I love a good party theme. A perfect play on words makes me giddy. Food and decor puns give me life. I’ve even got a fully loaded Pinterest board for every party I’ve ever planned. In fact, I had a hand in planning all of my pre-baby parties like my college graduation party, engagement party, bridal shower, and even baby shower. I guess you can say I’m “extra” in this department. It’s okay, I try to embrace it. The flip side of my love of party planning is that I also stress easily…way too easily. So, when it comes down to crunch time, everyone knows to walk on eggshells around me because I’m on the verge of a meltdown at any second simply because I want everything to be perfect.
But, Now I’m a Mom
When I became a mom, I thought parties would be right up my alley. Like, I’m pretty sure I had my son’s first birthday party theme picked out before he was even born. The yellow napkin “penalty flags” and Ring Pop “Championship Rings” for his “First Year Down” were honestly some of my best work. However, when it came time to actually executing the party plans, like buying the decor and setting everything up, things got a bit more stressful than normal because I was working around his much needed nap schedule which meant my anxiety went through the roof on the day of the party.
And then there’s the toys. The endless toys. We are always super thankful for anything our kids receive, but we were out of room in our house with baby stuff before we even had kids. A birthday party legit had us keeping toys at our parents’ houses because we had no. more. room.
On top of it all, there’s an uncomfortable level of social anxiety I always undergo when feeling like I have to entertain/hold a conversation with everyone when I host something. I love getting people together, but I’m honestly just awkward and wonder if I’m being too much at times. As I write this I realize I probably like the idea of a party rather than the execution of it all. Anything for my babies though.
Cake. Food. Decorations. Guests. Work around naps. Parties are a lot. And I love my kids, but parties when they are so little just feel like a lot of high strung emotions on an event that won’t really be remembered. And maybe it’s just the over achiever in me putting too much pressure on myself to have it all perfect that pushes me overboard. But, even the no-plan party spots where you just give all your money to a room full of too much noise while someone else cuts the cake and entertains the kids can feel overwhelming and expensive. (The last time I stepped foot in Chuck E. Cheese made me need a nap more than my toddler who spent the entire time climbing on games he had no business playing. And I think he licked a few of them. Que all the anxiety.)
Keep it Simple, Mama
So, for our son’s second birthday, we didn’t have a party. Granted, Covid-19 is still a thing so part of not throwing a huge party was out of healthy caution. We also have an infant so the thought of planning anything with two children’s schedules to work around made me break out in hives. We simply invited my immediate family and my husband’s immediate family. My dad made burgers, my in-laws brought the plates, napkins and utensils, and we showed up with the essentials–the babies and cake. We got to relax by the pool and I didn’t stress about one thing one time. It was beautiful. I even told my husband that it made me consider never throwing a huge birthday party ever again.
Don’t judge me. I know that’s unrealistic because we will definitely have a first birthday party for our daughter and once both of them are old enough to understand what a birthday party means we won’t be able to get away with small gatherings forever. Truthfully, I felt guilty for enjoying such a simple day, and I did miss getting to see all of the family that I know would have shown up under normal circumstances. But it was nice not stressing over the show of it all. He’s two. He doesn’t care if every snack has a food pun sign next to it. He still got gifts, but it was more of what he needed rather than too many toys with songs that will get stuck in all of our heads. He also got the freedom to be truly celebrated, to eat and do as he pleased for the day because we weren’t running from place to place throwing all of our time, money, energy, attention, and emotions into a two hour blink of a party. Sometimes simple is better.
I can’t speak for every mom, but I know personally I realized that I can avoid the stress because I’m the source of it at times with my good intentions but perfectionist mindset. My babies won’t love me less if their parties don’t meet MY expectations, because it’s not about me. And until they have a say so, I just might ride the simple train for sanity’s sake.
At the end of the day what mattered most was the meaning of that day: that my baby was celebrated for his life and the life he gives to us every day. The extra minutes I got to spend scrubbing his dirty knees that night proved it to all be a success. And as true parents, we had the kids in bed by 8, raised our glasses of milk and cracked open the box of left over cookie cake. No party, no problem. Cheers!