Ahh the office baby shower, fewer things are more awkward, except maybe pap smears, root canals and sitting next to a bickering couple. Your colleagues have great intentions, they want to share in your baby joy and shower you with gifts. But, talking openly about your pregnancy in a room full of people – who are somewhere between friends and acquaintances – while opening presents in front of them lends itself to one of the strangest experiences you’ll have during your pregnancy.
During Lauren’s baby shower (all three of them), she was a hot, sweaty, awkward mess of a woman holding conversations with colleagues about bladder control, the aftermath of vaginal birth, and the high likelihood that sleep would never be the same again. (Check out this post for our favorite sleep tips.)
Between the two of us, we have been through four office baby showers and are here to share the best ways to navigate your office baby shower with as much grace and little awkwardness as possible!
Set The Ground Rules
Aside from your OB and your partner, the person planning your shower is the most important person in your life right now. To be fair, that may be a stretch, but seriously, this person has the power to make or break the event.
In most circumstances it’s totally bad manners to get involved in a space where someone is throwing or hosting a party for you. But for the office party, the lines are a little blurred. We recommend having a meeting upfront where you can casually mention what you’d like to happen and what you’d like to avoid. Do this gracefully and tactfully by laughing about how this is a strange experience for you and how grateful you are that they are taking the time to throw this event for you and your little one.
Two is better than one. Bring your partner or your mother, so that you have someone to take the attention off of you. You can play off of each other and will be so busy making introductions that some of the awkward conversations won’t come up. Brief whoever you bring on any internal office politics to avoid, or any teammates that might be sensitive to any topics.
If you bring your mom, it’s likely that she will love being involved and will be able to talk a little about her own experience in childbirth and child raising. The older ladies at the office will love having this perspective to play off of, and the younger ones will appreciate the wisdom.
If you bring your partner, boy is he in for a treat. Remind him that this is one of the ways he can pay you back for ongoing (and daily) efforts to bring your baby into this world.
Try To Avoid Opening Gifts
This is by far the most awkward moment of the baby shower. It’s like opening a present in front of your twice removed aunt who made you a two sizes too large hand knitted sweater. You have to pretend that you love it and it’s exactly what you wanted.
Of course, you will be grateful for anything that you are gifted by your colleagues, but at this moment you’re likely physically uncomfortable as you probably dressed up for this event and oh, don’t forget about that massive baby pressing down on your pelvis.
Suggest to the person throwing this event that you find opening gifts in front of people rather awkward and you’d really rather spend this time talking with your guests. It will also take the pressure off of her to keep a list of what gifts were received, as you can go through the gifts later that night.
If you do have to open gifts in front of your guests, you’ll be incredibly glad that you brought someone along. Your partner/mother can fill up any strange silences and you can tag team the obligatory “Oh my gosh I love it!” responses.
Have Other Forms Of Entertainment
Any form of entertainment at a party is a good thing. Unless your office is super tight and everyone knows each other on a personal level, you will likely benefit from games.
The good news, standard baby shower games apply! The bad news, you should brief your host on what you feel is appropriate. I would work with the person throwing your shower to chat about whether or not you want people guessing how big your belly is or discussing which form of baby food has been smeared on a diaper. Those games might be fun with folks you know on a more personal level, but might not be the right activity for work.
The best activities double as a keepsake for the soon to be mamma, like writing out little wishes for mamma and baby on a framed mat, or decorating baby’s onesies with funny parenting advice.
The goal is to have conversation starters, ice breakers, and activities for people to keep people talking and prevent any awkward moments.
Make It Co-Ed
This may seem strange to some folks, but honestly some of the best baby showers are co-ed! Why would you exclude someone when you could include them? Especially, with most larger companies, inclusion is always the way to go. For smaller companies, you can be the trailblazer.
No matter the size of the company, a party with multiple points of view will always have the best conversation. How fun it is to hear a male colleagues perspective on those first few years, while another female colleague reflects on her own family’s experience. Honestly, it may even lay the groundwork for professional advancement or a personal bond.
As you transition into either becoming a mom or adding another family member, any type of personal exposure with your colleagues of any gender will be a good thing. There will be moments when transitioning back to work will be a challenge, and you may need to lean into your network for grace at times. Building (and maintaining) all personal ties will only strengthen your professional relationships.
Get Over The Fact That Colleagues Are Spending $$ On You
Part of what makes these showers so strange is that all of the sudden our colleagues are spending money on us. It’s not weird for our friends or family to give us gifts, but having a colleague do anything more than buy you lunch can feel a little… different.
Rather than thinking of shower gifts as you receiving something from your colleague, think about the whole experience. The colleagues who chose to buy a gift or put money towards a larger gift are doing it out of generosity. They are sharing in your happy moment!
For coworkers who are parents themselves, the process of finding and gifting an item may bring back wonderful memories of their own babies and allow them to share some of their hard won parenting wisdom, or tips and tricks.
All of that being said, I don’t for one minute want you to feel beholden to anyone who does give you a gift, substantial or not, family or coworker. Just because someone has spent money on helping you set up shop for baby, doesn’t mean that you owe them anything except a genuine thank you.
Quick tip, do NOT forget to send a thank you note to anyone that gives you a gift, especially not a colleague. A friend will be quicker to forgive you, where a colleague might feel a little resentful. Remember how important those working relationships are? Don’t burn those bridges.
If you are lucky enough to work in an environment that wants to celebrate new parents, soak it in and allow your office to throw you a shower! Yes, it might be awkward at times, but there are a few key things you can do to bring the weird-odometer down a few notches.