Birthday Parties – Keeping up with the Jones’

There always seems to be a bit of competition in parenting; from which after-school activities your kids go to and where you buy their clothes from, to sporting prowess and academic achievement.

But arguably the biggest competition of all is birthday parties.

Once upon a time, birthday parties were simpler. If you were lucky, you would get to invite a few friends around, maybe take off on your bikes down to the park to play, watch a movie later and enjoy a slice of mum’s homemade birthday cake.

These days, there seems to be a lot more expectation surrounding birthday parties. From elaborate party bags to hosted venues and expensive activities, there is no end to how much you can spend on a child’s birthday, all to keep up with the Jones’.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with those things – after all, a hosted venue cuts down on the clean-up work, and birthday party entertainment is a lot of fun and takes the pressure off you organising games – but it all comes down to the reasons that you do it. If you find yourself stretching beyond your budget in order to throw a party as fancy as the one that your child’s school friend did last month, you may need to sit back and have a rethink. Will it be worth it when you get the credit card bill?

Blogger April Masini says that parents have become so insecure about raising their children that they use their kids to compete with each other, especially when it comes to birthday parties. She says that kids need to learn to have realistic expectations though, and learn that life isn’t always fair, and that not everybody has the same disposable income.

One parent who decided to buck the trends for her 2-year-old son’s birthday is Heather Morgan-Shot.

Rather than go the catered direction, she and her husband Chris home-cooked birthday treats for the kids, and had a barbecue for the adults.

“I had stressed endlessly about my simple approach,” said Heather. “At one point, in the beginning of our party planning efforts, Chris had to remind me that we didn’t need to go overboard for our 2-year-old’s birthday party, and I’m thankful he was able to keep me focused. I find it embarrassingly easy to get swept up in what other mums think and say and, I lose perspective on what works for us as a family.

“In the end, Mason clearly had a blast–and I wouldn’t change a thing about the party we had for him.”

Here are some tips for deciding what kind of party, treats, food and entertainment you should have for your child’s party:

1) Set a budget. Be realistic about what you have to spend, and plan the party accordingly. Maybe in order to book some entertainment, you can skip on catering and home-cook instead. Ask your child what is most important to them about the party.

2) Time. Lots of families have two parents working, so establish how much time you can realistically put into the party. Maybe you don’t have time to home cook, or energy to clean up, and a catered party with entertainment is what best suits your needs.

3) Help. How much help is available to you through family and friends? This may affect your decisions about how to run the party. Maybe your family can help cater, or friends can help supervise or entertain.

4) What your child wants. Your child may not actually want a big, fancy party, but prefer to have just a few friends over to play video games. Don’t be tempted to force a big party if it’s not what your child wants – you may be doing it for your own reasons.