Menu Features
How Did We Get Here?

Me on my first birthday in 1983 B.P. (Before Pinterest)

As a kid, I remember loving my birthday parties. My mom baked a cake, often of the Duncan Hines variety, and my cousins came over bearing gifts. That’s it. Things were simple. There were no custom-made labels identifying anything served at the kitchen table. No goodie bags sent home with those who came. And the guest list? Family only, maybe a few friends once I reached grade school.

Growing up, this is what I knew a celebration to be. It’s why I now cringe when I see what the “modern” birthday party has become. Find them on Pinterest or find them on blogs, but suddenly we’re seeing birthday parties with an amount of excess that makes me think, “My God, not even my wedding was this elaborate.” It’s all a bit ridiculous isn’t it? So what I want to know is, how did we get here? How did we get to a point where “Pinterest stress” is seriously a THING?

Dean is only six months and already I feel some of this pressure. Pressure to throw a perfect birthday party for this precious little boy who won’t know or care if there’s a theme or a tablescape or a cake with fondant icing I paid a baker an exorbitant fee to create.

If and when I start to think this overabundance is necessary, I must remember to consciously check myself. Because I want to be a mother who takes a stand against the insanity that has encroached on our collective ability to entertain simply. Simply without guilt, I must add. (Let’s face it, dads aren’t behind this phenomenon are they? I’m confident men could care less if mason jars with expensive straws were waiting to be oohed and awed over by party guests.)

If you are someone whose idea of fun is staying up until 1 am affixing labels to guests’ water bottles, by all means continue being a slave to your glue gun. I have met a few of you over the years and I understand this is your creative outlet the same way photographing clients or writing a blog entry is mine.

It’s just I don’t have this “party maven” gene. (I don’t even OWN a glue gun, let alone any amount of colorful card stock that would necessitate its use.) And I’m pretty sure a lot of you lack this gene as well. But the Internet is fooling us into believing if our parties aren’t “Pinterest-worthy,” well, maybe we’re doing it wrong.

As a professional photographer, I feel an added responsibility to be real about this. Because I have a big, expensive camera and I know how to use it makes it that much easier for me to stress over putting together some lavish spread just so I can photograph it and submit it to one of the myriad party blogs fueling this trend.

Except, I have no plans of doing that. Not now. Not ever. Each year when October rolls around and we’re celebrating Dean’s birthday, it will be in the most low-key way possible. I’m talking paper plates (and yes, someday these might have Buzz Lightyear or dinosaurs on them), a cake I’ve made (likely from a box) and a small handful of people who mean the most to my son.

Who knows … maybe the money I save from years’ worth of birthdays celebrated sans favors and and all the other trappings can go toward a party when we we splurge on, say, a bouncy castle for Dean and his friends.

I hear that’s all the kids at the party are going to remember anyway.