatomical, which is part of the reason why these were traditionally female occasions.  The women were all assumed to be married to men who didn't want to hear details about the bodies of other people's spouses.

So a traditional baby shower (again, this is a middle-class person talking) was a relaxed affair that was thrown for the mother-to-be by someone who cared about her, because it is bad manners to demand affection.  The mother-to-be was expected to do nothing more strenuous than exclaiming over each tiny pair of booties.  And the gifts were generally small.  Somebody would probably show up with a silver rattle or a fancy baby album, but diapers, clothes, and burp cloths were more the thing.  My friends also got us a bouncy chair (loved that thing!) and a baby bath (not so much), as well as a whole flock of cute stuffed animals for later and a lot of sore-butt lotion.


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2011, 04:05:23 PM »
Warning: I have absolutely no proof for this theory. It's all made up in my own head. End Warning.

I think that the baby shower may have its roots way far back in colonial/early settler times. It was common for people to get help from their neighbors for large projects. There would be a large gathering of families for a house raising. Women would gather for a quilting bee, where 10 or more women would sit down and quilt an entire quilt in a day. One woman would have pieced the quilt top, but the neighborhood would help stitch all the layers together. Husking bees were not uncommon in the fall after the corn harvest.

There was less of a support system out on the frontier. Neighbors had to help each other get the larger projects done. They did so knowing that in their turn, their neighbors would help them. Farm houses were miles apart. There simply weren't the small villages that were common in European countries. Getting to a store could be a two or three day trip, longer the further out you traveled. Which meant that supplies had to be considered carefully--a family might make only two trips a year to a town with stores.

So when someone was getting married or having a baby, getting supplies to set up house or care for a baby was not a easy task. So, just like for building a house or stitching a quilt, neighbors would step in to help.

I'm not saying that neighbors didn't help each other out in Europe; please don't get me wrong. But there was more of a support system, more of a safety net, with more people, more villages and towns closer together.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2011, 03:54:34 PM »
I agree with that theory, since for many, many years, getting regular supplies was a struggle for American households (read the Little House series sometime...). I think that it comes from the fact that women often couldn't get some of the basic necessities and would get hand-me-downs from neighbors. But it's now become a gift bonanza.

I also remember when showers were just close friends who gave token gifts or little, practical items (this was for both baby and bridal showers). Just the other day, I heard of a couple who hadn't bought anything to prepare for their baby yet, because they hadn't had the shower!  ::)

I fully support the fact that more of them are now co-ed. Why should women have to suffer alone?


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Re: Baby Showers
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2011, 08:42:01 AM »
I also wonder if things started to change as the government got more involved in regulating and even mandating certain things regarding babies.  In the old days (my grnadpaprents time) you made your own crib and so on.  Now there are s.tandards on those kinds of things and I think fewer people feel comfortable trusting their own judgement.  Also, prents are required to have car seats when driving babies around so the government is actually mandating certain equiptment that was optional a generation ago and unheard of a generation beofre that.  WHat people used to be content with as far as baby supplies has not changed just because of consumerism but because of changing safety standards.