As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a growing uneasiness with the idea of asking people for stuff and giving people stuff when you’re “supposed to” (weddings, babies, Christmas, birthdays), so this NYT article really resonated with me. I think it’s much cooler when I see something that reminds me of a friend and then get that for her/him because I feel like it, but I am not immune to the social pressure of forcing myself to find a suitable gift to give when I am supposed to.
My partner and I have been discussing this a lot lately because people keep asking us where we’re registering for the babies. Since we are getting most of our stuff used, we’re not registering anywhere and we’re encouraging people not to buy us anything and to donate to charities like Onesie Twosie or Help a Mother Out.
Honestly, what would be most helpful to us is help (changing diapers, dropping off meals, cleaning our house, etc) or money so we can pay for things like our mortgage or daycare, but that’s not what people expect when they ask you where you’re registering, nor are most people comfortable with that idea and I can’t say I blame them. It is socially acceptable to register for toys and blankets, but not diaper cream and daycare. There are also things we’ll need to buy in a year or two that we won’t be able to get used, but I don’t think most people will respond well to us registering in a year – please congratulate us for surviving our first sleepless year by buying us stuff now! I think at that point, no one will remember that we didn’t register.
All this pondering inevitably leads us to the “problem” of friends who just can’t help themselves and will buy us something regardless of whether we register or tell them not to buy us anything. I’ve already heard from these friends and they want to show us how happy they are for us by buying us things. While I totally understand this phenomenon, there is something truly weird about this if you think about it. To those friends: I truly feel your happiness for us when I talk to you and I know you are really stoked for us! You don’t need to buy us a baby toy to show us that. The issue remains, however, that we have friends who we know will buy us things regardless of what we say, so do we tell them about the few things that we have to buy new? Are they going to feel satisfied when I tell them I need nursing bras and cloth diaper detergent or should I let them buy us a million onesies with cute things written on the front? Am I being selfish by not letting people share in our happiness in whatever fashion makes them happy?