Motherhood brings unique joys and pains to every mum, and we are better off acknowledging that. In this series called Mum Truths, mums reveal their secret successes, miseries and gripes about parenting in a no-holds-barred first-person recount.
I never liked having parties. I’m introverted, extremely pragmatic, and most importantly, I hate the drama that inadvertently comes with party planning. Which was why I never had a sweet 16 or a big bash for my 21st birthday. And when I got married, my equally low-key husband and I used Covid as an excuse to put off the wedding banquet… indefinitely. But because our child is the first grandson for his side of the family, I relented. Who am I to take this happy occasion away from the proud grandparents?
It was a decision that I regretted almost immediately. Firstly, we got pushback on holding a 100-day celebration. The intention was so that I have more time to rest and recover from a brutal labour, but my in-laws advised against it because in Chinese culture, 100 days is closely associated with mourning periods for funerals. It’ll be inauspicious; do an 88-day celebration instead, they said.
Secondly, we got pushback on the scale of the event. We had planned to do a cosy celebration in our house with a DIY photo corner and a modest spread of finger food for close family and friends. But after some back and forth, it snowballed into a full-blown event, complete with a buffet line, traditional full-month gift boxes for everyone, and more than 50 pax on the invite list – including extended family that we meet only once a year and his father’s friends… whom we have never met. We crunched the numbers and gasped at how this shindig might cost us close to $1,000.
Eventually, my father-in-law suggested we do it open-house style. One where we just inform people that this is happening, and have visitors pop in and out from 12pm to 5pm – therefore without ANY LIMIT on the number of people who would show up. That was when my husband put his foot down. After several heated exchanges with his father, who would not budge on the buffet line and open house, he finally shouted, “THEN WE’RE NOT DOING THIS.” We eventually scrapped the celebration and sent out traditional full-month gift boxes to his side of the family instead.
I secretly cheered. Don’t get me wrong – I am not denying any elderly relatives the chance to see the newest addition to the family. We’ve made it clear that they’re welcome to visit in smaller groups, at a timing that is more manageable for us new parents. Come visit us in the afternoon, but please don’t stay longer than an hour because both the baby and the mother need to rest. It has been almost 6 months and only one aunty has visited. I also want to point out that she was very understanding about why we have these rules.
While people might chide us for going against tradition, I am not sorry that my husband and I drew this boundary. We’re new parents who have been surviving on five hours of broken sleep for weeks. We’re extremely irritable and barely human. So while we’re grateful to have people who want to celebrate this joyous occasion with us, this is too much too soon. Consider our rejection of this full month celebration a radical form of self-care.
In my experience, the people usually pushing for stuff like this are hardly thinking about the baby (and definitely not the parents) in the first place. I’ve heard horror stories from friends who have had crying newborns being passed around from relative to relative, tolerated passive-aggressive comments on their parenting choices, and other rude behaviour from unreasonable guests. For a new mum (or dad) figuring out their way in this new parenting life, that’s not going to be fun.
Let’s not forget, Covid reinfections are still happening, plus there are new flu strains and RSV going around. I am not risking the health of my immuno-delicate newborn just so that the grandparents can show off and uncle so-and-so can have a photo op.
The bottomline is this: having this party doesn’t benefit my child in any tangible way, so I’m not throwing one just for the sake of doing it. But by the time he’s four and begging for a big birthday blowout? Yeah sure – I’ll be that parent pulling out all the stops and throwing a Kardashian-level bash.
Until then, everyone else can just suck it up.
Serena Yeo is your typical millennial and now newly-minted mum to one very vocal baby boy. It is no coincidence that she is also slightly deaf in one ear now.