It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good old fashioned gripe on the blog. Thankfully, the radio provided today.

Driving in to work, the morning show we typically find ourselves listening to got onto the concept of the “push gift”. This is a gift that is apparently a trending topic lately (Janelle saw a bunch of forum threads on baby site The Bump as well today). A push gift is a gift that a father gives to the mother of his child because she went to the trouble of carrying and delivering the baby.

I was instantly in “rant and rave and make hand gestures at the radio while I drive” mode. The idea of the gift itself is not something that bothers me. I like to get Janelle little gifts. I don’t have many really good reasons to, and we spend so much time together that it’s tricky to pull off a surprise (and a cardboard box from Amazon, while easy to pull off, is not romantic, no matter what’s inside). I’m looking forward to the event of the birth to be a reason for celebration and gift giving. The notion that Janelle is owed a gift from me because she did all the work in the pregnancy, however, is just slightly maddening to me.

Let’s break it down.

Janelle and I are consenting adults. We knew what was coming up when we started trying to have a kid. It’s not as if I pulled a fast one on her and so my gift is a necessary expression of apology.

Pregnancy is often a very uncomfortable stint of time for mothers. There are many physical and emotional discomforts that can plague a mom before (and after) the baby’s arrival. An attentive father, though, is trying to contend with those discomforts for nine months and, depending on how things are shaking out, may end up being berated for his efforts. Janelle gets massages in one form or another just about every day. She also needs assistance with virtually any chore that requires any little bit of physical effort. We’re both lucky in that her discomforts are mild and if her personality has shifted in response to her changing hormone levels, I haven’t noticed it. If I were an inattentive partner, she might have it much rougher, and might then deserve a little retribution in the end. But if I were an inattentive partner, what are the chances I’d be concerned about getting her a gift? The push gift is just there to be a guilt item for fathers who are already geared to be concerned.

It’s also not fair to claim that a mother is owed for her efforts when a father has no choice but to simply be a bystander. I cannot volunteer to take on Janelle’s discomfort no matter how much I wish I could. By this logic, if she gives me a cold, should she then be expected to go buy me a flat-screen TV because she has been responsible for my discomforts? It’s silly.

The DJ at one point cracked the joke that he had gotten his wife a push gift: a baby. A caller then rang in to say, in a manner that I assumed was just bantering but Janelle heard to be more earnest, that the gift wasn’t a gift from the DJ, but from God. That one really sent me over the edge. I understand the sentiment behind the statement—that a baby is a blessing—but it removes the father from the process to a degree that is pretty telling. And, really, if God reached down and blessed you, are you in much of a position to clamor for more riches to be lavished upon you?

Ahhh ranting. How I have missed you.

Just to reel it back in before I get beat up by my readership (if the “likes” my posts get on Facebook are any indication, 90% of the readers of this blog are mothers or women who wouldn’t mind being mothers one day) I think getting gifts for your partner is wonderful. It’s something everyone should do more when they feel like it. It just so happens that it tends to feel like a good time to get a gift around major events, like a birth. However, I will be bitching and moaning about this while they lower me into my grave if this turns into the kind of thing that becomes canonized as obligation.

  1. #1 by Badmoodman on April 30, 2010 - 6:57 AM

    In return for the Push Present isn’t your wife then obliged to buy you an Enabler Present?

  2. #2 by Janelle on April 30, 2010 - 8:37 AM

    Figured I’d pipe in to show support for this particular rant, and possibly counter any beatings that may come along…I think Michael is totally correct on this. Presents are a lot of fun to receive, but I think they lose most of their meaning when they are expected. That’s where the issue lies.
    We’ve talked about getting each other a little something (or a big something…TV…) as a “treat” at the end of the pregnancy, but it’s certainly not expected that Michael splurge and get me a present because I have to go through labor while he receives nothing. I willingly signed up for this, and he’s going to be right there with me, dealing with whatever comes his way (from me and the Dr’s), and basically being the physical and emotional rock for the whole event.
    So that’s my stance. Presents are always nice, but when they are forced to be given, I think it’s kind of stupid (don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day…).

  3. #3 by Abby on April 30, 2010 - 9:42 AM

    I dislike the idea that a woman can “earn” a gift by giving birth, or that a man is “obligated” to “provide” for his wife by buying her something when she performs her “duty” to bear his children. That being said, gifts given freely (and not out of a sense of obligation) are always nice. My friend received beautiful earrings from her husband after she gave birth to their daughter and every time she wears them, she remembers the post-birth euphoria that they both felt when seeing their baby for the first time. (However, I did read an article about push presents where a woman’s husband bought her a car. She was so angry that her husband spent that much money without consulting her, especially since they planned to save as much as possible to, you know, raise their child together.)

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