I am never one to turn down a gift. I recognize that gift-giving is a way that many people most fluently express their love, and I'm very much a believer in "it's the thought that counts." But sometimes the head isn't in the right place, even though the heart is. Don't believe me? Well, just take a look at all the things well-meaning people buy soon-to-be dads that are a waste. While the gift is certainly appreciated, it won't be appreciated to the full extent the gift-giver probably hoped.
I think a lot of this actually comes down to gift-giving culture in general. Because, honestly, while a baby often needs (or at least can benefit from) a ton of stuff, moms- and dads-to-be don't necessarily need a lot of things for themselves. They need help around the house and with the baby, certainly. They might need or appreciate (solicited) guidance. But this isn't a milestone for which too many actual personal objects are useful. Still, it is a milestone, and people want to be kind and give you something to celebrate that milestone with gifts.
So what's to be done? Well, for starters, I'd say to always seen if someone you're buying for has a registry. You can also do it the old-fashioned way: ask what the soon-to-be parents want or need to prepare for their new arrival. Barring that, volunteering to coordinate getting a dad some alone time (or date time) is always a nice idea, too. But, again, while all acts of kindness are appreciated for what they are, I would avoid the following, because they're really not necessary. Like, at all.
A "Manly" Baby Carrier
Unless there's a big size difference between you and you partner, you have multiples, or you need a carrier for specialized use (like hiking, for example), I just don't really see the point of buying more than one carrier for your baby. It's not like you can use both at the same time. And even if the pattern or color is "feminine," does it really matter? Does it make sense to spend $100.00, or more, for the same product just so you don't have to wear something "girly"?
"Real men" aren't afraid to wear flower-patterned slings, is all I'm saying.
The Wrong Kind Of "Nerd Dad" Stuff
Wil Wheaton once said that being a nerd (or a geek) is "not about what you love, it’s about the way that you love it. Someone who I would describe as a 'geek' or 'nerd' is a person who loves something to its greatest extent, and then looks for other people who love it the same way, so they can celebrate loving it together."
I contend that most people are nerds about something. And while one certainly means well buying a dad-to-be a "Daddy's Little Football Buddy" onesie, or father/baby Luke/Yoda costumes, make sure you're getting your fandom right. My husband got a lot of sports related stuff and while they were all sweet and appreciated, he's never been a sports fan so it was all sort of wasted on him.
A Sexist Onesie
I won't share any here, but just go ahead and do a Google image search of "sexist onesie" and you'll find some humdingers. They generally fall into categories, ranging from "dad is a hopelessly inept parent" to "baby girl can never date."
Spare us all this nonsense, people. I know you're just buying them because you think they're funny and cute, but chauvinism doesn't look good on anyone. Not even babies.
A Sexist Dad T-Shirt
Again: sexism is no one's best look.
A Very Long Parenting Book
Unless you can get it to the dad-to-be well ahead of the baby's birth, I'd skip it. It's a very good idea, but if you give it to him a few weeks before the baby is born, there's just no way that book is going to get read.
Have you ever tried reading with a newborn in the house? For starters, you're usually holding the baby. And yes, holding a book and a baby is actually more difficult than you'd think. Second, if you sit down to do something quiet you will fall asleep.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
I saw this on a couple lists of things to buy new dads and aside from, like, a Baby-Launching Catapault, I cannot think of a worse gift for a new parent.
They have a newborn! They don't just get to block out the baby's noise when it gets annoying. Oh no, they have to deal with it. How is this a good idea? Also, do you know what the mother of the child would do if dad just popped on some headphones when junior started wailing? In a best scenario, dad doesn't really use these because he can't afford to not hear his child cry (you know, because he's an involved parent). In a worst case scenario, mom rips them off his head and smashes them with a hammer, because WTF, dude?
Stereotypical Dad Stuff
Becoming a dad doesn't magically turn someone into a grilling enthusiast, a beer connoisseur, or an avid collector of novelty ties. And I get it: it's cute. It's a way of saying, "Guess what, future dad? You're about to be inducted into the Sacred Order of Dads, which accords you all the skills and privileges therewith." But actually buying something to symbolize that is sort of a waste of money if he's not already into grilling, beer, ties, or whatever, already.
Decorative Mementos That Match *Your* Taste
I see this kind of a lot, actually. Friends, family, and partners will put a lot of effort into finding or crafting a decorative gift for dad that, while lovely, is way more something they would hang on their wall that the dad in question would be to hang on theirs.
I'm not saying these gifts wouldn't be appreciated, but I think it is worth asking yourself: "Is this something I'd like, or something he'd like?"
A Ton Of Snacks For The Hospital
I've talked about this before, but on every baby message board I've ever visited, people are really preoccupied about eating during labor. Like, "Hit me up with snacks I should pack my hubby when I go into labor!" or, "What are you guys putting in your go bag? I have everything I need for me, and then I have 27 boxes of granola bars, crackers, jerky, and trail mix for my boyfriend. Will that be enough, do you think? You never know how long you're going to be at the hospital."
Let me just lay it out for you: I have never met someone who's more obsessed with snacking than me. As obsessed? Sure. More obsessed? No. Now I have been in labor 27 hours of my life, and that almost certainly represents the only 27 hours in 34 years I wasn't thinking about eating. So the dad-to-be does not need 50 pounds of snacks to sustain himself. And if he needs a pick-me-up it's called a vending machine. (Hell, some hospitals actually had snack stations for this very purpose.)
A Baby Book
I mean... have you filled yours out? I certainly haven't and my kids are 6 and 3. Not necessary, my friends.
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