Despite my fear of organizing large events for lots of people I do not know, I was so excited to throw this shower. My friend is so lovely and just deserved an afternoon of people celebrating her. Baby showers are a completely foreign concept here, and I have spent quite a bit of time over the past few months trying to figure out why these kinds of celebrations aren't commonplace. I'm talking about parties that are traditionally meant to bring communities of people together with the goal of supporting and aiding individuals in a new phase in their lives. I'm thinking of bridal showers, baby showers and house warming parties. (To be fair, I have been to a house warming party here, and some people did bring gifts, but it wasn't expected, and the gifts were all very small things. Mostly, people just stood around and drank a bunch of beer.) You can bet there is no such thing as a registry here, either. A handful of stores have bridal registries, but a baby registry? Um, no. That is just not done.
Please excuse the plastic wrap over the sandwiches. It's the only photo I have of them.
I am not trying to say that Americans only care about getting really good gifts from their friends for their babies or that Dutch people aren't interested in celebrating big life events. Baby showers have always seemed to me like a community building event. People come together to talk, eat and share advice in addition to the gift-giving part. It seems like a great way for a personal and small network to provide support to new parents. Based on all the stuff my friend and her husband have bought over the last few months, I'm going to go ahead and say that having a baby is expensive. Isn't a baby shower meant to take some of the financial burden off of first-time parents?
My husband thinks that a shower seems like a very American form of support: individuals banding together to help out an individual in need. I think he may have a point. Whenever we have discussed this, I've asked him why the Dutch might be less inclined to support individuals in this way. He just looks at me and tells me that the Dutch do support individuals; they give a large portion of their income to taxes which in turn comes back to the community in forms of social services. So while your friends will probably not buy that really expensive Bugaboo stroller for you*, their taxes (coupled with your mandatory health insurance) ensure that you will have no out of pocket expenses for prenatal care or delivery and that you'll receive a hefty reimbursement for childcare costs once you go back to work after your twelve weeks of paid maternity leave. So, in a nutshell, that is why the Dutch do not have baby showers.
Despite the guests and the hostess having absolutely no idea what to expect from the day, the shower ended up a great success. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and had a good time playing the baby shower games I suggested. It was just a bunch of ladies getting together for some food and baby talk. Maybe showers will catch on here, after all. Who doesn't like a nice afternoon tea with the ladies?
*I realize that a Bugaboo isn't something that most American women would get at their baby showers, because it's freaking expensive stroller. It's really just to emphasize the point that the big-ticket items (stroller, car seat, I don't know what other expensive things babies need but I'm guessing there are a few things) wouldn't automatically go on some sort of baby gift list here. By the way, Bugaboo is a Dutch company, and the streets of Amsterdam are crawling with them.