I used to review curriculum, now I create it

Birthday Party Mommy Wars! Are Extravagant Parties Hurting our Children?

birthday party mommy wars hip homeschooling

Before I had kids, I had no idea the amount of pressure there is on a birthday party. When I got pregnant with my first, I dreamily imagined the years to come, filled with laughter and milestones, birthday parties with smiling family and friends surrounding us… and then the bubble popped!

What the heck is with birthday parties?!?!?!?! The pressure, the judgement, the comparisons, its an all out mommy war! Tweet this!

Birthday parties are intense! When my first baby turned one, the pressure was on. Who would have the bigger party in my circle of friends? How many people would come? Did you get your cake custom made?

I mean, they only turn 1 once, right? Make it count!

The camera is out, the custom photo shoot is booked, the first birthday outfit is custom ordered. The cute little invitations have gone out along with a link to your registry.

Come on people! The poor kid just wants a piece of cake! He/she will never remember this grand moment you are making for them, nor care! I have been to quite a few birthday parties where the little tyke was so overwhelmed they just crumbled under the pressure. The pressure to be cute and smile for the pictures and “preform” for all these strangers. Isn’t this supposed to be about them?

Somehow our kids’ birthday parties have become more about the mommy wars and who can do it better! Tweet this!

The Danger of Birthday Party Extravagance

That’s right, I just said danger! Could it be that this one-up mentality is actually hurting our children? Could it be creating in them an expectation for perfection and cultivating a spirit of entitlement and selfishness?

My parents threw awesome birthdays! Every second year was just a family party, but it was so very special. They put up signs all over the house announcing our birthday (embarrassing but also our favorite part!), we had to do no chores or school, everyone did everything for us. We chose our menu for the next day and got presents and whatever cake we wanted. It was pretty much epic, with or without the friends!

But then, I grew up! And every. single. year, I am disappointed. I can’t help it! All my growing up years my birthday was something momentous, and now it just comes and goes like any other day. A few passing well wishers write on my Facebook wall, hubby gets me some flowers or a gift, its a letdown. And I can’t help but feel like I have perhaps an unhealthy view of birthdays, maybe even a bit of selfishness, because of the extravagant love my parents poured out on me!

Does this mean I am not going to celebrate birthdays in our house? Absolutely not! But I do refuse to succumb to the mommy wars. ALL of my kids’ first birthdays were small family affairs, just a few people who were available coming over to have some cake and watch them open a present. And without fail I felt an immeasureable amount of guilt during each one. Thinking I should be doing more, feeling like I was failing when we were invited to yet another themed birthday with 20 other kids, mounds of presents, and a perfect cake.

They have to stop! We have to stop judging each other and pressuring someone else to do things the same way we do. Some people just throw an awesome party! Some years it just doesn’t work out!

An Alternative to the Birthday Party Culture

I love birthdays! But I am determined to give my kids a healthy view of them and to make sure we are doing something special for them to celebrate who they are while not creating unrealistic expectations.

Birthday Party AlternativeMy 2 year old turns three on Friday. I can hardly believe it! Instead of throwing her a party, I took out her and her older sister to lunch, bought them special dresses from Costco and matching shoes, and we went to see Cinderella. It was so special for all of us, we took pictures and laughed and held hands and skipped in the sunlight and I finally discovered my vision for birthdays. I want them to be special in a different way.

I want to find something that my child loves and instead of presents and friends and hundreds of dollars out of my pocket… use that to do something together to cultivate relationship with them. To build their character and self-confidence, to show them how much they are loved and valued in our home, and to sow into them seeds that will build strength of character rather than leave them with seeds of selfishness lurking beneath the surface.

Your New Birthday Motto: Just Smile and Nod

So here it is, your new birthday motto: just smile and nod momma’s! If you are having an extravagant party, no judgement here, invite me so we can get the awesome goody bags you have planned 😉 And if you or someone you know is doing nothing this year because money is tight or everyone is working or you just ran out of time, be free! It is not the end of the world! There’s always next week, next month, next year even! It doesn’t have to be a $500 birthday bash for it to be special and momentous! Try my birthday party alternative and I bet you by the end your little one will be wishing every birthday could be half as special.

Your turn… what was your favorite birthday memory growing up?

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  1. So so true! We have some big ones and we have some where they spend the day with mom and dad on a date all about them and where they wanna go. It’s how my parents did it…I must confess I loved the dates worth my mom and dad more. Mom and I would go into the fitting rooms at TJMax I’d come out modeling out fits for my dad I’d leave with a few. Lunch, movies,family fun center, or park..what ever I had chosen it was a blast. My kids love it too!

  2. My baby is 7 months old, but I’m already feeling the pressure to make a big deal out of his 1st birthday in September! I remember my favorite birthdays growing up were just ones where I got to spend time with friends. No fancy decorations or themes…just plain old fun!

    • Not that decorations are bad, but I know what you mean, now it is the custom birthday photo shoots and cakes and outfits and it honestly adds up! How good were your goodie bags, did you have enough food? Um, I don’t have $500 to throw at every party. 😉

  3. It amazes me the families who feel compelled to have a big “kid party” every year. My parents established a policy of a small family party every year and a big party on milestone birthdays, IF we wanted one. I think they were age 5, 10 and 13. Big, in those days, were more people and presents not outrageous entertainment. Mom made the cake. Colorful but simple.

    • Totally! My kids will I’m sure have some parties during their years, but it doesn’t have to be every year and I think they are better off for it, they won’t remember most of those anyways, they’ll remember important people and activities not who their friends were that year and what toys they got.

  4. My favourite birthday parties were outings. One was 2 friends at the Vancouver Aquarium and the other was 2 friends at Science World. I loved getting out and having a couple of friends made it special. I don’t remember the cake… there probably was one but I don’t remember.

    • ha ha , love it! I’m trying to remember my favorite birthday, I don’t remember a lot of them in detail. My 8th birthday I was allowed to have some girls over for a sleepover and saw my first movie in the theatres (little women) I think that one was the biggest I remember, otherwise, I remember the homemade signs, no chores or school, being queen for a day. Sigh, maybe when my kids are older they’ll do the chores for me 😉

  5. I think kids treasure time with their parents! I think we can bless our children by just letting them know how special they are to us. Just like you did with your daughter!

  6. Have to admit, I’ve totally avoided the birthday party war thing. We do what we want and if others don’t like it that’s their issue. Mind I just do “let’s go to the park and play” and oh.. .here’s some cupcakes. 🙂

  7. Our kids pick a restaurant for their birthday dinner. That is just for our family. On the weekend we have a small party for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We have a homemade cake, maybe a BBQ. We have a pretty big family but we keep it casual. As they get older, they may ask to have a sleepover with a couple friends. We have stayed away from huge, crazy expensive parties. My son is turning ten next week. He has asked to go camping. We are getting him a fishing pole, binoculars, and a new pair of hiking shoes for his gifts.

  8. No need to go spending on a party that is not wanted. Make it as cozy as possible trim the guest list to the your closest relatives and friends only and have a fun time together.

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I used to review curriculum, now I create it!