We just hosted our third baby’s first birthday party. It was everything a birthday party should be, with doting grandparents, enthusiastic cousins, and plenty of sugar. There was a theme, corresponding decor, food, and crafts.
We were privileged to be able to plan such a celebration for this adorable, healthy toddler.
I’ll never get back the scrambled hours of planning and unnecessary mental strife it took to host this little shindig.
There are those who thrive on this party planning and to them it comes naturally and effortlessly. Or at least the effort expended is enjoyed on some level. But as we launch the holiday season and its many occasions for family and friend gatherings, I have to face a hard reality: I am a reluctant host.
Don’t get me wrong. The actual party with all of our dear ones packed into our cozy living quarters is unforgettable and so fun. I thoroughly enjoy playdates and impromptu get-togethers. But when there’s a special event requiring advanced planning and larger crowds, my anxiety levels needlessly elevate.
Party Planning Stress
Anxiety over a kid’s birthday party? It’s real. It’s asinine and it’s wasted energy, but it’s real nonetheless. I’ll tell you why.
There will be no fewer than five grocery store runs required, no matter how many lists are made. Five trips in two days with three kids and mounting costs. Even the math of it is maddening.
The children will unintentionally but thoroughly obstruct all efforts to remove clutter, unearth long-buried surfaces, and eliminate crumbs. They will suddenly lose interest in screen time so they can better sabotage any progress.
The toilets will not clean themselves. I have three children in various stages of potty training and aim management, but the job must be done. I don’t care what Mary Poppins says, there is no element of fun here.
The unexpected will hit, just about the time I’m feeling good about things. The Strep diagnosis will come early enough so the party need not be canceled, but late enough to require multiple doctor and pharmacy visits in a tightly planned schedule. Also, the fruit flies are coming.
Lastly, and here’s the crux of it all: The success of the party might send a message about how successful a parent I am. The wrong food, the extra dust, a bored child…All proof that I have failed in this experiment of parenthood.
Heavy. And ridiculous.
It is complete and utter nonsense that a child’s first birthday party (or any family gathering) should inspire these levels of angst and self-doubt. It’s embarrassing. But knowing this only compounds the frustration that I experience these feelings.
Such is motherhood: an emotional jungle gym even when times are good. Even when times are perfect.
Thankfully, my anxiety tends to recede as soon as the guests arrive. The obvious flaws of our home and hearth fade away and I’m able to refocus on what matters: our beautiful baby boy and his fan club.
Not to mention the lopsided, over-sprinkled cupcakes.