June 24, 2008
Yesterday’s a.m. MAGAZINE (The Morning Call, 7/22/08) carried an article about a new occasion to celebrate in our already overstretched self-conscious calendar of special, designated days. The subtitle clarifies: “Lavish ‘push presents’ reward new moms.” What’s with it? Women and men have been having babies since the beginning of the human race, but now we need to reward women? Pretty soon we’ll be gifting ourselves for getting up in the morning.
I have nothing against people celebrating each other’s successes and giving each other gifts when they feel like it. Gift-giving is a wonderful expression of affection and relationship. This morning I found a little mouse that one of our cats left at the back door for us - a special gift.
What I oppose and decry is the establishment of a public expectation that will burden families that never had this custom in the past. In the article, a quote defines the push present as “a gift a husband gives his wife as a reward for nine months of carrying and then delivering a baby.” These presents can be “big ticket” consumer items like jewelry, cars and vacations.
Already an inappropriate level of entitlement diminishes our national character, causing us to believe we deserve more than most people around the world can afford. Such new consumer occasions as the birth of a child fuel our grand expectations and lay down the framework for comparisons and disappointments.
When my children discovered that some of their friends received money for every ‘A’ they earned in school, suddenly what had been a reward in and of itself – the good grade – was no longer as satisfying. Thank goodness my children were sensible and accepted my position that their grades represented the consequences of their own work and required no reward from me. They also seemed to realize that they didn’t need to get cars as rewards when they graduated from high school to prove that that they were loved and appreciated.
One of my therapy books addressed the issue of suffering saying that the pain of the wife whose husband has forgotten her annual roses on their anniversary can feel as acute as the mental suffering of those who lack essentials such as food and health care. It’s all in the expectation. A few years ago my daughter suggested that we start giving each other five dollar presents at Christmas instead of the more expensive gifts that had slowly increased in value from $25 to $40, 60 and even $100 or more. Everyone agreed and what a relief!
So let’s not set ourselves up with this new expectation of big ticket items to reward a woman for giving birth. Instead let’s remind new dads that time is worth gold and that there’s nothing better than tender words. Take time to hold the new baby, learn to take part in the everyday chores this new family member requires, and tell the baby’s mother again and again that you love her, that she’s beautiful and that she’s a wonderful mom. If you have a gift for her, fine – that’s between you and her, not a cultural expectation. If you have no gift, fine – enjoyment, love and caring are the greatest gifts in the world.