When Jorg Morgan’s friend became a young grandma at 40, there was only one thing to do: have a party.
More specifically, a grandma shower. Morgan, a cookbook author and party planner, says she is always “looking for a reason to celebrate.” According to her, the grandma shower was a rather raucous celebration, with the mom-to-be absent from the guest list: “We had a girl’s night out with a little champagne, a little white wine : and all the gifts were sexy lingerie.”
Since then, grandma showers have become a regular occurrence among Morgan’s friends – and they are not partying alone.
“We are seeing a rise in grandma showers,” says Jodi R.R. Smith, an etiquette expert and author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman. “Families are more geographically disparate these days, and grandmas who are far away can’t always make it back for the [baby] showers. Also, Boomers are trying to reclaim grandparenthood as hip and cool, and what better way to do that than a party?”
How much of a “party” it is, however, depends on the grandma. According to Morgan, showers can range from a fun and silly girl’s night (complete with gifts of lingerie and bibs that declare, “What happens at grandma’s stays at grandma’s!”) to a more formal shower, with gifts for grandma to outfit her own nursery. Morgan and her friends often also exchange second-hand gifts, passing down cribs and other big-ticket items that others in their group no longer need. “We’ve gotten to the point where we’re just swapping high chairs back and forth,” she says. “We’re just like, ‘Who needs the car seat this time?’”
When Melissa Saigh’s daughter was five months old, her mother-in-law had a formal grandma shower thrown for her, complete with food, shower games, and gifts ranging from baby clothes to a high chair. Saigh’s mother-in-law lives over an hour away and wanted to have the house ready for weekend visits. “All the gifts were for grandma Pat and the baby,” Saigh says. “It was weird, because I’m the one who gave birth. But I thought it was a great idea : and such a nice gesture from her friends.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is sold on the idea of grandma showers. A recent post about grandma showers on the site Etiquette Hell drew fire from commenters who declared them to be a tacky “gift grab” and evidence of American entitlement. Penelope Guzman, a blogger and mom, thinks grandma showers are un-grandmotherly. “Considering that is money and energy that could be spent on a tired new mom and a newborn, [I] don’t get why grandmas want to put the focus on themselves,” Guzman wrote in a private forum about grandma showers on MomDot. “She isn’t doing anything, just getting a title.”
Smith admits that when it comes to grandma showers, it’s easy to cross some etiquette lines. But if such a party is being thrown for a new grandma, she offers some ground rules worth following: “The thing about showers is that no matter what kind, they are not a grab for gifts, and showers should be thrown by aunts, cousin, neighbors, or friends – but not the mom or the grandma.”
Smith also believes it makes the most sense to throw a grandma shower for those who don’t live close to their grandchild and cannot make it to the baby shower, which was the case for Saigh’s mother-in-law. “In this instance, it might make sense to give grandma some simple items to have for when the grandchildren come for a visit,” Smith says. “Her friends might buy her a little folding highchair and a box of wipes, or a brag book and one or two Dr. Seuss board books. This is not a $200 Pack ‘N Play type of shower.”
Morgan poo-poos the advice of the etiquette experts and those who call the showers tacky. She sees no problem with grandma showers putting all the focus on, well, grandma herself. And if grandma receives a Pack ‘N Play at her party, so be it. “Do what you want and have fun,” Morgan says. “A grandma shower is a time to celebrate a truly wonderful stage in life.”