The Baby Shower: A Discussion With Myself

12:23 PM

So while I am on the topic of showers, I want to get a little controversial for the sake of hanging up my thoughts for me to look at. I am not one to be progressive for the sake of progress. I am one who loves tradition, sentiment, and value history very much, so I find that I am constantly torn between progress and tradition. My conclusion is this: I strive for progress for the sake of bettering something of value, and tradition for the sake of remembering something of value. So here is where I get a little controversial: I am sick of men not being included in showers. Sure, it's lovely to get the ladies together. I am all for that. And some men wouldn't want to be at showers. What bothers me about it is that sometimes we do things because it's always been that way and we don't question it. You may not agree with my concerns over gender exclusive showers, but ask yourself this: Why are men not invited? The assumption is that showers are "girly, not manly, feminine, only gay guys like showers, men aren't interested, etc." Firstly, let's backtrack. What is a shower? It is a time to gather together and celebrate a huge milestone. We eat, we laugh, we open gifts. What is so unmasculine about those things? If a shower is lame, it's just lame. I've been to a few where it was seriously hard not to roll my eyes haha. I don't think it matters if you are a man or woman, if a shower is truly a loving celebration, why wouldn't you want to be there? Why is it gender exclusive? Now I will stretch my opinion even further by looking at the bigger picture: as a society, we resent men on a large scale for being "absent" from family life. Moms roll their eyes when dads are the ones to dress baby for the day, or prep meals, or really do what could be traditionally seen as "mommy things". Maybe, just maybe, us women push them out and make them feel inadequate. We want their help, but laugh at them and belittle them for when they try to help and do it wrong. We want them to be excited about the wedding or the baby, but exclude them from the celebrations. How many times have I seen weddings that cater 100% to the bride's interests because it's "her" day? That really troubles me to be honest. I was always under the assumption that marriage is two people, joining together. When I attend weddings that almost forget the groom exists, I get really sad. Scott laughed when I said this to him because our wedding had an underlying Notebook theme. Sure, that catered to me more than him. But it was also vintage carnival themed with a HUGE focus on music - and he was so so happy to make the food stands for it and was proud of his work and involvement. Our wedding had burgers and hotdogs and cotton candy - and he was so proud about that. He was overjoyed to pick the musicians that would play. We picked colours that we both loved, not just me. Our first dance was his late Dad's favourite song and "the only song that could make my dad cry" as Scott remembers. We had his mom sing one of our fav Fleetwood Mac songs while we signed the registry. Scott's wedding gift from me was his dream guitar! Of course, there were some things that said "Sam" but there were also lots of things that said "Scott". Music was a huge part of our wedding and it's a huge part of his soul and what he loves. We had a day after celebration because that's his family tradition and we wanted to keep that going. We invited kids and made sure they were entertained because of his large family. I never dismissed his ideas or what he envisioned...it was HIS wedding too and I wanted him to feel so happy! And he totally was...it was a perfect day.

So back to showers, sure men can roll their eyes and be like "I don't want to go to showers...they are lame" but maybe the problem is they were never made to feel like they mattered in such an environment. With weddings, men have the buck and doe and bachelor party to look forward to (and maybe an engagement party) so they get to celebrate. But with babies, I feel like the best we have come up with is a beer drinking party in a garage where people bring diapers. Sadly, the guys hit the club or the casino or the strippers after this...and we as women feel like they just don't care. And we resent them for it. But maybe we haven't even cultivated some kind of social norm that both celebrates growing families AND let's men feel truly happy at those celebrations. Anyone who knows me knows I am definitely not a prohibitionist so this is not a slamming of alcohol as a whole, but maybe we have taught men that their emotions are so weak and emasculating that the only time they DO feel comfortable at a celebration is when there is alcohol there. Ever notice those super macho guys become the biggest softies after they've consumed alcohol? Notice all the emotions come pouring out of them? They love everyone, they are so thankful for everyone, and they are free to express their innermost emotions. To me, this points to the very sad reality that our society has locked those emotions away and told men that alcohol is the only key to let them out. That is so incredibly sad. I mourn for men. I mourn for their lost selves, the parts they have starved and let die, without a safe place to feel free. They have to hide behind masks of "manliness" in order to feel manly. That breaks my heart because men have so much to offer, so much love to give, and they are completely shamed for that side of themselves in our society.

So let me speak to who my husband IS. He is very involved in our life. I sure lucked out because he doesn't care to let people's ideas of masculinity speak to who he can be or how he can act. He is the first to get up and dance to a song. He is not an entirely emotional person by the way of tears, but he sure is joyful and is not closed off. He absolutely loves parties and celebrations and people. No, he isn't the one birthing the baby, but baby wouldn't be on her way without him. He deserves to celebrate this as much as I do. He has held my hand through some awful procedures, surgery, and scary appointments. He has reminded me how to breathe during panic attacks. He has administered needles in my backside when I couldn't bear to do it myself. He surprised me with baby gifts when I still had a hard time believing that one day we would ever get to use them. He held my puke covered hair while I cried bent over the toilet in pain. He has assembled everything for the nursery, and specifically designed the renos for it out of pure excitement to make it the best nursery ever. He has held me during my darkest moments of mourning a lost pregnancy. He has danced with me during my happiest moments of finding out we were expecting again. He celebrates the same joys and victories I do, and mourns the same disappointments and losses. So why in the world is he not welcome at the events to celebrate our daughter simply because he is a man, and therefore it's assumed he wouldn't want to be there and doesn't care? Why wouldn't he? He loves people, loves food, loves me, loves baby, and loves celebrating the good things in life. In short, if there is a party, he wants to be there. We have walked through many hours and days and weeks and months and years of pain and hurt, this is finally OUR time to rejoice. Not just my moment. It's equally his. I want him to soak up this time. It's his moment too.

Sadly, a lot of feminism is rooted in a disappointment in men that ends up becoming synonymous with "man bashing and man hating." I have never approached my views like that. I do absolutely come from a family of strong females, who often had to put on their "big girl pants" when men walked out of their lives. Sadly, many male figures in my family have caused a lot of pain to the women, either by being absent or not dependable...or being downright abusive. However, my dad, though not perfect, was not ever absent from my life and certainly never abusive. I don't lean towards feminism because of hurts from men. I lean towards feminism because my parents told me I could do anything if I worked hard enough, and that isn't always true, especially not for all women and that makes me sad. I need feminism because when things got tough in my family and my dad's health deteriorated and he couldn't work anymore, the parenting norms of our home were challenged as they had to somewhat reverse roles to make our livelihood work. Feminism to me means defending the feelings of both genders and respecting both parties. My parents taught me to never let anyone belittle me...and yet society and the media do it all the time. So yes, I am absolutely a feminist by this definition: I believe that everyone should be treated fairly and we should not make assumptions or limitations based on gender alone. Women should be allowed to be "strong" in whatever way they want, and men should be allowed to be "sentimental" in whatever way they want.

By excluding men from key things because they are "sentimental" we are communicating a larger, much more disturbing message: men don't care about things that revolve around family life. They don't care about weddings, they don't care about baby stuff, they don't care what car seat we get, or what the nursery looks like. They don't care to celebrate milestones that are "girly". They don't want to be around women. They don't want to show up. They don't want to be involved. Unless they are gay. Gay men love showers, right? So what gives? To me the defining difference is that gay men have removed the shame associated with the feminine side of their personalities. Did you know that each of us have both masculine and feminine sides to our interests and personalities and that NONE of them are wrong? It's how we are unique. As a Christian, the Bible says that God has both masculine and feminine personality traits, and that we are made in His image - all of us. So whether you are more masculine or feminine, does not determine your sexuality, and certainly shouldn't mean you should be ashamed.  But it's true that when gay men embrace the feminine sides of their personalities, they no longer are ashamed of things like showers. They embrace sentimental. They get so excited about cute things.They no longer are enslaved to what is "manly and macho". But how sad is that? You have to not want women to want to be around their "kind of events"? What does that even mean? Why is that a social norm? Why are these messages sent to men everyday? Go be macho. Go make the money, go to work, go pickup this or that, go do this. Go away, basically. Get out of my space, leave me alone. We will let you know when your opinion matters. Oh, and while you are away, we will complain about how you are never around, how you never do anything right, how you never help how we need you to. So to all of that, I just get sad. No wonder men leave. No wonder they are absent. No wonder so many movies are about absent fathers who miss a lot of key moments in their children's lives. Where does that start? No it's not all the women's fault, that's not what I am saying. Most men would argue they don't want to be involved in this stuff...but to me that is an outcome and not the starting point. Men learn this behaviour from other men that being a "man" is avoiding this stuff. But we need to challenge ANY societal norms that tell men and women where to go simply because of their gender, unless that place is a place where genitals really are the subject of interest. Where genitals don't affect the scenario, genitals shouldn't dictate the outcome. Sure, maybe some men really don't want to go to showers, no matter how open they are and how excited they may be about baby. Maybe even if we worked harder to make men feel more included and make things appeal to everyone, some may still not want to go. But there are also many women who won't want to go! Showers aren't everyone's cup of tea - and that's okay.

I am not against men having meaningful times with men, and women having meaningful get-togethers with women. It is fun and special to have those times together. I just think when it's a milestone that applies to both partners, one shouldn't be excluded!

Maybe you think I am reaching too far down the rabbit hole. Maybe you are asking yourself "is this really a big issue in society? Does anyone really care about this?" Maybe they really don't. Honestly, I have never heard a man seriously complain he wasn't invited to a shower but I have heard women complain that men aren't involved in family. So I ask myself, why aren't they? What is feeding into this? When we make being involved in family "unmanly", we are left with men who are confused of where their identity is found. Do they just work hard and make money and that's it? Where is their excitement and joy? I for one, want one of my husband's sources of excitement and joy to be found right beside me, in this together, cheering each other on in our strengths and uplifting each other. And lucky for me, it is.

So yeah, this is something I stand up for. It hurts me and makes me sad when people can't be themselves. Why can't we enjoy true community together without trying to sort people into respective categories? We all deal with a lot. We all wrestle with our identities. We all want to feel included and heard and seen, and often don't. And yes, some of it is just life. But I will always push for people to feel more included, to feel more valued, to feel more at home. To be comfortable in their own skin.

So in summary, after a very long detour, the point of my ramblings is to explain I requested our friend shower be co-ed. Scott mostly just smiles at how feisty I can be, but he SO appreciates that I don't just fight for what I perceive to be important to women, he also loves that I fight for men too. To me, that is true feminism. We all need to stand for each other. When I initially had this on my heart, I asked him flat out if we wanted to go to the showers. He told me wherever there is celebrating, especially when it comes to our little miracle, he wants to be there. That was all I needed to hear. When I think to our years of struggle, there are a few key guy friends who supported us and there are a few key female friends who supported us. To think of not really having any moment together with those guys to celebrate makes me sad. They have loved me and checked in on me and been supportive too. I want them there to enjoy this milestone with us, if they want to be :) Many have RSVP'd "yes" so I think that is my answer right there. And if showers ain't there thing and they don't attend, that's okay. I just wanted them to know I would love to have them there, same as my gal pals. Friends are friends, and supports are supports, and babies are not just a milestone for women! Hear hear! 






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