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Confession: I love birthdays, but could do without the parties

My son’s second birthday is only a couple months away and his dad is already talking about fun things we could do instead of a party. Why is he so anti-birthday party? Because our baby’s first birthday really stressed me out. I felt a lot of pressure to have a perfect party. So when we ran out of pizza and my cake literally fell flat, I got pretty down on myself.


It seemed like I was the only mom in the world who couldn’t pull off a Pinterest-worthy party. But a new survey conducted by Netflix proves I’m far from alone: Three out of four parents feel pressured to throw the perfect birthday bash. And 71 percent wished there was an easier way to make birthdays feel special.

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Why is it that birthday parties are so stressful for mom and dad?

Forty-three percent of parents surveyed said time was a stressor in planning birthday parties—with the average investing 10 hours in planning. For my son’s party, I put a bunch of effort into planning, only to run out of time at the last minute. (Hence the cake disaster.)

Sixty percent of parents also cite money as a concern, as the average kid’s party costs parents about $200. I thought I was keeping my costs low by throwing a small bash for friends and family and drawing a “happy birthday” mural on our chalkboard instead of buying decorations. Then I ended up stressing out over the lack of pizza and spending money on additional pies no one ate. On top of that, my husband had to run out and buy a new cake. (Did I mention how much of a disaster that was?)

Basically, my cake was disgusting, the chalkboard mural was poorly drawn and I left my “don’t ring the bell, baby’s napping” sign up, so a pizza guy was left standing at my door for who knows how long until my brother happened to arrived for the party and let him in.

The worst part was that in all the chaos of unwrapping presents, FaceTiming far-flung grandparents and eating replacement cake, I didn’t get a picture of my adorable little birthday boy.

My eyes are tearing up as I write this, because it’s hard to admit. I wanted that perfect little picture so badly for two reasons: Obviously to have for my son to look back on, but also because every other parent in the world seemed to be posting art-directed cake smashing photo shoots online.

It’s silly, but I felt like a good mom would have made sure a DSLR captured her child covered in cake in front of a twee blackboard mural. And I didn’t.

The survey says plenty of other parents are feeling the pressure I felt. Forty-nine percent said social media stressed them out, and 62 percent cite competition as a reason to despise planning kids’ birthdays.

This year, I’m planning to keep it simple. We’re thinking we’ll take him to an indoor playground and out to dinner (mostly so someone else can make his dessert).

I’m sure it will get harder when he grows up and starts asking for parties, as most kids do. Research has shown little kids seem to think the birthday party itself is what propels them into the next year of life. I don’t want my little guy to think I’m holding him back, so we’ll probably go back to parties when he turns three. For that, I’m thinking renting a room at the community center and getting some take-out might be more my style (and less stressful) than hosting at home.

For parents of older kids planning simple parties at home, Netflix has a new Birthdays On-Demand feature that allows you to customize a message for your child using her favorite characters. (Just search Birthdays On-Demand on Netflix.)

Throw in a store bought cake and you’ve got a great kids party. Just remember to take a picture, even if you were the one who did the cake smashing. ?

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