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In Defense of The Baby Shower

Apparently the UK is picking up on the US-style baby shower tradition. According to the Daily Mail, baby showers started gaining popularity in England after Jennifer Aniston’s character on Friends had hers; now as many as 2/3s of expectant British mothers are planning them.

The marketing of holidays and special occasions is the American way: My eyes instinctively darted in the other direction, but I’m pretty sure I saw an aisle of garish plastic orange pumpkins and plastic fall foliage in the drug store while looking for sunscreen the other day. I expect the Santa figurines aren’t far off. This stuff mostly makes me cringe. I don’t even go in for big birthdays. But I reserve a place in my cold, party-pooping heart for the baby shower.

Fluffy pastel décor and diaper cakes aside, this celebration is, at heart, very boring and practical. In fact, in our country, it may be the one time for new parents where there actually is a village effort. New families should get a leg up from the community. God knows, this baby will cost you.

In a poll of 3000 UK mums half said they didn’t have to buy a single thing for the first few months of their baby’s life, thanks to their baby shower booty. Almost all of these new mothers were, according to the Daily Mail, “completely overwhelmed by their friends’ generosity.”

We spent very little when our first was born. The pump, high chair, stroller, car seat, clothing, starter toys, burping clothes, diaper bag, baby mobile… all came from family and friends. Many US mothers have a baby shower for friends and family AND a work baby shower. A bunch of colleagues pitching in $10 for a gift card can add up to a serious shopping spree.

People do get useless baby crap, sure, but registries are widely used in the US and there are always some practical mothers in your circle. A friend once told me that her fancy, childless friends got her gorgeous over-priced French onesies (which she loved) but the tough, practical mothers at her office hooked her up with nipple cream and butt paste (which she needed).

Sometimes a shower is not worth it though. If the expectant parents are forking out for it (which they shouldn’t according to all baby shower etiquette websites, of which there are many) or expected to get a pricey gift for the hostess, the shower can become a burden. I know a mom who felt pushed into a baby shower for her second baby and ended up buying an  expensive thank you present for her host and taking home a trunk load of redundant items.

Of course baby showers are not for everyone. Not all Jews go in for them for cultural/religious reasons. Some couples don’t feel comfortable celebrating the baby’s arrival before… the baby arrives. Others just can’t abide by the aesthetics, though there are ways around this.  Others still don’t want a ton of attention or can’t stand the idea of their annoying sister in-law or frenemy hosting some tense party with lots of hovering sanctimommies dispensing questionable advice about birth and baby sleep.  Obviously, there are nuances.

But in the end, who cares about tacky decorations or annoying relatives. A baby shower is not just a bon voyage party, it’s an occasion for the people in your life to help you gather the supplies you’ll need for a pretty serious expedition.

photo: Michael Wade/Flickr

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