A Wee Tiny Baby Rant
I don't often rant, but one of my favourite personalities, Rick Mercer, does it with such flare and mental stimulation that I thought it was time to bring this important issue to the forefront. I also find that in writing, I can clarify an opinion and even help myself come to some resolution - and I definitely need help in this situation.
It's one I'm sure Rick has never had to concern himself with. In fact, that's the problem. Why is it that men get off so easy, while we women are tasked with attending and even planning baby showers, engagement showers, bridal showers and stagettes, each of which usually requires a gift? Worse yet, for the single ladies, these events so often remind us of the things that we most desire, so fervently pray for, which we do not yet have. And we're supposed to be happy for the ones who finally have found what we're still looking for. We’re supposed to be happy for them and we're supposed to buy them gifts!
Men, if you've never thought about it before, just thank your lucky stars that the worse you may come out with is a drunken evening you only foggily remember in the form of your buddy's stag. No gifts required. In fact, as I understand, in some circles you may be ridiculed if you were to bring a gift.
The same goes for baby showers. Who ever heard of men throwing their male friend a baby shower to ensure he has all of the necessities for the new addition to his family? “Here you go Steve, I made you this diaper cake.” It's absurd, right? And single men rarely get invited to baby showers. But single women do. And we're expected to come bearing gifts.
For some reason, my idea of having a single girl party, complete with requests for gifts of expensive shoes and cute jewel-encrusted clutches hasn't yet caught on. (Oh, but I'll keep trying.)
The problem is not that I don't want to bless my friends and celebrate their joy. That is an opportunity I relish! Who doesn't want to party when friends have something to celebrate? I love sharing their joy, and if I were in their position, I'd want to share my joy too. The problem is the expectancy. The expectancy for gifts that aren't needed. The expectancy for spending money I don't have. The expectancy that every simple occasion warrants another extravagant purchase.
So I propose to find some balance. I propose to find a way to celebrate all of the special occasions in life in a way that can be inclusive for all. I'd like to go back to the origins of these celebrations.
In earlier years, showers with gifts were a way to prepare young brides and young mothers - young families - for all of the necessities ahead, necessities they didn't yet possess. A shower provided a venue also for learning from others who had come before. This sharing of wisdom was perhaps the most important aspect of getting together in celebration.
Nowadays, however, the main activities, at least among the showers I've been to, involve eating and gifting. What irks me most is that many of these gifts aren't even needed. I've always been sensitive to buying gifts that I know are appreciated and needed. But really, who needs forty outfits for a child who will grow out of them within 3 months? It's ridiculous!
While I realize that it is mostly my own desire to make sure my friends feel as loved as they deserve, that adds the pressure I feel during such occasions, this doesn't let the party-throwers off the hook. I'm confident in how much I love them, whether I buy them a beautiful big basket of goodies for their baby or not. But are they confident too? If I chose to bring some small but useful toiletry item, would they see it as a slight instead of a gift? If I bought a book about parenting, would that be appreciated? If I were to write down all of my thoughts on parenting… actually, let’s just stop there, remembering that I’ve mothered precisely zero kids in my life. My best advice includes “Try not to be the one holding the baby when it cries or needs changing.”
This is why I propose that brides-to-be and new mothers can do their part too. If it's a second or subsequent marriage, a later-in-life marriage (where both parties are well-established and really lack nothing in terms of setting up a household) or a subsequent child's shower and you're in a position where all of the necessities are already met, then by all means, throw a party. But please add a simple "gifts not required" line to the invite. That way, you can celebrate with friends and focus on the true meaning of the occasion: presence instead of presents.
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