This weekend Mama Bear’s friends threw her (/us) a lovely baby shower. Grandma Bear came in from Cleveland, and a throng of friends from all parts of Mama Bear’s life came out. It was a truly heartfelt and often hilarious event — at least, so I hear. I was only there for the last hour or so, as per “tradition,” which I guess means that the papa shows up towards the end to make an appearance and help carry home the gifts. Quite like my role in Mama Bear’s bridal shower: let the women do the gift sharing and other lady things; show up at the end to say hi and bring home the gifts.
Now, I’m totally happy to let my wife have her time with her friends. This is not a post about pretending I’m being wronged as a man through the exclusion of full participation in bridal and baby showers.
But what a lovely gathering it was for Mama Bear to be supported with all of her female-identified friends who could come out in person and celebrate her impending motherhood. And it got me thinking: what sort of support do we as male-identified friends give each other when one of us is preparing to be a father? Because — formally or traditionally speaking at least — I think the answer is … none?
Further research: Apparently “man showers” or “dadchelor parties” are sort of becoming a thing and, of course, involve beer, diaper and poop references, bbq, football, and various weird sperm-related physical challenges. And obviously you go to Pinterest for all the best ideas and color-coordinated themes. Yay?
So, I guess I’m glad that I’m not the only one thinking about this … but while I do love good beer and barbecue, these iterations of “manliness” are drenched in modern American cliches of masculinity.
(Sidenote: smartphone apps “for Dads” that I’ve seen generally follow the same trend. Are we really such simpletons that our interest can only be held with the allure of beer themes and testosterone-saturated safety blankets? More on that in a future post…)
To each his own, and if you want to have a man shower party in which you compete to see who can throw frozen diapers the farthest, more power to you. (Ok, I’ll admit, after a couple beers that sounds pretty fun).
But on the level of tradition, what do we have to turn to?
In Jewish tradition, the father doesn’t seem to have any formal role until the bris (circumcision ceremony), and that’s only if it’s a boy. This seems unfortunate to me. In preparation for our wedding, Mama Bear and I both had separate mikvah (water immersion) gatherings with the respective important men and women in our lives. It was lovely to have this time set aside to specifically honor the role my dad, male cousins, brothers in law, and other close male friends have played in my life (later on we gathered with everyone from “my side” of the wedding, all genders included, to celebrate Shabbat).
I think we’re missing out on something important. Clearly the mother is going through a substantially different experience growing a human inside her womb and the physical and mental impacts are on a totally different level. But let’s not pretend either that fathers-to-be aren’t also going through their own process of preparation, with its own share of anxieties and emotional waves. And wouldn’t it be great to have a formalized ritual where our male family members and buddies gather to support us in our impending life-altering event?
Suggestions welcome 🙂