Yay! It’s your child’s birthday and a time to celebrate another special milestone.

As loving parents it’s important to celebrate a child’s birthday but is there a little feeling that these parties are getting out of control? Don’t get me wrong, I have my hands up. I am to blame too for these indulgent parties as I have had a few of them myself.

My daughter turned six in November. We did what so many parents do. We hired the village hall, invited 25 children, booked an entertainer, organized food and drink plus party bags. I would estimate that every party we have had, probably cost close to £500. Even when I write it, it sounds indulgent. Do we also feel under pressure to ensure the entertainment is right, the napkins match the paper plates and cups. Creating the ‘perfect’ party for our children. But is this too much perfection? Surely there are more important things for us Guilty Mothers to worry about in life, other than ensuring the napkins match. I am also freaking out about what to put in the party bags.

Of course, you can do parties cheaper by hosting them at home (which I did for the last two kids parties previously). However, it can be stressful hosting it in your own kitchen. I mean, don’t laugh, but I spent at least ten minutes at the beginning and the end of the party on the driveway assisting the cars in and out. I was just missing my high visibility jacket!

Gone are the days when we were only allowed to invite eight friends, because that is how many dining room chairs our mothers had. We probably played 3 games, musical chairs, pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey. We would sit still, yes…’still’ at the table to eat one sandwich, a few crisps and we would always leave with cake wrapped in a napkin. This party format would last for years and years. Now parties are so much more indulgent, I am wondering how this happened. I’ve tried all the parties. Tiny parties, big parties, parties in village halls and parties at home – and I’m still figuring out what is right.

The other issue most mums face is – do you invite the whole class or not? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer and you must do what feels right. I didn’t invite the whole class as I wanted to leave space to accommodate family friends and cousins. There was absolutely no way I was organizing two parties; one for school friends and another for family friends. My view is that, it was just too much; for my daughter – and for me.

Even though my daughter wanted to invite the whole class, the party gets overwhelmingly noisy and can take the specialness away from the party itself. This is only my view and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and that’s OK. I know it’s sad not to invite the whole class and part of me hates to be that mum that is doing this, but my heart tells me it’s the right decision. I ask my daughter to invite 9 or 10 from the the class. The ones she spends the most time with and she writes a list. A thoughtful list of those friends she plays with the most.

My top 3 things for consideration…

  1. Feeding the parents.
    I noticed this changed a few years ago. When I held a child’s birthday, a close friend said to me “what food are you getting for parents?”. I replied “what do you mean?”. She said “well, you know, the parents are standing around for two hours. They’ll get hungry too”. “Oh right. I see”. Drawn into this advice, I found myself, not only organizing sandwiches for the children, I was also now organizing sandwiches and crisps for the parents too. I know they appreciated it, but I also know, they didn’t really expect it.
  2. Party bags. It’s now all about smart looking paper coloured rope bags or pretty party boxes. They look lovely, but again, is this an expense we didn’t need to go to? Last year, I gave every party child a book. It was simple and effective. However, I went too far by asking my daughter to pick out a book for each child. That was not necessary, but sweet none the less.
  3. Mountains of presents. Naturally, every party guest will arrive with a beautifully wrapped gift. When you see the large pile at the end of the party, I sometimes wonder if the pile of gifts is just too overwhelming for the child? When I was a young girl I am sure I used to get presents but I don’t recall these huge piles of them? Or maybe I just don’t remember as that wasn’t the most important part of the day?

As parents, perhaps we need to take a deep breath and ask ourselves what these parties are creating for our little cherubs. How much are they enjoying these parties and perhaps we should take a moment to ask them? I know I haven’t, not properly.

So what do you think? Am I overreacting? Do you think kids’ birthday parties are becoming too elaborate and expensive? Let me know on Facebook comments. Let’s look at this from another angle, if a child has a party every year with 10 to 15 kids and each one of the kids will bring a £10 to £20 gift; what if they didn’t give a gift but gave money to a children’s charity instead?

In two weeks’ time my son has a birthday. He’s asked for a Star Wars party, but I haven’t organized one. I might sound terribly mean but he has been to so many wonderful parties lately, we have made a decision to have a family day trip to the Natural History Museum. I want it to be a special day about him. I want to see his face and enjoy his day. We might meet a few friends for tea after school one day but it will be low key. It might not necessarily be what he wants, but I know it’s right and he will still get his Stormtrooper cake.