My sister-in-law has generously offered to throw me a baby shower. I have always thought that, according to Judaism, baby showers are prohibited. Also, I thought I was supposed to wait until the birth to bring any baby gifts into my home. What is the proper etiquette, and how do I address this diplomatically with my sister-in-law?
— Pre-partum party
For Jews who opt to have a baby shower, it is customary to have one after the baby is born — not before. And while this is a uniquely Jewish order, the logic involved is unassailable. No one goes to the hospital to deliver a baby expecting complications, but they do happen. More than once I have seen a woman who has carried to term return from the hospital without a child. To then face a nursery, with baby clothing hanging in the closet and a rocking chair swaying in the corner, is more than any grieving woman should have to bear. Explained this way, your sister-in-law will fully understand the custom — superstitious and Old World and overly cautious though it may sound — not to have a shower until the baby is born. After you deliver a healthy baby, however, let the party begin. There is a lovely bonus with this system too: The newborn can attend, and the new mother can drink in the compliments.
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My husband and I are both 40 and have been married for six months (a first marriage for each of us). Our families live thousands of miles away and are eager to visit us in our new home. My husband feels that it is too early in our marriage for friends or family to visit. He feels we should first settle in, unpack all of our boxes and establish our own routine before we begin entertaining. I do agree that we should present ourselves in the best possible light.
— Visitation rights
If you are determined to appear in the best possible light, I would simply place a moratorium on all visitors from here on in. So many things can go wrong when entertaining — scorched fowl, fallen cakes, snippy exchanges and pointed fingers — that it is always risky to open your doors.
That said, the first year of marriage can be especially rocky. In your case, you presumably have both spent your adult years without accommodating anyone else’s lifestyle or habits. Do not underestimate the stress and challenge of merging two separate and independent lives. Even if you were in your 20s, I would still recommend a minimum of family encounters in the first phase of marriage. Nothing works as well as the arrival of one’s family to spark childish behavior and tax loyalties. You may not agree with your husband now, but his instincts herald the kind of thoughtfulness and wisdom that will keep your marriage strong.
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I am engaged to a man who inherited china and silver from his grandmother. He loved his grandmother dearly and feels that to replace the china and silver would be an insult to her memory. Neither the china nor the silver is my taste. I want to start our marriage fresh. What do you think?
— Hoping for a clean plate
Marriage is the only occasion when family, friends and near-perfect strangers buy you extravagant gifts simply because you happened to meet someone with whom you fell in love. Don’t throw away this wonderful opportunity. Register for new china and silver. Out of respect for your husband — and for his late grandmother — you can agree to phase in the new plates and silverware. Or you can agree to use his pre-existing china at all of his family dinners. You can’t expect him to abandon his china pattern for you — nor can he expect you to embrace his. These are the kinds of questions that make the months and weeks leading up to the wedding fraught with conflict. I hope this is the most difficult dilemma you will have to negotiate.
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