From Facebook: I just spent an hour browsing pinterest for ideas for my son’s upcoming birthday, and suddenly I feel completely incapable of throwing a party for six 8-yr-olds.
Anyone want to fess up to feeling this way? I have, and my friends have, and maybe you have too. But you know what? It’s crazy. We love our kids. We clothe them, drive them to their many activities, and feed them three meals a day (hey, I only forgot dinner that one time). We help them with their homework, listen to their troubles, and sit up with them when they’re sick at night. We teach them to read, tie their shoes, and navigate the pitfalls of junior high. And then we feel guilty and inadequate when we can’t find the time, talent, or inclination to plan a birthday party complete with professional looking decorations, DIY drink stands made from recycled pallets, elaborate handmade favors and perfectly decorated themed cakes. Sound a little crazy to you? Sounds a little crazy to me. So why do so many of us feel this way?
I thought about titling this post “Why pinterest is not invited to my child’s birthday party” because it’s easy to point to pinterest as the root of the problem. It’s hard to look at photo after photo of magazine-worthy birthday parties and not start to wonder why no one’s ever pointed out just how spectacularly lame the standard game-and-cake-parties you usually throw are (or how bad you are at decorating cakes in general).
But to tell you the truth, I’m not sure pinterest itself is actually to blame. I kinda think it’s our own fault.
For some reason, we as women will take just about anything as proof that we aren’t quite good enough, or we’re not trying quite hard enough. It starts in junior high when we’re not pretty enough and continues in high school when we’re not popular enough, smart enough, talented enough, etc. It seems to just get worse once we have kids: Mommy guilt moves in and it’s terribly difficult to convince it to move back out. We don’t focus on all the ways we’re terrific moms, or on all the ways our kids are happy, loved and secure. Instead, we’re always on the lookout for the one little sign that says we should be doing something better. Of course it’s good to want to improve, but letting anyone else’s success be a signal that we just aren’t good enough is a hard way to live, and I don’t think it does our kids any favors.
Imagine this: you meet someone who has made it to the summit of Mount Everest. You’re impressed, right? I am – that’s pretty amazing. Do you immediately feel bad that you haven’t climbed Everest and start to wonder if your kids are suffering as a result? No way. That would be crazy, right?
So why do we look at pictures of various lovely and amazing things on pinterest and decide we should probably be doing every single one of them? Why do we let ourselves feel inadequate when our life doesn’t look like the sum composite of everything we see on the web?
Well, one problem is that, due to how it’s set up, pinterest tends to magnify the Everest summiters in every creative genre, and party planning is no different – the most beautiful photos will be repinned thousands of times, meaning they’re much more likely to show up in your feed and make you think everyone in the world is throwing amazing parties. In reality, most of us are doing exactly what we’ve always done: a low-key celebration that doesn’t cost much money or take tons of prep time. What it does do is let our child know we’re happy to gather family or friends to celebrate his or her special day. And guess what? That’s plenty. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about the birthday party you throw your child if it doesn’t look worthy of Martha Stewart Magazine. Does your child’s sense of self worth come from a beautifully photographed party? No. Does is come from the time you spend caring for her, clothing her, feeding her, helping her, reading to her, etc? You bet.
(I do want to make clear that I don’t think people who throw fantastic parties are wasting their time or trying to make the rest of us look bad. I think they’re amazing and talented, and that it’s obvious the parties they plan for their kids are a labor of love. I think it’s vital for all of us to find time to do things we love. But there’s no reason for any of us to assume we’re not as good as someone else because the things we love to do don’t result in viral pins.)
So how do we ditch the birthday party guilt? Here are a few ideas:
- Think about what really makes your kids happy. Do they love playing with friends? Is a character cake going to make their day? Focus on one part of the party and make it great, then go low-key on everything else.
- Think back to your favorite birthday party as a kid – chances are it wasn’t anything amazing – just a special day with people who love you. Provide that for your child.
- If you want ideas from pinterest, try adding the word “easy” to your birthday party search– you’ll find a more ideas that are helpful and relevant and fewer that seem unattainable.
- Doing it yourself has become really popular lately, and can be really fun. But it can also become the bane of your existence when things go awry (and they usually do) two hours before the party’s about to start. If you think “it might just be easier to buy the (cake, decorations, favors, etc.) instead of make it” – go right ahead and buy it!
- Remember that what you see on pinterest often doesn’t reflect real life. Bloggers work hard to stage photos that will get noticed (myself included) because that’s how the business of blogging works, but that doesn’t mean their real life is anywhere near that “perfect” and yours doesn’t have to be either.
- If it turns out that searching pinterest simply makes you feel bad, just don’t do it anymore. Plan your party the old fashioned way: ask your Facebook friends for ideas.
Since I only have 29 Facebook friends, I want your ideas. Leave me comments telling me your best EASY birthday party ideas. Things that won’t stress me out if I’m trying to throw a party for 8 (plus my own 5 kids) while my husband’s still at work. Games that don’t require lots of supplies, cakes that are simple to decorate (‘cuz you might have noticed by now that I’m really bad at cake decorating), party favors that don’t cost more than the money I’m spending on my own child’s gift. Simple decorations, easy invites. Tell me your best ideas, then share this post with friends so they can come share their ideas. I would love to combine all the comments into the biggest, best “stress-free birthday party ideas” post pinterest has ever seen. Seriously. Help us all start feeling capable of planning a birthday party again, and cross guilt off the guest list!
And if you’re cake-decorating challenged (like I am) you might like this post: 20 easy to decorate birthday cakes