babyI don't know where I first became aware of the term "push present" - a gift bestowed upon a woman by her partner for having a baby - but it had to come from the tabloids, creator of all dumb monikers (Brangelina, ScarJo, take your pick). Kanye West's "push present" to Kim Kardashian was reportedly a $770,000 tiger stripe ring.
After I learned this is actually a thing - women getting presents for having babies - I have to admit my my first (reptilian) thought was, "Wait a minute, I didn't get a push present from Jake for pushing out June." Which made me feel gross. I didn't want or expect a gift at the time, but just knowing this phrase exists created a need where before there had been none. (Will I get ruby earrings after the birth of our second child in December? Will I be disappointed if I don't? Why am I conflating birth with baubles?)
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But then after talking to friends about it, I've come around a bit. Maybe push presents aren't so bad. My friends - some with kids, some without - all had such interesting, thoughtful (and funny) points of view, I thought it would be fun to share some of their insights here. They explain it so much more better than I ever could, so here goes:
M-, attorney, no kids: "I love the idea of a push present. But sadly I know I will never get one. I think I don't celebrate often enough the milestones in my life. I think A- and I keep pushing forward all the time. What I mean is, as soon as he got his Ph.D., we were looking toward the next best thing. I never got him a present for the Ph.D. Nor anything to celebrate his first job as an assistant professor! As soon as I got my J.D., I was worrying about the bar. He never got me anything. As soon as I passed the bar , I was worried about finding work. As soon as I got my first grown-up job, I am worried about keeping it, and trying to figure out how to be a working mother when the time comes.
"All of this is to say, that deep down, I would love to have something tangible to mark the great - and even the sad - events in my life. I never take photos. I don't even own a camera or a decent cell phone. But it would bring me such delight to say, 'Oh, that painting, why, that was given to me to celebrate the birth of my daughter.' 'And that ring, my 29th birthday.' 'And that fur coat, my first real job.' I know these aren't supposed to matter, but they do. They tell a story. The story of your life. I don't like the idea of a push present as an obligation to a female for having undergone the pangs and pain of childbirth. I despise it as a form of 'I owe you.' But I think it can be the most wonderful gift, if it serves as a commemoration of the little life you've created together, a celebration of the moment and the memory. And all that is to come."
J-, mom of three: "I don't care for the term 'push present.' It sounds tacky and it doesn't really fit for C-section births. In fact, it would be yet another example of how awkward and out of place C-sectioners feel when the whole birth narrative begins.
"The other questionable consequence is that such gifts may put a woman at the mercy of her man to acknowledge her birthing accomplishments. Haven't we suffered through enough Mother's Day brunches to realize that this is not really what makes us happy?
"I do however love the baby gifts [my husband] has bestowed on me in celebration of our new family. [First child] was a painting. [Second child] was, hmm, I forget at this moment what it was and [third child] was diamonds.
Honoring a woman for her dedication and sacrifices that she makes in order to create a family is a crucial ritual for women to acknowledge, whether it is done by gifts, vacation or a party. Things don't give respect but gestures do if the intent is real."
B-, mom of two: "Isn't the baby present enough?"
T-, mom of two: "I've been thinking about why 'push presents' bother me and I think a lot of it has to do with the word 'push.' It just seems to trivialize the whole experience, and sounds tacky to me. Now, do I think a reward for having done one of the hardest things a woman will ever do is inappropriate? Absolutely not. Did I get one? No. Was I upset? No. Do I know women who have? Yes, and the first three that come to mind could easily be categorized as 'high maintenance.' They all received very expensive pieces of jewelry. One got a gaudy sapphire diamond ring for her first child and a Hummer for the second. Did they have the money for these things? Not really. But her husband knew he'd be in the doghouse if he didn't produce."
A-, newly married, no kids: "Reading this made me feel like I did when someone first said 'sharknado' to me. I must live under a rock - I have never heard of this. I still don't know what a sharknado is. [In case you're wondering, here it is.]
S-, public health nurse, mom of three: "I think the term 'push present' is yet another indication that consumerism has invaded every sacred event in our lives. I'm not completely anti-consumerist. I am sure that in some situations there have been some very meaningful and heartfelt 'push presents' given. But as a labor nurse, what I saw more often were cash-strapped, dysfunctional families using lavish gifts to make up for some serious, meaningful voids and flaws. Even though baby-Daddy got another girl pregnant, if he shows up at the birth with a diamond ring, or a new phone, or whatever, it is supposed to make everything better. I have a friend who got a new car for their third child. Now they're divorced.
"Maybe these are extreme cases, but as a public health nurse, it worries me. I'm concerned that at some level it contributes to the rate of teen pregnancy and poorly planned pregnancies in general. The more that this practice becomes a part of our culture, the more young girls are going to equate having a baby with getting a really nice gift (bought on credit). It really does get that basic in the minds of young girls who are making big life decisions. It's already happening to some degree with baby-showers. Young, isolated, lonely girls are being rewarded for pregnancy with parties and gifts their families often times can't afford. As long as the baby is cute and cuddly , they have access to attention from friends and family and a steady supply of outfits from a box store.
"Obviously this is an oversimplified, cynical view. I am sure there are lots of happily married well-to-do families that really enjoy the 'push present' ritual. And I'm sure there are many families who have their own meaningful and homegrown ways of celebrating and honoring mom. For example, I know a couple of families who plant trees (with or without placenta). But there are also a lot of low-income families that get sucked into the game and it's really sad to witness.
"Personally, I did not receive or pine for a 'push present.' [My husband] was supportive and present, which is more than a lot of women get. I remember being touched and surprised when a few folks brought me flowers. I was so grateful when people delivered food. I'm sure my expectations and desires were influenced by the fact that I worked on Labor and Delivery and saw a lot of different situations- including malformed and dead babies. A healthy kid really is the best present any mom can ever get for giving birth."
-By Jessie Knadler
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