Your medical career and the waning interest in bridal and baby showers

I think that I am missing a gene from one of my X chromosomes.

I attended my sister-in-law’s baby shower recently.  I love my sister-in-law dearly and was happy to be there to support her.  If only I could have supported her in another way.

I detest showers.  Once I was engaged, I stated clearly to everyone I knew that I did not, under any circumstances, want a bridal shower.  Naturally, everyone assumed I was just being humble or something, and I ended up with three of them.

Apparently, women enjoy playing games like “watch the bride stuff marshmallows into her mouth for every question she gets wrong about her fiance” or “guess the candy bar smushed up in the diaper to represent baby poo.”  Not to mention that the sitting-in-front-of people-unwrapping-presents felt just as awkward as I had imagined when it was my turn to do it (three times).   I continually reminded myself that the people who threw me these showers sincerely cared for me and were just following societal norms; the abnormality was me.

Don’t get me wrong; I am happily married and hoping to be a mother someday.  But, I don’t feel compelled to rush over to every baby I see and “goo” and “coo.”  I think patting and rubbing other women’s pregnant abdomens is a reprehensible lack of respect for the pregnant lady’s personal space.  I am exponentially more interested in health behavior theory, our hypertension METRIC project, and the data behind that new Pradaxa than I am in cooking and baking.

Please note, also, that I have the utmost respect for cooks and bakers!  Secretly, I wish that I was more interested in cooking and baking; I’d probably be better at both tasks if I was, for one thing.  And, if I shared these interests the way I’m “supposed to,” maybe I would fit in with the other guests at the bridal and baby showers I attend, at family gatherings, in church ladies’ groups.  Instead, I am made keenly aware of my different-ness, which, when viewed with the consistency of countless events over countless years, starts to feel like deficiency.

Did my medical career seduce me away from these interests?  Or, did my inherent lack of interest in them make it easier to choose a demanding career?

I would like to feel that it’s 2011, and gender roles are much more fluid than even twenty years ago.  I would like to feel that I am not less of a woman for not enjoying all things domestic, that a woman can be anything and anybody that she chooses. I would like to feel that it’s okay to just be myself.

Today, though, I’m feeling that I’d better give another go at that Betty Crocker cookbook instead.

Jennifer Middleton is a family physician who blogs at The Singing Pen of Doctor Jen.


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  • Jan Henderson

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jennifer. You are today’s norm, believe me. You’re just surrounded by people who haven’t caught up yet.

  • cathy

    I am a well educated woman who happily left a job in research to stay at home with my children…and I cannot stand wedding or baby showers. Just the thought of shower games makes me gag a little. I know too many women in demanding jobs who inexplicably DO like shower games to think that it’s related to type A personalities or not.

    I think that you nailed it at the end – “that a woman can be anything and anybody that she chooses. I would like to feel that it’s okay to just be myself.” Thank goodness for the women’s lib movement for giving us choices and allowing us to be who we are – whoever that may be!

  • Finn

    One of my young colleagues became engaged over the weekend, and one of my older female colleagues assured him that he needn’t worry about the wedding plans because his fiancee “has been dreaming about it since she was 4.”

    Ugh. Every time I hear something like that (or “It’s the biggest day of my life!”), I cringe. A lot of us never dreamt about weddings; we dreamt about healing sick people, or building things, or writing novels, or teaching, or going to the moon.

    • BobBapaso

      Or riding horses, or flying airplanes.

  • http://kevinmd hope

    Cakes, and flowers, and showers-oh my! I am glad I am not the only one that does not find them an absolute right of passage. While it is nice to know that your friends and family members care-there must be a better way. I am also in total agreement with you regarding the issue of personal space and not assuming one has the right to go around patting pregnant abdomens just because the mood strikes!


    At a party in Chicago some 17 years ago, my then girlfriend (categorical surgery resident) came into the room that I was in chating with a few other male residents. She had just left the room with most of the other women….mostly non-docs ie… civilians.

    I asked her if everything was alright. She looked at me with that look that women can get when upset, disgusted and self conscious at the same time and said, “the topic of conversation had just deteriorated into various breast feeding styles and techniques….I just had to leave.”

    Whether just different stations in life or different interests and concerns, she was never comfortable with the traditional “girly” things that others valued so heavily. She was a pretty cool girl….and perfectly normal.

  • Sylvia

    I hope to see more women have mother blessings instead of baby showers. I went to one (my first one) recently, and not only was it more fun (there’s just something wonderful about a lack of embarrassing and pointless shower games), but it was also more respectful and meaningful to primarily the mother and secondarily to the rest of us.

  • cherie

    I’m from Ireland and we’re not big on baby showers. Never had one, never been to one and wouldn’t want to. There’s so much to plan just having the baby that I really wouldn’t want more plans when it was actually born.

    A baby shower is designed to celebrate the baby and initiate it into the extended family… I would like to hope that everyday when she sees me smile in silent appreciation, thanking God she was born… that’s a celebration that will never end – and it doesn’t cost anything :)

  • S.B.

    Trust me, you are not alone. I may not be a doctor, and I do like to bake and cook, but I refused both a wedding shower and baby showers. I think they are odd and I am also fundamentally opposed to having a party which is basically a ploy to give me presents. No thanks.

  • Leslie

    When one of my shower-hating friends was to be given a surprise baby shower, two of us knew how much she would secretly hate it. It wasn’t her style of party anyway – cucumber finger sandwiches, etc. So we drove to KFC, got a large bucket of chicken, and set it down in the middle of that perfect buffet table with all the polite finger food. KFC is her guilty pleasure. The best part was walking in the door with that greasy bucket and seeing peoples’ faces.

  • gzuckier

    The flip side; wouldn’t it be nice if society wouldn’t look askance at stay-at-home dads, let alone mostly stay-at-home dads with a part time job or work at home career. Despite the usual salary bias, nevertheless there are a lot of couples these days where the woman’s hourly take home outweighs the man’s. And a lot of couples where the relative talents and ambitions would make the man a better choice for “homemaker”. Yet, as observed, women who have a career are still required to be the primary homemaker, if not directly by society then indirectly by their indocrination; and conversely for men who would like to be more involved in the family’s life.

  • Laura

    It’s definitely not just you, or even just doctors. Most of my female friends loathe bridal and baby showers. And like you, despite my claims that I didn’t want a shower or bachelorette party, my girlfriends ended up throwing me one because, you know, I was just being modest. (That said, I enjoyed mine, but when another woman in my life tells me she doesn’t want a shower, I won’t throw her one.)

  • Heart Patient

    I’m in agreement with SB. I’m not a doctor either, just a patient. Had I been born later, perhaps I would have gone into medicine. I went into Finance when I was the only female in class, now those classes are primarily female. Back then, females got (1) married, or (2) became nurses or teachers. But, I certainly understand where you are coming from, even with our vast age difference. I did enjoy cooking in my younger days, but I felt then and do now, that showers are just like asking for handouts. I’m also much more comfortable in a group of men than women.

    So Jennifer, it’s not just because it’s your generation and it’s 2011….some of us baby boomers have the same feelings!

  • Carolyn Thomas

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m no fan of those obligatory stupid paper plate hats with all the gift bows taped on that the shower’s guest of honor must don….

    But I cringed a wee bit at PaulMD’s comment #5. Reminds me of a friend (a very brainy PhD sociology prof – married, no kids) who came home from a baby shower feeling similarly “upset” and “disgusted” after the mothers’ conversations there had turned to how to treat a baby’s diarrhea. She was horrified! Bright, educated women who – instead of talking about their careers or politics or world affairs, now reduced to going on and on and on about baby poop! Well, by and by, my brainy friend became pregnant and delivered a beautiful baby boy who one day, yes indeed, developed a truly distressing case of diarrhea. “How I wish,” she wailed to me on the phone, “that I could REMEMBER now what those women had said about this!”

    For really, is there any topic – our career, politics, world affairs – more vitally important than how to make a sick infant well?



    You are so right. The thought of her at some later station in her life trying to conjure up that particular conversation in her time of motherhood need is more a probability than a possibility. I meant no disrespect.

    For many of us, our education was a giant pause button on the other important aspects in life that we ran in series rather than in parallel with our training…ie significant relationships, marriage and children. That being said, she was always more comfortable socially in a group of men.

  • cherie

    If your baby’s healthy and well – who cares what people are saying or what the topic is? If the child was born severely paralysed or she had to save thousands for an operation, would this woman we’re talking about care about a ‘poop’ conversation? I agree with Carolyn… and maybe successful people were never children or never ‘pooped’, maybe they just ran out of the womb with a degree in how to be socially prolific and perfect.

    In ten years time, all the worrying and fretting and wanting to make things just perfect will have went straight out the window, and none of it will matter. But you’ll still have your child.

    Anthony Robbins once signed my book and he wrote inside – “Problems never last, love always does.” and it’s true isn’t it? The things that bothered us yesterday don’t have the hold over us that they did today. Whatever your worries – it’ll pass.

  • keepingthyme

    I think they used to call us “tomboys”.

    I have always far perferred the company of men over women. I have always dreaded the shower invitations…even when they were thrown in my honor!

    I do love to garden and bake and wear dresses…but I don’t believe I’d ever be mistaken for a “girly-girl”.

    It takes all kinds in this world.

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