A friend of mine recently sent me an article on the concept of Push Presents. I think he was surprised that these even exist, and he made the comment that no mother of his child should ever expect to receive one. So it raised the question – should new fathers engage in the practice of purchasing a push present for the new (or second, or third, or fourth time) mother?
What the heck is a “push present,” you might ask? Simply, it’s a gift that a new father gives to the mother of his child upon birth or shortly thereafter. It is meant to commemorate the birth of a new child, and to celebrate the mother who has carried and delivered that child.
I’m told that this gift-giving tradition goes way back, but that it’s only been in recent years that it’s become commercialized under the Push Present moniker. Of course, jewelry and gift companies have begun jumping all over this bandwagon to capitalize. Yet still push presents remain, at best, controversial and, at worst, unknown.
Why the controversy? Proponents of the practice see it as a token of affection and appreciation to celebrate the new mother’s act of carrying and delivering a new baby. In some ways, it’s intended to thank her for the months spent carrying the child and then successfully delivering the child; or for the burden and stress that was put onto the mother physically and/or emotionally during pregnancy. Some fathers purchase a gift that can become an heirloom to later be passed on to the child, while some focus on something solely for the mother’s enjoyment. For some, it’s a simple yet thoughtful and meaningful gift. For others, the expectation is that the gift lives up to a certain standard of value so as to be proudly displayed to friends and family (somewhat like the engagement ring phenomenon)?
Opponents of the practice dispute it on moral grounds. Why should the new mother, who is being given the very best gift in the world, expect a commercial bauble on top of it? The gift itself is almost seen as cheapening the event. It’s furthermore seen as buying into the materialistic values of today’s society and implies a sense of trying to “keep up with the Joneses’.” In addition, it is argued that the money spent on the push present (very often a pricey memento) could be put to much better use if applied to child-related expenses instead; supplies, college fund, trust, etc.
This is relatively new territory for etiquette experts, so there’s not really any guidance on that front. It really leaves the decision up to the individual family, for better or worse.
So what do I think?
I’m in favor of the push present. I like the idea of something commemorating such a beautiful event. I see it as similar to the wedding day gifts that new brides and grooms exchange with each other – the wedding itself is of course the biggest gift, yet a small souvenir given to your new spouse provides a memento to look back on and recall that wonderful moment. Same goes with engagement rings – why the heck does a woman need an engagement ring?? She doesn’t. It’s simply a keepsake, a reminder, of the moment that two people agreed to spend their lives together.
That said, I do agree that push presents have become a bit commercialized for my taste and that the pressures to purchase a bigger or better or more expensive gift have become too strong. I much prefer a more intimate and meaningful gift, or something that can later be passed on to my child with the story of what it meant or when it was given. Really it’s the memory behind the gift that’s important vs. the gift itself.
I also think it would be a nice gesture for the new mother to gift the new father with something as well. I know, I know, the last thing any soon-to-be mom has the energy to worry about is a new father gift, but it can be something small and meaningful. Even just a special card sharing your thoughts and feelings. Or something handmade, or even just a homemade coupon book with redeemable coupons for babysitting, back massages, Daddy’s night out, etc. Something to celebrate his involvement and support throughout the months of pregnancy and then through delivery.
My husband did give me a push present. He gifted it several days after the birth, once we were home and somewhat settled. A beautiful watch that could later be passed down. I love it. But what I loved even more was the card he wrote. The thoughts he shared about this new journey that we were embarking on together. The words are what made the gift special.
So to each his own, but I do see the pressure to buy push presents growing amongst new fathers. I’ve definitely seen many local mothers talking about and showing off their push presents to friends. I only hope it doesn’t get to engagement ring proportions, where the focus is more on the present than on what it represents.
What about other mothers – are you in favor of or against push presents?