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I Refuse to Be Mom-Guilted Into a Big First Birthday Party

Photograph by Twenty20

After a long struggle to prove otherwise, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I'm simply not a Pinterest mom. I’m not nearly organized enough, and we’re not part of the bougie baby crowd that keeps up with the latest and greatest. We’re just doing our best. But it turns out doing your best doesn’t look cute on a birthday invitation and that’s where my mediocre pats-on-the-back have come to a screeching halt.

In a recent conversation with a particularly on trend friend, she bought me a one-way ticket on a fabulously all-inclusive guilt trip:

“What do you mean you aren’t planning her first birthday yet? You haven’t booked a photo shoot? What about the cake? It’s a summer birthday so you have to send invites out early enough so everyone isn’t on vacation! What kind of food will you have? It can’t be burgers and hot dogs, that’s so played out. You don’t need to be cheap for this, Lauren. It’s her first birthday! What boutique will her outfit come from?”

Well, shit.

I’d given her first birthday itself enough thought, mind you. I know that’s when her risk of certain illnesses and ailments falls, we can begin the process of de-boobing her and she’ll officially be considered a toddler. But why did no one tell me how massively guilty I’d feel for already failing her on this grand occasion? I chalked it up to the same as the first Christmas situation: We’d take some cute pictures, do a few little silly things, and mostly just spend that time together and not make a big fuss out of it.

What I forgot, though, was other people’s expectations for how I should be raising my kid. Apparently, the little moments I wanted to create for my girl are meant to be replaced with pomp and circumstance. With everything else I have to think about on a daily basis to keep her happy and healthy, I casually forgot about this being one of those big banner moments, too.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew we’d throw a party. I figured I’d make a Facebook invite and have some cake when the time came, but I’m kind of riddled with guilt that I didn’t think to make this a bigger deal. It is a huge deal, after all, according to friends, strangers and the people of the internet.

I knew how lucky we are to have our rainbow baby with us and a first birthday is a big milestone. I always complained about my lack of birthday parties as a kid and swore I’d do it differently when I had my own kids. So, why wasn't I?

No shade meant, but I had enough to worry about without the added stress of putting “party-planner” on my mama résumé.

After that guilt-inducing conversation, another one was had with my husband as I hurriedly texted him a recap and a plea to help me find a low-budget, high-quality llama rental service or something similar. We need pizazz, baby daddy!

“It’s her first birthday. What happened to going low-key this year when she can’t remember anything?” he texted.

He clearly wasn't joining me on that guilt-getaway. “Yes, I remember,” I texted hastily, “but I’ve changed my mind. Fetch me some gold doubloons to make this party as memorable as possible.”

His next question floored me: “For who? She likes tissue paper and sweet potatoes. We don’t need anything fancy.”

Momentarily appalled that he didn’t have the sense of urgency my friend so casually dropped on me, I pouted. We might as well get her nothing but beige clothes from here on out and let her play with a passing-by tumbleweed—her existence henceforth to be as plain Jane as they’ll come.

“My parents didn’t think I deserved a proper first birthday!” she’d exclaim to her therapist. Her best-selling memoir would have chapters dedicated to the very moment she looked back in her baby books to find—gasp!—a homemade birthday cake and a smattering of family watching her claw into it.

I realized he was right, though. The “friend” I mentioned who hyped up my anxiety deserves those quotation marks. No shade meant, but I had enough to worry about without the added stress of putting “party-planner” on my mama résumé. We’d move forward with the original plan of a day in the early summer, with just a few of us, celebrating this incredible little person’s first year on Earth.

Call me crazy, but it sounds spectacular.

We always want better for our kids than we had, which is how the wheel of progress keeps rolling on, but we’re constantly setting the bar so high that my poor grandchildren will be booking out arenas for their kid’s birthday parties. I love being festive and I love celebrating the little life we’ve created for this girl so far, but I’ve decided we can show our love to her in a meaningful way that doesn’t include breaking the bank.

And it certainly doesn’t include inviting people who think we aren’t doing a damn good job by our girl so far.

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