Is it even possible to decline my work's baby shower?

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Photo by Sugar Daze, used under Creative Commons license.
I am pregnant and I experienced raging morning sickness that more closely resembled all-day sickness. I threw up at work several times (in the bathroom) but was still "reminded" by Human Resources to use the bathroom for all incidences because they had "received complaints." I was embarrassed — I did all I could have.

I work in a small corporate office and we celebrate birthdays and things, including baby showers. I don't want a baby shower thrown for me for the sake of being consistent by my co-workers who complained about me, and my family and friends are both planning two already — this would be a bit superfluous.

Should I, can I, decline a baby shower from my co-workers? Is there a "good" way to even do this? — Claire

  1. Hi everyone!

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    6 agree
  2. I'm watching this one closely. I'm pregnant with my second child (though the first since I've worked here for 5 years, and it's with my new husband) and I've heard that one may be thrown.

    I simply don't want people to throw me a shower since this is my second child, and it seems tacky. I myself have NOT gone to office showers for women who are on their second or third child, because I felt it was a little greedy…

    So I'm eager to see the advice other past mommas have!

    1 agrees
    • Ok I have multiple kiddos. I do understand how you fell about extra baby showers. A great idea that I was able to express for my last 2 was that I wanted to have fun and I didn't NEED anything except Diapers and Wipes.
      So The Baby showers Where full of Fun games and not about GIFTS at all Just enjoying time with family and celebrating new life.
      Believe me it helps with the greedy feeling.

      13 agree
    • My sister felt the same way, so for her 2nd baby she had a Fetus Fiesta instead of a baby shower. Sombreros, tacos, nachos, a pinata…none of that pastel sweetness from a baby shower.

      6 agree
  3. Usually there is one person who organizes them, right? Talk to him or her directly. Mention that you're already being deluged with stuff and aren't sure your small home can handle anymore. While you wouldn't mind bringing in cupcakes or something, a full blown shower would seem a little excessive. After that, it's up to her to listen. However, if you point out that you might not even be able to make it because you'll be sick …

    17 agree
    • Exactly! There has to be someone that organizes the events. You know, the lady that runs around with the cards for everyone to sign.
      Be respectful, or even tell your boss that you would appreciate not having a full blown event. DON'T mention the complaints. This will only make your situation a little more awkward.

      5 agree
  4. At first when I read the title of the article I thought "why decline a shower from co-workers?" but after I read that you received complaints it's extremely understandable. Usually there is somebody who is in charge of the office parties so I would go straight to them and let them no that you do not want the shower. If you do not want to say the reason is because of the complaints then tell them it's because you're already having two. Also on a side note to the other poster. I do not agree that a baby shower for a 2nd child and beyond is greedy. For us a baby shower is a celebration of that child. Every child deserves that celebration and every mom always need supplies for each child whether it's onsies, diapers & wipies. :)

    28 agree
  5. We throw baby showers in my dept, but it's a 10-15 minute thing with cupcakes and a giftcard for the mom. I think having an actual "shower" with multiple gift openings would be a bit weird, especially at work. But everyone likes our little mini parties. Hell, who doesn't like cupcakes on the company tab!

    Edited to add: would it be possible to request something small like this? Just an afternoon coffee break type thing. Also, the coworkers who complained are turds. And your HR handled their turdness very poorly.

    48 agree
    • I really like your use of turds!

      28 agree
  6. I work in one office out of 4 offices that make up our company. I really didn't want to get together with any of the other offices since I'm not close with them and/ or don't really like them. I just told my boss that I really didn't want a shower and asked them not to throw one. They didn't and I think she was relieved. She and a couple of my other friends did get me a gift that they just gave to me at the end of my pregnancy. I think they just wanted to shop for baby clothes.

    4 agree
  7. I would just tell them that you are set, and in lieu of a baby shower you would like them to make a donation to the March of Dimes… or children's hospital or something…. a cause you are interested in. That will be an easy way out… right?

    17 agree
  8. I would first deal with the harrassment from HR. Honestly, the idea that they need to tell a grown ass adult not to vomit into the trash or on the carpet is infantilizing at best and super discriminatory. Blaming complaints after saying something so stupid could be simple CYA. People actually saying things that are not true in complaints tp HR is passive agressive creation of a hostile work environment and pregnancy based discrimination. I would request copies of the complaints with identifying information removed. Explain to HR that you do not feel comfortable with having a party with your unidentified harrasser and it is their job to communicate this to your coworkers without making you a further target of harrassment. Also, if the HR person can not or will not provide the copies of the complaints that are in your personell file so you can refute them, it is time to go over their head.

    76 agree
    • THIS. This is actually your larger problem/issue. I would take the steps Beverly suggests.

      However, if it were just your "regular" office situation and you just didn't want a shower for other reasons, you could say:
      "You all are too kind, I just have so many baby things already cramming my small house. Could we just get cupcakes and coffee from that cute place down the road instead? I've been craving their lemon cupcakes so much recently!"

      ….no one can say no to that, and you allow them to "save face" while still not having a shower.

      18 agree
  9. I were in your shoes, I wouldn't want a shower either. On the other hand, if I was a coworker of yours, I'd be pretty upset to learn that we didn't get to celebrate because someone was being less than understanding about your situation.

    If you're really not comfortable with it, then say so to the person who normally is the official or unofficial party thrower in the office. If you have close friends in the office, and you're comfortable doing so, let them know about the situation so that they can decide if they want to do someone small without including everyone.

    This is a tough one – good luck!

    2 agree
  10. I am largely in agreement with Beverly here. I would go to the organizer and explain that you will be declining the offer of a shower, primarily because your friends and family have already scheduled two for you, but secondarily because of the HR complaints, which were unnecessary and make you uncomfortable about celebrating with anonymous complaining co-workers.

    And be clear that you really need them to respect your wishes here.

    But here's the most important part: Once you've said your piece, directly and without room for interpretation, DON'T BACK DOWN.

    16 agree
  11. I have nothing to suggest as to the baby shower, since I haven't had experience with them yet, but as a lawyer with a little bit of employment experience, I'd just like to mention that if HR brings it up again, feel free to point out that pregnancy is a protected status under current US federal anti-discrimination laws and that any adverse treatment you receive due to your pregnancy status is sex-based discrimination and that the EEOC is only a phone call away.

    That's at least what I would say. Feel free to alter it for your potential use!

    47 agree
  12. Wow, you've been through a lot! If my coworkers had given me a hard time about being sick, I wouldn't have stopped crying throughout my entire first trimester. Which, actually, was true anyway. I think those who have suggested speaking to the main organizer and saying you're already overwhelmed by parties is the best way to go. And, much like Miranda Hobbs in Sex and the City, if they press the issue, demand fried chicken (or your pregnancy craving) over storks and finger sandwiches.

    3 agree
  13. Frankly, if people can't be respectful during my pregnancy then they don't deserve to throw a party. And I, personally, don't feel close enough to my coworkers to let them give me advice and "spoil" me. I'll barely be able to tolerate my mother-in-law doing that. And if they really NEED to throw a party, then they should try harder to make friends with people. It's not the author's job to facilitate a feel-good event for people who haven't been understanding in her situation.

    10 agree
  14. I'm sure I don't have the whole story, but from where I'm sitting it sounds like someone (maybe only one person?) complained, HR handled it badly, and that has soured you on the whole office. I can't say I blame you for feeling as you do, but it might be worth re-framing the shower offer a bit. Basically several people (many? most?) in your office want to do something nice for you to celebrate your new addition. Maybe try and take it in the spirit in which it's intended and enjoy some time with your non-turd coworkers before the baby arrives. It doesn't make you greedy to accept help, support, and celebration when it's offered.

    21 agree
  15. I think asking any woman (or other human) to accept gifts from or participate in a social event with someone who is deceptive and essentially abusive is playing into the "be nice because others' feelings are more important than yours" message. Other people are not more important and a few gifts a poor price to play for her discomfort and legitimate need for self protection and self determination.

    15 agree
  16. Claire (or anyone in this situation) isn't responsible for protecting the feelings of all of those people. She needs to take care of herself, and if the coworkers are disappointed, that is not something she needs to accept responsibility for. Perhaps the ones who actually like her would take the opportunity to wish her well in person and make the work environment more pleasant, not less.

    16 agree
  17. Thank you all for weighing in; it was a very stressful time going through the first month of pregnancy at work. There were a total of 10 incidences in 30 days where negative comments/complaints were made about me based upon me being pregnant alone (like that I should reapply makeup after I was done being sick for the day because of the way I looked).
    I like the idea of a "food day" instead for sure if the good few co workers I do have insist upon some kind of celebration.
    If only I could find a whole new job where the health benefits kicked in in time for the baby to be born, but I have looked/interviewed and cannot find any, even inter-departmentally. I am totally stuck here! At least I have OBM to keep me sane!

    1 agrees
    • What you described above, the 10 incidences in 30 days(!), comments about your physical appearance…if that is what happened, that is Harassment. You can check out the EEOC website for more info.

      Please, report these to your Human Resources department like some have suggested above. If HR has not listened to you, call the EEOC. This is a much bigger problem that just a baby shower and you are not totally stuck, you have federally protected rights. Best of luck to you.

      71 agree
  18. Just a gentle reminder, you guys: write your comments on Offbeat Mama assuming that whoever you're writing about will read them. (It's happened — several times, in fact.)

    Especially when it comes to talk of workplaces, I encourage commenters to tread judiciously and be extremely cautious sharing details about your employer or coworkers. Even using pseudonyms, it's risky business.

    9 agree
  19. Whatever you decide to do about the baby shower, my advise would be: Don't assume that the whole office is involved in the complaints unless you have evidence of that. It seems to me like the complaints could easily just have been one or a few people and may not reflect the feelings of the majority of your co-workers.

    8 agree
  20. Eh, if it was me I'd gratefully accept it and have a wicked good time to spite the anonymous whiner. Friends of mine have had 'diapers and wipes' showers for baby #2-3 and they went really well, just indicate that's what you want If you're doing disposables (ask for diaper service subscriptions if you're not?).

    2 agree
  21. I'm thinking about turning down my office wedding shower.

    I'm not super close to my coworkers, but I like them enough that I would want to have a shower-ish celebration with them. The problem is that I hate the type of showers that they tend to throw. I hate the restaurants/take out places that they choose and the judgmental wedding-detail conversations they have at the office showers are just awful.

    My boss will be the one to plan my shower, so I'm thinking that I'll tell her that I want the food to come from the local kosher deli of my choice so that my fiance can also come (he lives & works nearby my office) and his presence at the party will improve the conversation enormously. Plus, I think my co-workers are curious to meet him. I'll even offer to pay the difference in food cost if it would make a difference. It's more important that I have the office party I want and that I enjoy it than that they throw it for me and I have to suffer through a party I hate.

    But if you don't want any type of shower from them, I like Mindee's solution about asking them to make a donation to a children or baby-related charity instead is a great idea!

    2 agree
  22. I worked in an awkward office situation, and didn't expect there to be any kind of baby shower at all, but then on my last day before Mat Leave (from which I was not returning to the office) there was this HUGE lunch thing where everyone had bought gifts, they had asked the one coworker I was close with for my registry information and went crazy. Considering the things I did put up with, I considered the unasked for gifts and cake a severance package 😉

    10 agree
  23. Of course you can decline a baby shower! Whenever someone comes to you to talk about it, just say "No, thank you. I don't want an office baby shower."
    Go to the person who plans office events and say "I do not want an office baby shower." And stay firm.

    Isn't that all it takes? If you don't want a party, let it be known! It isn't being rude, it's being assertive and direct. You don't have to give reasons, you don't have to justify yourself. Just say no.

    2 agree
  24. The whole situation sounds very uncomfortable. I feel like a baby shower should be warm and welcoming and make the mama to be (or second or third time mom) feel special and happy. It's kind of someone to organize something for you, but unfortunate that it's not consistent with the treatment you received throughout your pregnant – or at least the first trimester. In my first trimester, I could pretty much time the sickness down to the minute, which was awesome because I got in my car at break time each day and drove down the road to be sick outside, where nobody would see or hear me. This was partially because I wasn't ready to tell the office about the pregnancy yet, and also because I find it really hard to be quiet when vomiting! But just as there should be somewhere in a work environment where it's comfortable and convenient for a woman to pump (or breastfeed if their child is at a work-located daycare), there should also be somewhere reasonable where someone suffering from morning sickness (or, hey, even a hangover) can be sick, without anybody complaining about it. I'm sure you didn't leave a mess, and I think it's incredibly insensitive and unkind for HR to have dealt with this as they did.
    Your body – your baby – your right to say yes or no thanks to a shower. Maybe you're busy that day. And all the days. But thanks anyway :)

    2 agree
  25. A mama I know pregnant with her third got thrown a "stuff the freezer" shower (everyone contributed a frozen dinner), but if they are not down with your food preferences, that would be rough. Would you accept a restaurant gift card shower? It might be nice to be able to order take-out, and even if it is to a restaurant you don't like, you can always re-gift! :>)

    4 agree
  26. It's not reasonable to complain about a pregnant lady throwing up in the bathroom, even if she's doing it several times a day. So unless your office is populated largely by unreasonable people, I think it's fair to assume "complaints" is really 1 person.

    I think if this is the only thing that's holding you back, you should go ahead and enjoy the shower. The unreasonable person can be absent that day if the thought of celebrating your child's impending birth is too much for him or her to bear.

    Of course you're the best judge of whether your friends at work are really your friends but I would ignore this 1 data point.

    1 agrees
    • I'm also assuming that at least for some portion of her morning sickness, her coworkers didn't actually know she was pregnant.

      I had TERRIBLE morning sickness and was sick multiple times at work and even on my commute (including the corporate shuttle!) I was at the Dr once a week. But my coworkers didn't complain about me behind my back. They were concerned about it – a couple of them were afraid I had cancer or something! So for the original poster's coworkers to complain about her and show no concern at all about her health speaks VERY ill of them.

      9 agree
  27. I was working in a very toxic environment when I was pregnant with my son, and when I found out that a shower was planned – no formal offer, no permission asked – my only reaction was to ask why. Did my coworkers actually want to do something nice for me? Were they going through necessary motions because I was their colleague? Was this some selfish play to force gratitude from me? I didn't know the truth and had no politik way to find out, so I went to the woman organizing the event, and politely asked her if the shower could be off-site…at my inlaw's house…thirty minutes from work. She happily acquiesced, and the resulting party was a small and friendly get-together of just people who legitimately wished me well. The not-so-nice folks still sent gifts out of (what I presume to have been) a sense of obligation, but whatever. I was grateful regardless of their intent, and didn't need to be oogled as I opened presents in front of them. Also, we had legitimately good cake.

    If there is any way you can take some ownership of the shower, you might be able to impose – directly or otherwise – some more pleasant conditions; maybe move it to a nearby coffee shop or restaurant, the children's section of a nearby library, or even your own home. It made all the difference for me, and the people at work who wanted to do something nice for me still got to, and they knew it was making me happy!

    2 agree

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