People who know me personally (I’m talking about you friends on facebook) know that I am pretty big on etiquette for a LOT of things. However, I do feel that there are times and occasions when etiquette gets severely in the way.
An etiquette gripe I have I have right now is about baby showers.
Let me start by saying that my baby shower was an etiquette buster from the beginning. For my first baby none of my friends offered to throw me a shower surprise or otherwise. They all told me, none to subtly, that they wanted invites, but they refused to offer to give me one. So, I figured I was on my own for EVERYTHING. Then my mother, mother-in-law and step-mother-in-law stepped in. Major etiquette faux pas. After the fact that no family member is allowed by Emily Post to throw any type of shower under any condition for any other family member for any occasion, it is a SUPER breach of etiquette for mothers to throw one for their daughters. And quite a few women told my mother so. However, my mother explained, I had no sisters, no female cousins old enough (or living close enough) to offer to throw one for me AND all of my friends were in this situation where they didn’t seem to want to be the one throwing it for me.
More recently I have run into the issue of gift registries. Now, aside from the fact that there are many people who are out pricing their guests with their gift registries, there is the simple issue of telling people where you are registered. While Emily Post maintains that you never, ever include your registry in any type of correspondence. Ever. The idea is that they are supposed to call the mom to be and ask. My mother did comply with this rule of etiquette. However, it is 2010. Quite frankly, that rule is outdated. Despite all the ways to contact someone, if you are sending an invitation to a person, then you expect that person to contact you back just to find out where you are registered? Does this person really have time to do that? I mean, I work nights and have 3 kids, anything that makes my life simpler, I appreciate.
I consulted about a dozen or so friends who have hosted baby showers in the past 12 months or so and all of them said they either had printed in the invitation the registry OR they included one of the cards the store provided them. Not one of them got a complaint and one even told me that one of her mom-to-be’s guests was an older British woman who found the idea charming and convenient. Unexpected allies are always good.
While all these women had positive experiences with the showers they hosted, a couple had attended showers where that was not the case. One shared with me a shower where the registry was left out of the invites and the mother only got clothes and diapers and not some of the less expensive but useful things she had registered for–like bottles, wash cloths, and the like. Another told me that she attended a shower with no registry info and the mom got several duplicates of the same item with no receipts attached. Now, I got two bouncy seats, BUT, six? That would be excessive.
So, really and truly I think we can put that on the back burner of etiquette issues because in the end, it just shows that these days most people are concerned with time and don’t even realize what they are doing might be poor etiquette because the guests actually appreciate it.
One of the horror stories I heard came from a friend I’ll call Annette whom I used to work with. Annette attended a shower for a former co-worker of ours about a month ago and shared this event. The mom opened a large box from several cousins that contained a check with a picture of the stroller she had registered for. Now, I have family members who have done similar things, but I will go on the record that to ask the mom to pay the sales tax (which they did not figure in) and in this case shipping (the local store didn’t carry strollers) is very tacky. That’s part of what makes it a gift. If you are sending cash or a gift card, I think it best that you not specify what you want it to be used for and allow the parents to select something. I don’t know if Emily Post addresses this, but I think it’s nicer that way.
Now, we get to an issue that rankles a lot of people. A second shower. I was given a second shower by a very persistent co-worker because my second child was a different sex from my first. It was small and intimate. However, she insisted on including my family in the invites. So, I emailed them ahead of time and assured them I was not trying to be greedy and did not want them to feel as if they were obligated to send a gift, but an invitation was coming. They replied graciously that they thought it was wonderful my friend was doing this for me and hoped we had a great time. And my registry did not include large ticket items but mostly focused on clothing. I think that if a person is having a child of the opposite sex, there is nothing wrong with throwing them a shower, but be prepared to get some backlash. On a similar note, for second, third or more babies I have been invited to events that were deemed “showers” but had a theme. The most common was a “wipe and dipe” shower where people were to bring wipes and diapers. Another was a “pounding” where everyone made covered dishes. And I have been invited to “scrap book showers” where people made a scrap book page etc. Not so much about gifts but about making something for the baby. No matter, Emily Post says no, no, no to these. Technically, you shouldn’t even have a party to commemorate that child.
Again, I agree that a full blown shower is unwarranted for additional children unless the child was a surprise coming many years after other children and all items were sold or given away or the case of having an opposite sex child, but really, you can’t have a party where people bring diapers and wipes only? Or come and put items in a time capsule or decorate part of a patchwork quilt or scrapbook page. That seems rather harsh.
Finally, who to invite to a shower. It should be the parents’ choice period. Now again, Ms Post tells us we should allow grandmothers to invite their friends as well, but I’m not into that. If you are the friend of the mother-to-be, ask her who she wants there. Certainly if that many of the grandmother-to-be’s friends would like to attend a shower one of them could offer to throw one? Or they could send gifts after the fact?
Etiquette is etiquette. It’s a guideline, unfortunately it sometimes acts as a throwback to a time when things were quite different. And many, many people believe that any breach is verboten. While I do look to etiquette for guidelines quite often (for example, my friends who recently put items for their child on their wedding registry) I know there is a time to say, you know what, things change and the etiquette needs to change with them.