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I see you, Mama, planning that big birthday party.
I know you’ve spent hours on Pinterest coming up with a theme for your daughter’s third birthday. You’ve scoured Etsy for the perfect shirt that says “Young, Wild, and Three.” A friend is lined up to take pictures, there’s a deposit at the local indoor play place, and the custom three-tiered cake will be picked up next week. A box in the closet holds the balloons and streamers, and the goodie bags that still need to be filled.
I see you, and I can tell you’re stressed.
Yes, I know this is how everyone does birthdays now. I know that you tried not to do too much. And yes, I’m sure that the party will be perfect and everyone will have a blast and you’ll have some amazing pictures to post on social media.
But what about you, Mama? When it’s all over, will the time and effort be worth the stress?
Whatever happened to simple, average birthdays?
Whatever happened to Wal-Mart sheet cakes and playing tag in the yard? Since when did every birthday need a theme and a guest list? Why do we feel the need to find cute games and spend hundreds of dollars to rent a party room?
AND WHY IN THE WORLD ARE WE SENDING GUESTS HOME WITH GOODIE BAGS?!?
Yes, I did have to write that sentence in all-caps. I feel VERY strongly about goodie bags.
Mama, I know Pinterest makes it look so easy, and your Instagram is filled with cute pictures of amazing birthday parties, but this has to stop.
Birthday parties have gotten completely out of hand.
Throwing your kid an amazing birthday party does not make you an amazing mom.
You need to know that your kid loves you no matter the size of the party you throw. I know you want to be an amazing mom, but you already are. If your kid knows she’s loved, nothing else matters.
Ask yourself why you want to throw a huge birthday party. Are you doing it because you love parties, or are you doing it because it’s what everyone else does? Do you enjoy the work that goes into party planning, or are you just trying to make everyone else happy?
Listen, I’m not judging. If you love planning parties, that’s great. If having amazing cake-smash pictures is your dream, go all out.
But if you’re doing ANYTHING solely because you think you’re supposed to, please stop.
Let’s just take the whole thing down a few notches.
Firstly, you don’t even have to throw a party. I know that might sound insane, but seriously, it’s not mandatory.
Consider doing one thing as a family, like going for a family hike and picnic, or bowling. Let the birthday kid pick something for everyone to do together!
If you want to have a party, why not have it in your backyard with immediate family?
I know this is a little controversial, but I’m not a huge fan of having lots of kids invited to parties. Honestly, it’s not necessary.
Generally speaking, your kid probably sees her friends frequently through daycare or school or playdates. And unless your kid is incredibly popular, there’s a good chance that many people won’t attend her party.
I hear from people far too often that no one showed up for their kid’s party or that their kid was the only one not invited to someone else’s party. Just avoid any potential issues like that by not inviting friends.
If that doesn’t work for you, consider inviting cousins, letting your kid just invite one or two friends, or throwing a casual neighborhood party that doesn’t involve a guestlist.
Your three-year-old’s party doesn’t need a guest list.
I’m a big fan of having family-only birthdays, but I know that’s not for everyone. And if you don’t have family nearby to celebrate with, it makes sense to invite some local friends.
But if your party has an official guest list, there’s a good chance the party is over-the-top.
You should be able to casually mention to a few friends that you’d love to have them over next Saturday morning for your daughter’s birthday and then not worry if none of them show up.
Making plans that rely on RSVPs or knowing how much food to buy is only going to cause you stress.
I’m about to say something really hard to hear, but no one cares about your kid’s birthday party as much as you do. That’s just the reality. This means that people will forget to RSVP or choose not to come on the day of the party if their kids are driving them crazy.
And honestly, parents don’t want to spend their Saturday morning dragging their kid to a loud party with tons of sugar where they then have to sit and make small talk for two hours with people they don’t know.
Plan something casual, like grilling burgers in the backyard, and don’t set high expectations for other people. You can’t control what they do, and stressing about RSVPs and having enough food isn’t going to do anything but leave you angry with every person that doesn’t come.
Budget and keep costs low.
If you’re using Pinterest to find ways to spend less, good for you! But if you’re looking up where to find unicorn streamers and custom balloons, STOP IT.
You do not need to rent out an indoor jungle gym or have a custom dessert bar. Spending hundreds of dollars on a party just isn’t realistic for many people. Even if you can afford it, it’s hard to justify the expense.
If you have four kids, and each party is $300, that racks up quickly, and you still have Christmas to plan!
Save yourself some money and throw an amazingly average birthday party:
- Have no theme, or allow your kid to pick a theme from the dollar store or WalMart.
- Keep decor to a minimum.
- Party at home or somewhere free, like the park.
- Either do a simple meal (like chili or tacos) or plan the party between mealtimes.
- Make a simple cake (forget fondant, tiers, and shapes) or purchase a sheet cake from Costco (because their cakes are delicious).
- Limit gifts, especially when the kids are younger. My daughter’s birthday is near Christmas, so she only gets one nice gift from us, and then whatever her grandparents get her.
- SKIP GOODIE BAGS. Okay, seriously, who came up with this asinine idea?!? I pay to throw a party and feed your kid, and then I’m supposed to also send your child home with a bag of cheap gifts they don’t need? NO. If you take one thing away from this post, please let it be that goodie bags are obnoxious and unnecessary, and I refuse to ever send a party guest home with one.
- Forget games. Your kids can run around in the yard while you chill inside with other adults. They do not need a structured party with themed games.
- Limit “big” birthdays to only every other year, or even better, pick a few birthdays to go all out on. My in-laws had big parties for their kids on their 8th and 16th birthdays, which I think is brilliant.
Keep the focus on what matters.
Birthdays are about celebrating someone you love, not about pictures, activities, or punny themes.
Instead of worrying about decorations and locations, focus on memories. And, even more importantly, prioritize your sanity.
Mama, you can bend over backward to throw your kid the best party ever, but at what cost? Is it all going to be worth the stress and exhaustion and financial strain? Because the truth is, you’re the one doing all of the work.
You’re the one making all the details come together, which means that you’re the one who will feel the stress.
So find ways to reduce the stress. When it’s all said and done, you should be able to enjoy the party as much as your kid! After all, you birthed the tiny human, so it’s your day to celebrate, too.
Twenty years from now, your kid is not going to remember every birthday party she had, who was invited, or how hard you worked on the decorating. What she will remember is how she felt, and no $500 birthday is worth more than knowing she’s loved.
Do you agree that birthday parties have gotten out of hand, or do you love going all out? Let me know in the comments below!
Rachael Erway says
I absolutely loved this and wholeheartedly agree with all of it! We do celebrate each birthday, and I do make their cake (per their request). I love party planning and would do it for a living…BUT I also know my limits and my stress factors and diligently try to keep it low key enough to not stress out.
Ashley McKeown says
That’s awesome that you recognize your limits! Good for you for not overdoing it. 🙂