Professor and family therapist Bill Doherty first noticed the fallout of birthday party pressure about a decade ago. The process of hosting elaborate and expensive kids’ birthday parties was catching up with parents. They were stressed and overwhelmed.
He remembers one mother describing how she felt pressured to invite her son’s entire first grade class to the party, since that was the norm.
“It was in October and the mother said to her birthday boy, ‘Who is that little boy over there?’ Her child didn’t even know his name yet.” Doherty said. “If you have 26 kids – six-year-olds – to your child’s birthday party, you’re going to get invited to 25, 26 parties.”
The University of Minnesota professor has researched the evolution of birthday parties and says destination parties go back to the 1950s, when mothers organized celebrations at venues like museums and bowling alleys. He says outsourcing birthdays took off in the 1980s and the pressure has grown ever since. In response to the cultural trend, Doherty has hosted workshops on the topic of birthdays without pressure.
“With parenting and kids it takes on a life of its own because nobody wants to feel like their child is less special than the other children.”
Erin Spooner, an Alberta mother of three, has felt the financial stress of birthday parties. In 2016, she spent approximately $1,600 hosting her sons’ birthdays and attending their friends’ celebrations. In response, she went simple and sentimental for her youngest son’s first birthday on Dec. 29.
Watch below: Spooner explains how she turned to Pinterest for a low-cost, low-effort idea to make her son’s first birthday memorable
Kirsten Slatter has found ways to keep costs down for her kids’ birthday parties. The thrifty mom collects craft store coupons, hits bargain stores for quirky props and typically plans home parties.
Watch below: Slatter describes how she cuts birthday party costs with creativity
Vancouver mom Alexandra Samuel says most destination parties in her city run between $250 and $300. She warns the do-it-yourself approach isn’t for everyone.
“The three parties where I took a DIY approach instead were way more work so I consider that $300 to be well worth it in terms of my time saved,” Samuel wrote in a post on Facebook. “Beyond that cost, it’s never more than $50 for a cake and a fruit plate.”
Doherty has compiled examples of ways to take the pressure out of children’s birthday parties. For tips, visit Birthdays Without Pressure.