Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: When I became engaged to my now-husband, I explicitly told friends and family I was not interested in any bridal showers. My husband and I had lived together for years and needed nothing for our home. I’m very quiet and shy with few female friends/relatives and was never interested in being the center of attention.
My mother-in-law ignored all of my protests and planned a bridal shower, inviting only her family members (most of whom I’d never met). I had no choice but to go and be gracious, even though the experience was extremely uncomfortable.
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I am pregnant and know my mother-in-law will immediately begin plans for a baby shower when she finds out. I have no interest in repeating the experience and have decided not to commit to any future dates as potential surprise parties, in addition to telling her I prefer to have no party.
“Mom” has lots of anger issues and will not take the news well. Is it petty of me to say a polite but firm “No, thanks,” or must I suck it up yet again?
— No Parties
DEAR NO PARTIES: It’s your life. “No, thanks” is never petty.
Normally I’d say that baby showers are different, and that involving people in celebrations can be an early step in creating a community for your child, but this is different. You’re still at a point where your mother-in-law is in control, you make no mention of where your husband is in all this, and a baby is about to make any mother-in-law boundary problems exponentially worse.
So, my advice here is to take it up with your husband. Not just the shower, but the whole “anger issues when anyone says no to her” thing. He needs to be willing to serve as the protective wall between his young family and her issues. Is he? If not, it’s counseling or marriage seminar time, to allow a disinterested third party to explain the perils of not making each other your mutual priority.
Just a side note about creating a sense of community, had it been applicable here: These celebrations needn’t be gift-shakedowns, but can instead be traditional showers but the gifts are donations for needy moms; or favorite-children’s-book showers; or best-advice-I-ever-got showers; whatever sits right.
What if you don’t want advice or questions either? I’m having this weird urge to go hide in a cabin in the woods until I give birth. I’m not doing anything particularly interesting. I mean, billions of people have done this. Is it weird that I’m just not interested in discussing my future child?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Oh, gosh, no — I swear the population would double if new parents didn’t have to run the gantlet of unsolicited advice.
OK, maybe not double, but I’ve never had anyone report they were delighted by all the advice they got; all reports have been of how annoying and intrusive and persistent it is, this societal impulse to coach new parents.
And, you might want to stay in your cabin till your baby’s an adult, because the advice flow isn’t diminishing anytime soon. (Was that part unsolicited?)