April Showers
by Clark L. and Kathryn H. Kidd

If there is an equivalent to a minefield in the arena of LDS parties and activities, that minefield must certainly be in the giving of bridal and baby showers.  There are two kinds of women in the world – those who just love showers, and those who hate them.  Based on our experience, you will not find a whole lot of women who think that showers are just “okay.”  This is one area that has women polarized, with feelings running strong on both sides.<

As you can imagine, the women who most like showers are usually the ones most likely to be the potential beneficiaries of such showers.  There are women who are just as hopeful of having a baby shower for their sixth baby as they were for having their first, and there are women who are as just as hopeful for having a bridal shower for their third marriage as they were the first time around.  And who can blame them?  Showers mean FREE STUFF.  It’s human nature to want free stuff if you can get it, and that’s especially true if you have had to give presents for about a thousand other showers.  Once it’s your turn, you can’t help but think that it’s finally payback time.

The people who hate showers are most likely the ones who have no chance or no inclination of being a beneficiary.  Being invited to a shower where people rejoice over the impending arrival of a new baby can be a source of heartache to a young woman who is childless.  By the same token, women who are unmarried and who have reached the stage in life when they realize they will probably never get married can be traumatized by a wedding shower.

The other people who can be traumatized by showers are people who have had to pony up gifts for ten showers already this year, and who see another dozen or two of them on the horizon.  Living in a ward where showers are a weekly occurrence can severely burden the budget of a woman who is expected to attend those showers, and resentment can start running rampant when a person is given a shower who really shouldn’t be given one.

The practice of giving showers is one that isregularly abused throughout the Church, at least in the United States.  Well-meaning Relief Society presidencies or wives of bishops in many wards try to organize bridal showers or baby showers for selected new mothers or brides.  This is a potentially disastrous situation.  The hosts of these showers run the risk of offending people who aren’t invited, plus the risk of placing a financial burden on those who are on the guest list.  But that isn’t all. Once the Relief Society or the bishop’s wife gives one shower, a precedent has been set.  A shower will then be expected for every new mother or new bride in the ward – even if it’s a mother’s eleventh child or the new bride has been married seventeen times.  Otherwise people in similar situations who are not similarly recognized will have their feelings hurt. 

Although it’s fine for ward members to act independently and give showers for friends who live in the ward, these activities should never be sponsored as official ward activities.  Not ever.  No exceptions.  And this should be such a hard and fast rule that if you are a Relief Society president or a bishop’s wife, you should not have a shower in your home for any ward member (although there is nobody who will be the wiser if you secretly ask someone to host such a shower for somebody who needs it).

And there’s the rub.  Because there are some women who need showers – either because they need the gifts or because they need to know that people are celebrating with them in their life-changing event.

Our Shower List

Although it can be argued that nobody should expect a shower, here is a list of people who may need or really appreciate a shower:

         First-time mothers (this is often stretched to include mothers of one sex who are finally having a child of the other sex, or mothers who are now having twins, but the exceptions should be rare and obvious or you’ll be opening a big can of worms).

         Mothers of more than one child who are impoverished for one reason or another, and who might appreciate a perishables shower where people give diapers or edible gifts for the forthcoming baby, or give her gifts to pamper her during the last days of pregnancy and the first days of new motherhood.

         First-time brides – especially brides who are not getting support from their families or friends, and who need to know that people are celebrating with them.

         Women who are being baptized as adults may really get a kick out of a “baptism shower,” where female ward members can chip in to give scriptures or food storage items or even gag gifts (remember those green glass grapes?).  In reality, this sort of “shower” is more a show of solidarity than an excuse for giving gifts.

         People who are on the brink of a long illness, and who may appreciate a shower of gifts that can be eaten/read/enjoyed in bed during the long hours of recuperation – as well as the love and support that showers carry with them.  If you’ve never heard of a cancer shower, imagine how you’d feel if you’d just gotten your diagnosis.

         Just as there are people who may need a shower, there is also a list of people who should not be given big celebrations that involve large numbers of ward members:

            – Mothers who are on their second (or higher) child.

            – Brides who are on their second (or higher) husband.

            – Unwed mothers.

The howls are going up even as the previous list is being read.  How uncompassionate can we be?  Don’t we realize that mothers who have had six children, brides who have been unsuccessful in their previous marriages, and especially unwed mothers need love too?  Of course we recognize those things!  And indeed, it can be rationalized that the woman who has six kids and is dead on her feet with exhaustion, the bride who hopes she has finally met the man who will treat her right, and the unwed teenage girl who is keeping her baby are probably more in need of love and support than are the people in our first list.  But mothers who have already had a child have baby equipment on hand, even though it may be used.  Brides who have been unlucky in love have already been given the gifts to start a household.  And unwed mothers are strongly counseled by Church leaders to give their babies up for adoption.  It’s fine to privately give a gift to an unwed mother, but if you give her a shower you are telling the other young girls in the ward that if they have babies and keep them, it’s an occasion for celebration.

One thing about giving showers is that you want to give them for people you like.  It’s always the popular people who are given more showers than they know what to do with.  If you think of giving a shower, decide why you want to do it.  If you’re doing it as an excuse for a party, you may want to think of a different kind of party.  Take the pregnant mother of three kids out for a big group lunch at her favorite restaurant (providing child care so she can have a peaceful lunchtime experience before child number four makes an appearance).  Get a group together to collect money to send the second-time bride to a spa to rest herself up before the wedding, and forgo the showers that will give her gifts she doesn’t need. 

But if you see a woman who needs a shower and probably isn’t going to get one, you may have to bite the bullet and give that shower.  (Or, if you’re a Relief Society president or a bishop’s wife, you may want to put the shower bug in somebody else’s ear.)  Showers can be great blessings for the people who receive them, as long as you make the effort to ensure that this blessing for the recipient isn’t a hardship on everyone else.

If showers are running rampant in your ward, the best time to change the policy is when the Relief Society presidency changes.  We once had a wise new Relief Society president who announced that showers in our ward had gotten out of control, and that henceforth there would only be showers for first-time brides and first-time mothers.  The shower-attending women in our ward blessed her name, and even the women who didn’t get showers because of the new ruling adapted pretty quickly once they realized they weren’t being singled out, and that the same rules would apply to everyone.

Some of you by now are probably thinking we are the most heartless people in world for not espousing the gospel of all-showers-all-the-time. That being the case, it might surprise you to know that we recently gave a shower ourselves for a first-time bride  In our next column we will present some ideas for giving a shower that has some class.  If you’re going to give a shower, you might as well do it with panache.