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My Family Gave Up Birthday Parties

Stress-free ideas for memorable celebrations from a relieved mom


Published on: May 28, 2024

boy looks sad wearing a birthday party hat with a woman and children in back
iStock/Lucky Business

What’s not to love about birthday parties?

Picking a date and then a theme. Planning it around school, work, holidays and vacations. Inviting people and then waiting for them to respond while attempting to plan a menu. Plus, the added pressure of parenting, which leads to conversations about why this child had a birthday party at the bowling alley or that child’s parents hand-built a Minecraft-themed house for them to play Minecraft in.

Seriously, what’s not to love?!

Our family has never been huge on big, organized parties. We’ve never lived close to family, and we didn’t plan the kids’ conceptions to give them prime birthday party birthdates. We’ve got one whose birthday falls just before school starts, one when school ends and another that falls either on spring break or Easter. 

So, after a few years of trying to cobble birthday parties together while moving across the world thanks to our life as a military family, we gave up. Here’s why:

We can enjoy the time spent celebrating that person.

I’m not sure about you, but I do not find birthday parties fun. Also — and I’m finally ready to admit this — I don’t like kids that much.

I mean, I like my kids, I like my friends’ kids. But 25 to 30 random kids from school all at my house or all in my care somewhere else? No! It’s not enjoyable.

Also, it’s not reasonable to expect my child to hang out with all of them. It’s just too much. 

We save money.

Birthday parties can be quite pricey. I mean some of these party rental locations are hundreds of dollars! Then the food, cake, invitations and goodie bags. Parents are paying hundreds for birthday parties. For that same $500, we can take a weekend getaway vacation as a family.

We save emotional stress.

Planning a party is hard! Especially when we’re faced with who to invite, when to do it, and what to serve.

I’m not a DIY kind of mom; I’d rather put money down and have someone else bake the cake, but why do we even need a fancy cake? And then I also have to worry about friends who have allergies and friends who may not be able to come because they have a prior commitment. Yikes!

We can do things as a family.

I like to spend my kids’ birthdays with them. (I’m also one of those moms who likes to spend Mother’s Day with my kids.) I don’t necessarily want to share my kid with 30 other kids at a party. And, as a military family, we don’t have the luxury of spending every birthday together. So when we have the time, we take advantage of it. 

We aren’t on anyone else’s schedule.

For every one of the eight birthdays my daughter has had, we have run into spring break at school or Easter. Every single one. And that means sometimes we celebrate her birthday early and sometimes we celebrate it late.

We’ve gone to the zoo weeks in advance. We’ve made a nice dinner at home. We’ve taken a spring break trip. We can do what we want. 

We can still include friends.

No rule says, “No birthday party means no celebrating with friends.” So we combine them. Last year, my daughter had her first sleepover; it was within a few weeks of her birthday. Yes, her two close friends brought her a present, but that was the only thing that resembled a birthday. 

This past year, birthdays looked like this: My baby turned 1 four days before we moved across the country. We grilled with friends and had homemade cupcakes. My son turned 9 in a brand-new state before school started. We went out for dinner as a family. My daughter turned 8 in another new state with new friends and a new school. She chose to make her birthday dinner. 

You know what? They are all just fine with it. They love being the center of attention for that day. They love coming up with creative ideas to celebrate. And they know we love them every single day. 


Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 9, 2018, and was updated by senior editor Kristin Leong in May 2024 with a new subtitle, new photography and minor copy editing. 

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