By Chelsea Whitlow Shay
Baby Shower. Two words that often result in sighs of annoyance and disgruntled acceptance of invitations for all but the most baby and pregnancy loving people out there. And by “people,” I mean women, because for men when these words are uttered they all but shut down and tune out the conversation.
For men this is seen as a natural reaction and completely acceptable, but if a woman dare express a lack of interest in a baby shower it is one of the biggest social faux pas she can make. In a day and age when men and women are increasingly sharing the parenting load I don’t understand why this is acceptable.
I would like to take a moment here to note and recognize that I am generally speaking about heterosexual parenting units. LGBTQ+ families have a different dynamic and social issues and I particularly recognize how awkward and challenging baby shower can be for genderqueer or gender nonconforming folks. These individuals often get invited or not invited to theses types of events based on how family and friends view them – this can be a point of pain and frustrations as their gender identity and expression may not be honored and recognized by the invitees. However, I digress and will address these issues in more detail in a future article.
With that caveat and recognition aside I would like to get back to my main point. With the increasing expectation of men and women sharing the parenting load more equally why do we accept and continue to participate in single gendered baby showers? I understand that pregnancy, the act of growing a human being, is a special thing and is often seen as a rite of passage for women. I also realize that baby showers are a time that is reserved to pass knowledge down from generation to generation and to share the “gruesome” (a.k.a natural and normal) details of the pregnancy thus far. But, why is this act only reserved for women? If we truly expect men to equally share in the child rearing process why do we set a precedent for men not being involved in the pre-birth preparations?
There are vast amounts of knowledge that can and should be passed down to the male or non-childbearing side of the parenting partnership. This preparation should be just as formal and socially sanctioned as your typical baby shower. Call it a “Man or Dad Shower” if you must, but I’m happy for us to start with baby steps at first. I am tired of both men and women insisting on female only baby showers and being complacent in the acceptance of men/non-childbearing partners’ not being involved pre-birth.
As I write this I can already here some of the standard resistance to this idea of sharing in the pre-birth preparations: “I go to the doctor appointments with her and Lamaze class! I deal with her cravings and mood swings! Don’t I get credit for that?!?” You want “credit” for that fine – you get credit for being minimally involved. You’re like a totally modern man. I realize in the grand scheme of history this minimal involvement is an improvement, but I refuse to accept that this is the best we/you can do. I refuse to accept that this minimal participation is equal or equitable. I expect more and we as women should demand more without apology or excessive praise of our partners for stepping up and sharing the load we’ve been carrying for millennia.