x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The day my son was born, I was too busy to throw you a party

Having a baby imposes new financial obligations, so why begin your new life by throwing an unnecessary four-day event?

People love parties. Gatherings to celebrate weddings, birthdays, reunions and other happy family events are noted cheerfully on everybody's calendars. In the business world, a lively event with good food and a souvenir bag is a reliable way to draw a crowd and pitch a product or an event.

Depending on the size and circumstances of the family or company, special-event parties can vary quite a lot in scope and expense. Just switch on MTV and watch an episode of My Sweet 16 and you will realise just how small and uninspired your most recent birthday party was in comparison.

What social events like these have in common is that usually we anticipate them and have time to prepare. When we have less time, as with a funeral for example, there is at least a familiar template to follow.

I've been in the business of communications for a good 10 years, and between that and family life, I thought I had seen it all when it came to social gatherings to mark various events.

Then it came time for the birth of my first child.

I like to think of myself as a very simple person, quite easy-going. I don't need to have a party for everything. Some even say this shows that I'm too western for our Arab culture; to that I respond by saying: "I am not a millionaire to spend a lot of money on every occasion."

But in the past few years there has been a trend: more and more women and families who are expecting babies now create elaborate plans around the event, and I am not talking about simply buying some clothes for a newborn and decorating the baby's room.

I discovered that my simplicity did not seem to fit the bill as I was preparing for the big day. Instead of having a relaxing last two weeks of pregnancy and then a serene post-delivery period, I had a lot to do.

First, I had to consider how big my room should be. A presidential or a deluxe suite? And how long did I intend to stay there? Of course, many people needed to come to see the baby.

Then on to the catering: how big would the group be, and how fancy the food? Then the theme and colours, covering everything from decorating my hospital suite, to the gown I was supposed to wear, to the blanket and pillow I would have on the hospital bed.

It didn't end there. What about the gifts for guests?

And of course, however long and gruelling the labour a new mother has gone through, she must look her best. So I had to make sure I had arranged for a hairdresser, make-up and someone to do my nails, either a few hours after delivery or, at the very latest, by the following day.

If you have read this far, you're probably shaking your head in despair, or else thinking of creating an entire business to cater to new mothers. Perhaps you are just thinking about how much money is typically spent to create a three- to four-day event that involves receiving visitors with a smile for at least 10 hours each day.

There is, you may have noticed, a big unanswered question in all of this: when does a new mother get to rest? Behind it is another: why should this occasion become such a busy time?

Of course, you want visitors to come and see you, but so what if you look like a lorry ran over you? So what if you don't have a Japanese theme to your hospital room?

Bringing a child into the world is a joyous event. The notion that new mothers must be "presentable" at all times needs to change for the good of everyone involved.

Also, having a baby imposes new financial obligations, so why begin your new life by throwing an unnecessary four-day party? Instead, that money could go for nappies, or into your baby's university fund.

It's time for some rethinking of the whole birth-party trend.


Aida Al Busaidy is a social affairs columnist and former co-host of a Dubai television show

On Twitter: @AidaAlB