First, I’m pregnant. Very pregnant at this point. She-can’t-come-soon-enough pregnant, to be exact.
Second, many people loathe baby showers. I can’t say I’m one of those people, but it’s a common refrain among women my age. Showers have a reputation for being dull, mandatory, and cheesy. And somehow baby showers have largely become the sole burden of women, with men escaping invitation because . . . they don’t care about babies as much as women? I’m not sure what the message is behind the tradition of female-only baby showers, but Leff wasn’t having it. If the women in the office were going to be compelled to drop their work for the afternoon to celebrate my unborn child, so were the men. And thus, Leff made the first of many important decisions about the event. The others I detail below.
I don’t even think I can call this a decision on the part of the party planners. If Leff is having a social gathering of any sort, there will be whiskey. And wine and beer and maybe vodka. But truly the key to a successful baby shower is ensuring everyone can enjoy themselves. As the mom-to-be, I’m going to have a good time no matter what. After all, this thing is all about me! There’s no reason others shouldn’t drink just because I can’t. Not serving booze at an office baby shower would be like not serving booze at a child’s birthday party. Wait, that’s a thing, right? I’m still learning.
Now here’s a decision that might not seem obvious. But what’s the best way to get anyone invested in something they might not otherwise care about? Have them put money on it. My coworkers bet on everything from my baby’s weight and height to her hair color, her birthday, and the number of hours I will spend in labor. There’s truly no better way to send off a soon-to-be mom than by betting and hoping she will spend the better part of a day in delivery hell.
Skip the cutesy games
Now, I’m a pretty indiscriminate game lover. But typical cutesy party games are a good way to garner eye rolls, especially among those who are already baby shower skeptics. Still, games are a great way to pass the time at a shower. Otherwise you’re eating cake, opening presents, and being forced to mingle until it seems an appropriate and respectful time to bail.
Leff went with a two-part tournament. Part one featured a typing competition that measured both speed and accuracy and seemed to require a delicate balance of silent concentration and swearing. Part two was a Super Nintendo Mario Kart time trial. Not everyone excelled at both (I believe Yoshi is still out there somewhere circling a weary patch of grass, thanks to DeQuesha), but the balance ensured everyone had a chance to compete at something they were reasonably good at. Well, almost everyone—sorry, Scott.
Couple it with a generous parental leave policy
An office that throws a baby shower without the leave policy to back it up is treading hypocrisy. After all, what’s the message? We support this huge moment in your life but only a sheet cake’s worth? (FYI we did not have sheet cake. We had my favorite cupcakes in all the world, per my request—another party-planning success.) If you’re going to celebrate an impending birth, you’re recognizing the importance of this event. And if this event is, indeed, important, then it should come with the appropriate time off.
As I spend my final days (weeks? hours?) working from home and snuggling my dog, Todd, I’m grateful for a workplace that recognizes the potential inanities of such an obligatory event but chooses to carry it out anyway, working to make it as tolerable (even fun?) as possible for everyone involved. Why? Because it’s important for pregnant couples to feel supported, and it’s especially important that they feel supported by their place of employment.
I can’t speak for everyone else in the office—and being that many were four glasses of wine deep by the end, they probably can’t speak for themselves—but it was a great shower. And I’m both grateful for it and excited that this is the company I get to come back to work for in the fall.
Note: This post was updated on July 2, 2018. Annie has since given birth to a healthy baby girl.