[Bella’s intro: Maxine Trump (no relation) has thought a lot about the choice of whether or not to have kids. In fact, she directed a new film about it, To Kid or Not to Kid, that challenges all those obnoxious and insulting stereotypes of people who do not want kids. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is getting great reviews. In this guest post, she wonders how to be supportive to a friend who is having a baby, when there are plenty of good reasons to question whether baby showers are such a great idea.]
Invited to a Baby Shower? What If You Just Aren’t into That?
Guest Post by Maxine Trump
Your friend is having a baby! Even though you’ve decided you don’t want children, you want to support your friend in what she needs. But… you know the baby shower invitation is coming. Is celebrating the baby for one afternoon, maybe just a few hours, the support you want to give? Really, what is the support you should give?
What about when the balloons deflate, everyone has gone home…the baby arrives, more balloons more celebration until the Mom (and maybe Dad) close the door and the reality hits. One in 8 women suffer from post partum depression. I think this baby machine feeds into that.
With the rise of baby showers, Push parties (thanks Beyonce for starting that trend) and now Gender Reveal parties, aren’t we just becoming tricked by the marketeers? Is it possible that your friend isn’t that thrilled about these parties, either? I’ve had many friends tell me they’re doing it for the in-laws. Some say their husbands aren’t expected to attend. So why do we women have to sign up for it?
In 2018, the baby products industry was worth over $73 billion, and is expected to be worth around $109 billion by 2026, according to data by Statista. As the market grows, more unnecessary gadgets and products are created and marketed as “must-haves” for expecting parents and newborns. Gifting at baby showers contributes to people’s increasingly buying items babies don’t need, generating more and more waste. (Seriously, your friend does not need that baby wipe warmer.)
Gifting is intrinsically part of baby showers, and as Bonnie Kristian writes for The Week, baby showers “encourage frivolous gifts.” In her article–appropriately titled “Baby showers are the worst”–Kristian talks about the performative nature of opening gifts at these parties, and how that results in showy gifts that are usually not very practical. There are articles online giving tips on what to buy and how much to spend on baby shower gifts, from $25 for a distant friend, to $100 for a relative. My first thought upon reading these was: why should I even be attending a “distant friend’s” shower?
Another troubling practice that often comes with a baby shower is the gender reveal. The recent trend of the gender reveal has quickly become out of touch with today’s society, as not only traditional gender roles are subverted, but also gender identities no longer fit the binary that is represented by that pink and blue cake. Even Jenna Karvunidis, the woman who invented the gender reveal party, regrets it now, realizing it actively harms trans and non-binary people, and is far too reductive.
I love the British tradition (seen as very male, I want to bust this stereotype too) of wetting the baby’s head. Another nice idea is bringing the parents a gift they have listed, or something homemade, after the baby is born. I also believe in cooking a really tasty meal as well as a nice bottle of plonk, for when the Mum can drink again. After all, when will the parents have time to cook in those first days and weeks?
The last point I’m going to make is that it’s estimated that 45% of pregnancies are unplanned so maybe you’re being a better friend by offering a listening ear and not taking part in all the congratulations. I’m careful with my congratulations now.
In full disclosure I’m childfree (and made a film on the subject) and if I’m honest I feel extreme anxiety at baby showers. These parties can trigger feelings of inadequacy and discomfort and be non-inclusive. Especially for my sisters who want children but can’t have them, whether for medical or financial reasons or some other reasons.
Women are already constantly bombarded by reminders that the world expects them to become mothers–from advertisements, movies and TV shows, and social media (not to mention friends and family who are constantly asking them when they’re going to have a baby). I don’t need to buy into the business anymore.
So I forego all pre-baby parties and visit with a casserole and a gift after the baby is born. Having a drink with the parents or just the Mum could be a nice touch, too. If you are not the closest friend, maybe you shouldn’t visit in the first week. Ask when it’s a good idea to visit – if at all.
Many parents have told me they felt excluded from their community when their child was born. So this is one great way of making them feel they’re not alone and that’s my kind of party.
[From Bella, again: Thanks for this, Maxine, and good luck with your film. I just want to add that I was touched by your thoughtfulness and efforts to be supportive to friends having kids, when you do not have kids. I just hope they are equally thoughtful in return, when it comes to acknowledging and celebrating the important achievements and milestones in your life.]
Maxine Trump (no relation) is an award-winning director of To Kid Or Not To Kid, a documentary film that aims to dispel the myth that living childfree is weird, selfish or somehow wrong and spin-off PBS series Should We Kid Or Not? Her work has been featured on the TODAY show, the New York Times, LA Times, Forbes, National Post, The Boston Globe etc. Maxine is the author of The Documentary Filmmakers Roadmap (Routledge), is a Sundance advisor and teaches documentary filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.