Mother: Plan sister’s bridal shower, delay your baby shower

  • Sunday, June 23, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

Dear Carolyn:

As inappropriate as it feels to “need” a baby shower, my husband was just laid off and we, after several miscarriages, are finally expecting our first child in August.

My successful, established, younger sister very recently announced her upcoming nuptials at the end of the summer.

My mother just yesterday decided to no longer throw a baby shower for us until October at the earliest, yet I have been charged with organizing the bridal shower, set for two weeks prior to my due date.

I’m feeling rather snubbed; however we have not shared my husband’s current employment situation … because we know from experience we won’t receive any temporary financial assistance from family.

How do I cope with these feelings of being overlooked? I won’t even be able to afford a dress for her wedding, let alone anything for the baby.

I am still working but we’re already upside-down and eating through our savings trying to make rent and pay all our bills each month. I also would really like to “nest” for a spell.

— Overwhelmed and Coming Undone

There are so many things I want to say.

I will start with this, because it’s quick: There’s no shame in your “need” for this baby shower. You deal with a layoff the best you can.

Second, but most important: Congratulations on your pregnancy, especially after so much heartbreak.

Your immediate family is your future and so is the appropriate place for you to steady yourself. Not only with the child you have coming, but with your marriage and home and what you’re creating there.

A layoff and a financial squeeze and a twisted display of priorities from your family of origin? They’re difficult and stressful. They’re also circumstantial, though. You can outlast them.

In fact, if you squint a bit, you might be able to include your mom and sister and the showers and the weddings into a larger happy tableau of family marking the passage of time together.

Or you squint a lot, till your lids touch. Whatever it takes.

With your feet on this foundation, tend to the circumstantial things, starting with the bridal shower you’ve been assigned.

By saying no, flat-out. State the obvious: You’re adjusting to your husband’s layoff — don’t hide it, just treat it as a matter of fact — you’re also working closer than you’d like to your due date, and you may well be giving birth on the shower date.

Seriously. You always have the right to say no to any request, even perfectly reasonable ones, but this request is just perverse. “We’re going to celebrate you by throwing you a party!! … Ha ha, kidding, instead you’re going to do all the work to celebrate someone else, right in the middle of your physically and emotionally transformative life event.”

Not to harp on it, but this is the kind of scenario that moves readers to ask if my letters are fake because they can’t imagine real people would do this.

As such, it deserves the no-iest no you’ve got. In fact, feel free to streamline the obvious to: “No, Mom, I will not plan a shower for when I’m giving birth.”

I’m a little confused about withholding the layoff news. The way you phrase it, you suggest there’s no point in telling family when you know they won’t help you financially — but what about just telling them because they care about you?

If the switched shower is just one episode in a longer history of disrespectful treatment from your parents, and if they’d just use the layoff to perpetuate this, then I’d understand withholding — but owning it would still be your better, if counterintuitive, course. Make them say what they’re thinking. Decide what relationship you’ll have with them based on reality, not charades.

Please also tell your mother how you feel about the baby shower bait-and-slap. Speak up not as a way of getting something different from her — because her postponing you is so emotionally obtuse that I have to think it’s merely the latest in a lifetime of her favoring your sister, yes? — but as a way of calling the insult by its name. “Being asked to plan someone else’s shower in place of my own feels like a slap in the face.”

Anyone this obtuse would probably also respond poorly to being called on it. So, your mother might accuse you of being selfish and/or cancel your shower completely.

It’s not about what you do and don’t get, though. It’s just about living your truth.

This is not without its short-term risks, but the short term goes away. Swallowing your sadness over dismissive treatment is not a healthy answer for the long term, and the long term is what constitutes life as you know it. “No, thank you” — to a shower, to other’s expectations, to any second-class citizenship — is a valid response when you’re faced with a basic lack of respect.

— Washington Post Writers Group

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