By Jodi A. Shaw
The last baby shower I went to was when I was a preteen. I went with my mom, and the shower was for a woman who went to our church. We played the clothespin game and some bizarre game with toilet paper and for the most part the only fun part about the shower were the party gifts they gave us when we walked out the door.
Today I went to a baby shower for one of my close friends, whom I love and adore entirely. That said, I do not love and adore baby showers, though I was quite pleased with the two bars of homemade soap I was given as a token of my attendance.
I was one of two women at today’s shower who does not have children, which resulted in my general inability to contribute to the conversations and interest in baby and baby mama products, and a slight feeling of nausea as the women all around me discussed breast feeding and stretch marks and how their whole life revolved around their babies.
I have three nephews and a niece and understand entirely how amazing children are. When they’re your own . . . I cannot begin to comprehend how much they change your life and how important and all consuming they become.
That said, why is it that when women become mothers, the notion of self seems to end up in the trash can along with the dirty diapers and wet wipes?
I’ve heard many women criticized because, after the birth of their child, they “returned to work before mat-leave was up, can you imagine? Get your priorities straight” or “She’s hired a nanny so she can have some time to herself” and even “She’s focusing on herself too much and never wants to talk about the baby.”
Historically, “baby showers” — a recent term — were celebrations to mark a right of passage in a woman’s life. They were about the ability of the female body to create and nurture life. Then they became an opportunity for women to share information and wisdom about motherhood in a time when books and the Internet and Health Link hotlines were unavailable to answer their questions. During the war they served an economic purpose; women received baby essentials as gifts, lessening the financial burden during hard times. Nowadays, though, I’m not really sure what they represent.
A mishmash of all the above ideas, maybe. We socialized, we ate, we watched the new mother open gifts (most of which were not necessities, but perky little extras), and talked about which baby products and toys were better than others. Finally, we (well, they) discussed the dreaded end of maternity leave and daycare options.
And we do the same thing for weddings and . . . actually, it’s just weddings and baby showers. There are no “Hey! I got my Ph.D. showers” or “I made partner at the firm showers” or “I am Jodi and I am proud of it showers.” You might have a party for those, but you often have to organize it yourself and people will buy you drinks, not shower you with gifts.
So, if your role as a woman changes from single to wife, or from woman to mother, you get bombarded with gifts and celebrations. But if you change or grow as an individual, you go out with your friends and you get a hangover.
But, when you get married or have a baby you need kitchenware and onesies, you say. Well, when you get your Ph.D. you’re also drowning in debt and could use a pile of groceries and toiletries and other life essentials, so you can focus on paying off your debt. And when you make partner at your firm you need office furniture and Prada pantsuits. Where are the parties for that?
Note that men don’t get showers when they get married or have babies. They get ridiculed because now they’ve got a ball-and-chain, and a screaming poop machine their wife will be eternally devoted to, and their sex life will wither, as if these shower-worthy-events for women are a massive, horrible burden for men. Maybe they’re on to something.
I don’t mean to dump on showers. My friend had a wonderful time visiting with her friends, eating a lot of chocolate desserts, learning from the other mothers, and getting a whackload of cute outfits, books, and towels for her wee-one. And I had fun being around her having fun. (Plus, I had a lot of wine.)
I don’t have a problem with being showered with gifts and having life necessities provided for me, so if the day arrives, I’m sure I’ll welcome a shower in my honor. But I’m also pretty keen on waking up every day and celebrating myself as an individual and not as a ball-and-chain or a babymaker. Let’s throw a party for that.