Who is the DeBeers of the Push Present, I wonder? The ingenious marketing mind who said, “You know how we can sell more of these bracelets and necklaces? Convince new parents that purchasing the mom a present for delivering the baby is an expectation.” It’s gift-giving by way of emotional manipulation, and if I’m a marketing exec at Jared or Kay, then I think this trend is genius. But to the couple giving birth to their new baby? It’s a gross way to start a family dynamic. Push presents are stupid, a nefarious way to get into people’s heads about what it means to have a child.
Let’s Get This Out of the Way
Yes, I know, I’m not the one having to go through unfathomable levels of pain that half the population of the planet can never experience. More than that, I understand that pregnancy is a long burden. The weeks and months following the birth are no picnic, either. It takes a long time to physically and emotionally recover from the trauma of birth; there is no male equivalent of this process. Then you throw in a needy tiny person who demands constant attention and it throws your entire life into chaos. Having a baby is stressful.
I don’t lack sympathy for Kathleen’s impending cycle of recovery and care for Creature, but buying a shiny doodad doesn’t demonstrate an understanding of the difficulty of childbirth any more than it lets dad off the hook for having to, you know, care for the child at home.
You Will Probably Get Lots of Gifts
New parents get gifts in droves from just about everywhere. Excited grandparents want to spoil their new family member. New uncles or aunts may want to help out around the margins. Old friends send surprise care packages to your doorstep. Even current parents will gift unused cribs or other much-needed hand-me-downs to help get the new family on the road toward regular life.
The point is: your life is about to get a lot more cluttered with stuff. And, look, if Kathleen wants a new pair of slippers and a nightgown so she’ll be more comfortable around the house? Of course I’ll buy those things for her. Not because it’s a “present,” but because I want my wife to make a smooth adjustment to new motherhood. It makes things easier for everyone, and that’s not a gift; that’s just good preparation.
The last thing Kathleen needs is a charm bracelet with Creature’s name, birthdate, and weight engraved on it.
The Gift-Giving Arms Race
I think gifts, as a general concept, are great. But gifts are supposed to be fun surprises. When we put pressure and expectation on the people we love to buy us crap we don’t need, it re-contextualizes the relationship in ways that have subtle, but real long-term ramifications.
It makes me sick that every life-affirming moment of love needs to be reified by a trinket or a bauble. Diamond engagement rings are Patient Zero in this area: a “cultural practice” invented by the marketing department of an international cartel.
Every picture I see of a disembodied hand with a diamond on it makes me want to puke.
Gift-giving has become a competitive social disease, and push presents are already heading down this road. Facebook and Pinterest are rampant with push present ideas and advice; the brinksmanship is spinning out of control. I mean, if Kim Kardashian gets a highly-publicized $1 million push present, what’s the standard for a regular family? If you need you need love demonstrated by an object, then your priorities are screwed up as it is.
Here’s a Better Idea for a Push Present
Be an attentive, active father and husband. Work together with your wife to create a good team parenting dynamic that can work through more than the first two decades of your child’s life. Open up with her about your parenting approach and get on the same page so you don’t undermine each other. Get up and feed your six-week old at 2:00 a.m., and do it frequently. Support your wife and new baby in the wake of post-partum depression. Learn to cook, and don’t just make grilled cheese sandwiches, I mean really learn a base set of skills so you can help prepare meals for your family.
Your wife is going to go through one of the most traumatic physical experiences known to human kind. No matter how well thought-out your “push present” is, there is no object in the world that that will demonstrate how much you love your wife and new child more than being an active participant in their lives.