Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Stepdaughter Is Demanding I Throw Her a Huge Baby Shower”

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The only daughter of my significant other (we’ve been together for four years, living together for one) is having a baby in July. We think this is a bad idea — she has a ton of debt, only a high school education, and a not-entirely-reliable baby daddy whom she lives with — but it is what it is and, since we totally get that it is her choice and not ours, we try to be supportive.

The issue of the moment is her baby shower. She has dropped very broad hints that she wants me to host it. She has also told me where (a surprisingly expensive restaurant), when (she gave me two dates, one of which works for me) and who will come (68 guests). I’ve been kind of passive, although honestly being told what to do gets my back up. Her dad has his back up even more. He HATES her mom, and he says that he won’t go to any party that she is attending nor will he host her. (In fairness, her mom is a manipulative drug addict). He also is taking a stand on inviting some of his daughter’s friends whom, he thinks, have done her wrong. (He is a big grudge-holder while she is not). He also feels that, since she has no money, she should not be having a big party but should instead be focusing on saving for the baby while we should be putting our money towards baby needs and not parties with people we don’t like! He has always had issues with her whole “I must go to the bar every night/every weekend because one of my friends has a birthday party” lifestyle.

I can kind of see it both ways, and it is making me squirm.

I suggested two showers: We would host a small family one, and then anyone else could host the one for her extended peer group. She got very agitated and is adamant that she wants ONE shower, everyone together.

In my best of hearts I just want her to enjoy her pregnancy and mommy-hood as much as possible. Other days I think she is being a controlling, spoiled brat who shouldn’t be dictating what others do for her.

I tried contacting her best friend to see what was up and even suggested two showers; however, she immediately (while we were messaging) texted the mom-to-be, who weighed in with “ONE SHOWER!!” and chastised me about mentioning any issues between her parents to her friend.

I know. I’m running on. Can you offer some guidance? — Not really Step-mom In Over My Head!

Your stepdaughter (and let’s just call her your stepdaughter to make it easier) is acting like an entitled, spoiled, childish BRAT and not at all like a responsible mother-to-be. And, frankly, your and your husband’s even ENTERTAINING the idea of succumbing to her outlandish wishes is enabling her. It’s giving her permission to continue acting like a spoiled little brat instead of stepping up and taking responsibility for this life she is going to be, well, totally responsible for in a few months.

Here’s what you do: Decide how much you are willing to spend on a baby shower (and how much you want to put aside to help with costs of baby supplies, etc., which I strongly suggest you buy outright rather than trust your stepdaughter to buy with your money). Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you are willing to spend $250 on a baby shower. For that money, you could host a certain number of people in your own home (if you’re comfortable with that), providing a light lunch or refreshments, maybe a cake, and some decorations. OR you could host a much smaller number at a restaurant (depending on the restaurant, of course, the time of day you went, and their menu). Then you tell your stepdaughter those are her options, period. There will not be a 68-person guest list. You are not going to pay for that many people at a restaurant, nor are you going to squeeze that many people into your home. It’s just not going to happen. She can have a restaurant shower with, like, 5-10 people, or she can have a shower at your home with, say, 20-25 people (or whatever you’re comfortable with. Definitely give her a max number for the guest list though! But don’t dictate whom she can or can’t invite. If there are people you really can’t fathom hosting, then don’t agree to host a shower for her at all). Those are her options and, if she wants neither, then the third option is she finds someone else to host a shower and you put the $250 you would have spent on hosting towards necessities for the baby.

Obviously, an entitled brat like your stepdaughter is going to act like a brat when she doesn’t get her way. She’ll throw a tantrum and be ungrateful and try her best to make you feel really bad about not giving her the baby shower of her dreams. TOO DAMN BAD. When that baby comes and she needs help because she can’t afford to buy it the diapers and food and clothes it needs, she’ll have no choice but to accept whatever you’re willing to offer her, even if she doesn’t deem it enough or up to her standards, because she’s not going to have any other options.

I don’t know what kind of upbringing she’s had or what examples and expectations her mother or father (your boyfriend) have set for her, but, if she’s a grown adult acting the way you’ve described and making the decisions she’s made, I’m going to guess there has been a lack of clear boundaries and probably a lot of catering to her whims (maybe out of guilt?). That has to stop now. It has to stop or she will continue to take advantage of you and her father — especially as her responsibilities and needs grow, as they certainly will with a baby — and she will abuse whatever kindness you offer and demand help you haven’t offered. (I can see it now: For baby’s first birthday, she will demand you rent a bouncy castle and a pony and a space big enough for 50 of baby’s best friends and their families).

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

44 comments… add one
  • Miel

    Miel February 19, 2015, 9:19 am

    Great advice Wendy !

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    lindsaybob February 19, 2015, 9:37 am

    Absolutely WWS! Your stepdaughter is being incredibly rude to ask you to throw her a shower and then complain about what kind of shower you agree to throw. I think you’d be totally reasonable to tell her that if she doesn’t like what you’ve suggested she can find somebody else to host her shower, but if you’re still willing to do the shower you should definitely give her a straight up choice between two options like Wendy said and make it clear that she picks one or she gets no shower at all.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope February 19, 2015, 9:43 am

    Can I adopt the baby? I want a baby. I’d give it a great home!

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  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo February 19, 2015, 9:45 am

    This is one thing that always riles me up. You don’t ASK someone to throw you a wedding/baby shower. They aren’t a thing that HAS to happen. If someone wants to throw you one, that’s fantastic, and make sure you only give suggestions that are appropriate. Jeeze- 68 guests?!? I’m sorry, that’s ridiculous and a shamefully obvious gift grab.

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    • avatar

      BG February 19, 2015, 3:10 pm

      I absolutely agree that the daughter is acting appallingly in this situation! My husband and I are having a baby shower this weekend, though, and will have 60ish guests. It is a co-ed party with children welcome and we are using it to double as our housewarming so there are a lot of where the guest list can get huge without it being a gift grab. Half the guest list is just my family.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh February 19, 2015, 9:51 am

    Like Wendy hinted at in the last paragraph is sounds like the daughter probably didn’t grow up in a stable home or one that provided appropriate examples or boundaries. I agree with Wendy that you and your bf sit down and agree what you’re willing to do and present her with that. It sounds like she’s either young or very immature. Hopefully if you all start enacting boundaries now it will help in the future. I’m going to guess something more along the lines of her cutting you out of her life temporarily will occur. Until she realizes she can’t do take of the baby on her own and needs help.

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  • niki

    niki February 19, 2015, 10:08 am

    Yeesh. A drug addict mom and a vindictive, grudge-holding dad. This girl didn’t have a chance. But, she’s an adult now and is solely responsible for her actions. She’s being unreasonable. Frankly, I wouldn’t offer a shower at all because it sounds like it will be nothing but a headache. Stepdaughter will be a pain in the butt, and your bf sounds like he won’t be a peach about it either.

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  • Monkeysmommy

    monkeys mommy February 19, 2015, 10:38 am

    WWS!!! LW, tell your bratty stepdaughter what you are willing to commit to, and that is it. If all of her guests show up anyway, refuse to pay the additional funds. She sounds like the type who would pretend to go along with you, but then invite everyone anyway behind your back, so I would let her know up front it is coming out of her pocket if she does because you won’t pick it up.

    Better yet, I wouldn’t give her one at all. Her behavior is abhorrent and ungrateful. She isn’t going to be happy either way unless it’s her way, so just let her find someone else to push over.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki February 19, 2015, 10:45 am

    Wow… that is insane. Last I checked, you’re not entitled to a baby shower and you certainly don’t get to tell someone that they’re throwing you one and that it needs to be an extravagant affair. People offering to throw showers is very sweet and should not be a given. And I don’t see the big deal about 2 showers? I’m having 3 (possibly 4 – family/friends, work, my former work) and I didn’t a) ask for any of them or b)try to dictate what they’d be/cost. I’m incredibly grateful that I have so many people who support me and couldn’t imagine being such a spoiled brat like this girl. Oh wait, to be fair I did tell my mom that I wanted a honey bee theme for the one she and my best friend are throwing… but that was after she asked me what I wanted.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray February 19, 2015, 10:46 am

    Yuck. LW, if I were you, I wouldn’t throw her a party.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph February 19, 2015, 2:24 pm

      Yeah I agree with this. Wendy’s advice is good, but I think TOO nice. I would say earmark all the money you want to spend on her toward buying baby things (which definitely as Wendy says, buy them directly don’t give her money) and tell her that you’re happy to attend a shower and to help the host plan, but you can’t host it. Don’t make excuses, just say it outright and then refuse to engage.
      There are other ways to help her enjoy pregnancy and mommyhood– offer to babysit, gift certificate for prenatal massage, bring her some frozen baby meals, etc. without getting involved in this trainwreck of a shower.

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  • coconot

    coconot February 19, 2015, 11:14 am

    Nothing to add to Wendy’s excellent advice, but yikes your stepdaughter is a piece of work!

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  • mylaray

    mylaray February 19, 2015, 11:20 am

    I agree with Wendy, especially about the part that her demands will only get worse if you give in. And I don’t think you and your boyfriend should help that much. Offer to throw the baby shower with what you’re comfortable with. But she needs a big reality check and I think once the baby comes, she very much needs to be on her own, with little or no financial help. Because it doesn’t sound like she will actually be able to afford it. That will help her take some responsibility (hopefully at least).

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark February 19, 2015, 11:21 am

    Um… Family members throwing showers period is a MAJOR breech of etiquette as it looks like — and frankly — IS a major gift grab by one family member for another… End of story. Plead Miss Manners and simply bow out.

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    • something random

      something random February 19, 2015, 11:48 am

      Yes, it was always considered bad form because it was considered too close to asking for gifts for the same family. Personally, I consider that particular rule dated. But etiquette is an easy out.

      She could also the play the “I can’t get in between your father and your mother” card. It would be cowardly but easy way to shift the responsibility of boundary-drawing back to her husband.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark February 19, 2015, 11:57 am

        Eh, it’s only outdated in that EVERYTHING nowadays is a gift grab for far too many… The reasoning behind it, in fact, remains VERY sound.

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        K February 19, 2015, 12:19 pm

        I thought it was dated as well. Most of the showers I’ve been to have been thrown by the mom, aunt, sister, etc. Do people still consider it bad form?

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki February 19, 2015, 1:40 pm

        I think some people do. Technically my mom is throwing my shower, though so I don’t care. Well, her and my best friend are doing it together so does that even it out? I’m not even sure.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph February 19, 2015, 2:28 pm

        I thought that only applied to wedding showers? And was dated anyways, for that, because of the idea that a bride was her father’s property until transferring to her husband, so in that case a wedding shower thrown by family WAS really asking for gifts for the same family.
        Now that most brides and hopefully almost all moms-to-be are independent from their parents, it seems outdated.

        My parents threw me an engagement party. Which I didn’t so much ask them to do as say, if you want to throw a shower or engagement party, I could fly in for it. Basically, I think the etiquette rules are faster/looser these days…. but you could still pretend you are a big manners stickler and use it as the excuse.

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      RedroverRedrover February 19, 2015, 11:58 am

      Technically she’s not a family member though, even by marriage. If anything, she’s a friend of the family. And I don’t think this idiot cares about etiquette rules anyway, especially not if it gets in the way of her gift grab. LW should just give the family party that she originally suggested, and leave it at that. If the selfish brat doesn’t want to show up for it, she doesn’t have to.

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  • avatar

    Crazy_Pug_Lady February 19, 2015, 11:39 am

    WWS. LW, you have two great options that Wendy has given.

    But as an alternative option as well if you wanted to do something for her, why not plan a summer picnic in a park for after the baby is born as a shower. You could enlist the help of your step-daughters’ friends to help you with more of a pot-luck style picnic theme so you aren’t shelling out for all of the food/decorations and doing all of the work of planning by yourself.

    Something like this would allow for more people to be involved plus they would get to meet the baby, which is always nice. It would allow you to save money for things she will likely need for the baby after it arrives, if you do indeed want to support her and the baby.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ February 19, 2015, 11:51 am

    Yeah, I’d throw NO showers. First, it is technically a breach of etiquette for family members to throw showers for other family members, although given the situation, sometimes it happens. But, after how the stepdaughter has acted and given the LW’s BF’s stance on inviting the stepdaughter’s mom, it all sounds like too much trouble and I’d frankly bow out now. Simply tell your stepdaughter that you and her father cannot afford/are not willing to host the 70-person baby shower at an expensive restaurant that she insists upon having and that therefore, it would be best if someone else was in charge of planning the shower.

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  • avatar

    Taylor February 19, 2015, 11:58 am

    Nothing to add to Wendy’s good advice. It’s nice that your stepdaughter and her baby have you in their lives, LW. You sound like you add some needed warmth and stability.

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  • chief10

    chief10 February 19, 2015, 12:10 pm

    Wow this family is going to break your back if you let them. I know you’re trying to be a good bridge between your bf and his daughter but why are you, her father’s girlfriend the one to have to shoulder all this responsibility. You’re not technically a member of this family, and I don’t mean that in a mean way at all.

    Shouldn’t mommy and daddy be ponying up for this? OH but mommy and daddy are responsible for this whole problem to begin with. I’d see this as a major red flag of problems and situations to come.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra February 19, 2015, 12:42 pm

    Yeah I’m in the don’t throw any showers for her camp. Put your money towards buying her some supplies for her baby. She will throw a fit, but she also needs to realize she has consequences for her actions. The fact that this girl isn’t being at all gracious indicates to me that she doesn’t deserve a single one. 60+ guests is insane.
    .
    I will be having 3 wedding showers BECAUSE my mom’s family offered, my dad’s family offered, and my future in-laws offered. I didn’t ask for a single one. I’m incredibly grateful that they offered, but by no means is it a requirement.

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    • Portia

      Portia February 19, 2015, 9:16 pm

      I like hearing about your wedding stuff, our experiences are so different and it’s fascinating to me.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 19, 2015, 10:18 pm

        Just one big fat, expensive, Irish Catholic wedding. 😉

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      • Lyra

        Lyra February 19, 2015, 10:20 pm

        I literally have no say in the showers. My very determined aunts will throw one for me no matter if I want them or not. Complete with random finger foods that I usually have no idea what they are and wine if I’m lucky.

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny February 19, 2015, 12:57 pm

    This is a case where, if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. You need to put your foot down and keep it there! I’d do what Wendy says, and if she has a problem, well, one of her 68 friends can throw the shower.
    .
    This reminds me of when I was younger (like a teen and later as a young college student) where there were a few times where I’d assume that my parents would buy me xyz thing, or pay for some trip, or whatever, and their reaction? Basically: “LOL, nice try!” And that was that. So I figured out, oh, I have to pay/save/do this thing myself and OH be a responsible person. Which is a concept that this girl could learn herself.

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  • avatar

    Lovelygirl February 19, 2015, 1:33 pm

    I just went to a baby shower that had 70+ women in attendance. It was the worst shower ever. I felt bad for the family to try to provide enough food and refreshments for the crowd. It was at a rec center in a park. It can be done but it was truly chaos and not fun from my perspective.

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  • avatar

    LW February 19, 2015, 1:36 pm

    This is really good advice. I need to step the heck out of the way. In fairness, she didn’t actually ASK me, she just hinted around so much I took the bait…shame on me. Now I probably have to extricate myself, since she thinks I am taking care of it (although in our last exchange she was pretty darn rude by email “ONE SHOWER!!! EVERYONE TOGETHER!!” and then berating me for talking about her parents relationship with her bf (I accept that that was not appropriate, even if it is a widely known fact). She apologized later by text…but I have the uncomfortable feeling that I am being manipulated for perceived deep pockets (certainly deeper than anyone else in her circle).
    She isn’t due till July. I will let it lie for now, talk to her dad about it (he’ll be fine about my stepping out), and then gird my loins to tell her…I much more of a pleaser than a confronter. so that part will be hard for me!
    Oh, and I know perfectly well that family doesn’t throw showers, and why…but it doesn’t pertain here because not a soul who would be at that shower has any idea of the subtler etiquette rules.

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    • avatar

      SLS February 19, 2015, 2:57 pm

      Good idea to wait. Y’all really do have plenty of time to decide regarding hosting a shower. In addition, if y’all would like to host a shower, I like the idea that someone suggested above regarding hosting a small gathering (maybe family and close friends) after the baby is born. It would be a little different, but at least y’all are doing something you would want to do (and she can get the gifts she so desires – ugh ‘entitlement’ irritates me tremendously).

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph February 19, 2015, 3:18 pm

        I also like the idea of doing something after the baby is born. This is fairly common in Eastern European cultures to not celebrate the birth before, you know, the baby is born. Then doing a small get together where people can actually see the baby, and usually give gifts then. It’s a bit superstitious, but then it’s also nice that close friends relatives get to see the baby.

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    • othy

      othy February 19, 2015, 3:13 pm

      The idea of getting everyone I know together for one big party scares me. There’s no way my friends would get along with my coworkers, and they’d definitely have issues with some of my family members (and visa versa!). There’s a reason most people have multiple showers if you ask me.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover February 19, 2015, 3:47 pm

        I only had one, but then my friends and family already mostly knew each other. My coworkers who are close enough to come to a shower are all male, so of course they weren’t invited, which is why I dislike showers in general. Half of my friends weren’t even considered because of their gender.

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      • othy

        othy February 19, 2015, 11:27 pm

        I’ve hosted and been to several baby showers with both sexes invited. I had a good guy friend who I threw a baby shower for when his wife was pregnant, and I was the only girl to come to the party (his wife didn’t want to hang out with the ‘nerd’ friends when she was 8 months pregnant). So all of us got him really nerdy baby gifts and we played card games all night after he opened them all.

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  • avatar

    acastil5 February 19, 2015, 1:37 pm

    Personally I’d just run away from this family, but that’s me.

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  • avatar

    csp February 19, 2015, 2:39 pm

    So, I totally agree with Wendy. I remember my husband and I were asked to be in a wedding. It was getting out of control price wise. I said to our friends, ” Look, we have crunched the numbers and it is going to cost us $2k to be in this wedding and I don’t have the money to spend on it. They were talking about an open bar and everything. So if you say, “If we have 68 people at a shower at $25/head is $1700 without a cake, decorations, ect. Just say that is a lot to put on your dad’s girlfriend.

    I would counter that hopefully, she will get a lot of what she needs for the baby. People are saying this is a gift grab, but she might really need that. Also, try and have a soft heart about this. Just realize that she might be trying to get excited about this when there are all the red flags you are talking about. I mean, she got pregnant and her boyfriend didn’t propose. She is losing a lot of “the dream” because she is doing things out of order. She isn’t doing the marriage, home, family dream and maybe she is over compensating with this shower because of that. I have found that when people act this way, it is because they are insecure or sad.

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    • avatar

      LW February 19, 2015, 4:46 pm

      So this is of course exactly my dilemma…I feel sorry for her! She IS trying to get excited. Her mom is so self involved that she has not engaged at all, other than a few facebook posts about how excited she is..she lives blocks away and I think has only seen her once. She is extremely narcissistic and cannot tolerate anyone else getting attention. Baby daddy…who knows? a few weeks ago he was texting another woman because things at home weren’t fun. If she has looked into things at work she knows she has basically NO paid maternity leave (very big on taking sick days) and they can’t afford child care of any kind…she must be scared to death. She is losing a lot of the dream, I agree.
      Her dad would say she is spoiled and needs to learn her lesson. She can’t get knocked up and expect everyone to party for her.
      I am trying to remember that “enabling” is when it feels bad and “helping” or “being supportive” feels good. This feels bad. I will have to figure out the line. It may be giving her a lot more attention in the form of lunches and maybe a little baby or maternity shopping so she gets some attention, and dropping out of the crazy shower that is just a bad fit between us (I am conservative in manner and in money..never ever paid for manicures and nails like she does, and didn’t expect air conditioners, dishwashers and cable at home till I could afford it…)
      but thank you for opening up the other point of view.

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      • avatar

        HollyMarie February 20, 2015, 5:57 pm

        Well, it’s all well and good for her father to call her spoiled now, but remember that for that, he and her mother get a lot of the blame. It’s like when you used to see those awful kids on My Super Sweet 16 and you just can’t believe how badly they treat their parents and how spoiled they are and then you remember, their parents raised them to be this way – spoiled and selfish and entitled – by catering to their every whim and letting them get away with this behavior their entire lives.
        .
        I also have a real problem with her dad’s whole needing to learn her lesson. This isn’t like she’s gotten herself into debt or something here; we’re talking about a completely helpless little human who is going to be relying on this probably terrified young woman. Yes, maybe she was foolish to get pregnant in the first place, but it is what it is and at this point, she needs support (and not really a party, I agree with many others on that). I seriously doubt withholding this party is going to teach her any lessons, and if he wanted her to behave differently, maybe he should have put his foot down with her many years ago. Hopefully this is just dad talking big rather than him fixing to hold another grudge against someone.
        .
        LW, I really do wish you the best of luck in this. You’re clearly the sanest, stablest person in this girl’s life right now and it’s really crappy that she’s trying to take advantage of your kindness like this. I hope it all turns out well for you.

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      Sketchee February 19, 2015, 5:06 pm

      If her friends and other contacts want to send gifts, they can without a shower. I don’t think she needs the gifts at this point. She has made decisions to make herself pregnant and the best thing for her at this point might be a lesson in responsibility. The world owes each of us absolutely nothing, therefore we need to have gratitude for having anything at all.

      If she is insecure or sad, that doesn’t justify her behavior or wants, nor does it require that anyone give her more than love and support. all of the things you mentioned happening in her life are choices that she made and has to live with. If she is sad about them, then she needs to cheer herself up with some better choices. For herself, her family, and for her baby. And only she can choose that. Enabling her tantrums will not encourage that choice. =)

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  • avatar

    LW February 20, 2015, 1:46 pm

    So I know it is a little early for follow up but…I got a whole series of emails from my stepdaughter this morning about showers again, asking if my daughter would be home from college, other details. Eventually she allowed as how she and an aunt were getting together this weekend to look at venues (I already knew this…the aunt told me this morning). I said great, and SD said..but I want your input? what do you think? so even though i was going to wait to say anything, I said…you and your aunt should find a place taht feels right to you. I don’t have any input because I have no experience with this…my showers and my friends showers were always at home, and small. I said “have fun, I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!”
    I hope that was clear, but maybe not. I suspect she insn’t done trying.
    I also invited her out to go shopping for some maternity clothes next weekend…I”m in on being supportive, just cannot deal with the party.
    All your responses helped make that clear to me…there was no country where both she and I would be happy with the same shower, so I would either feel used or unappreciated, depending how it panned out..neither is good. Shopping for maternity clothes it is!
    I’ll update you when all is said and locked (end of May probably) so you know if I caved or not!
    Thanks everyone. The power of crowd sourcing!

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy February 20, 2015, 2:10 pm

      Good luck! Stick to your guns … and stick to maternity shopping. If she wants the huge, expensive shower, someone else (one of her 68 friends) can throw it for her!

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark February 20, 2015, 6:04 pm

    Honestly? Why is she KEEPING this baby? Seriously… Plenty of people out there actually, you know, WANT kids…

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