From The Confessional: Birthdays Can Kind Of Suck

by Karen Johnson

My son turned eight a few weeks ago, and we did all we could to make it special (despite the pandemic still raging on). He’s in virtual school, so there were no “treats with his class” and obviously there was no big party at some indoor facility like a trampoline gym or Chuck E Cheese. But we got him some E-shop cash so he could buy a Fortnite skin, ordered his favorite dinner for takeout, sang “Happy Birthday” over cake, and met up with a couple friends for a little bit of socially-distanced, masked playtime at the park.

But the point is, he’s eight, and at that age, birthdays are everything. Parents have spent this past year racking their brains trying to come up with ways to make sure their kids feel loved and special, but stay safe, as we wait out this pandemic. Our family was no different.

When you’re 41, however, birthdays are … well, meh. Personally, I’m not super stressed about getting older, so my birthday isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just not something I give a ton of thought to in the way I think about my kids’ special days.

For a lot of people, however, birthdays do drudge up negative emotions, as they remind a person of old wounds. Or of a missed loved one. Or the fact that their in-laws will try to come around and celebrate, and ughhhhh… no.

And then, on top of birthdays already having a slew of negative emotions attached to them, this past year, everyone’s big day happened during COVID-19. So if literally the only thing you wanted was time to yourself, that may have been hard to come by if you were quarantined with your whole, loud, don’t-understand-what-personal-space-means family.


DD5 asked what I wanted for my birthday. I said, "For you to stop talking for just 15 minutes!" She said, okay! Then went to bed. Next morning, she bounds happily up to me and says "Mama, I went a whole 8 hours! Happy birthday!" What are you gonna do?

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For my birthday, I want to get a hotel room, just so I can sleep and not be bothered by anyone.

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I told DH all I wanted for my birthday was to have that one day free of any political garbage assaulting my ears and brain. He did pretty well...for 2 hours.

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For many moms, this is the only thing on our lists. Like the ONLY THING. We don’t want new shoes. Or jewelry. Or flowers. We want peace and quiet and to be alone for a hot minute.

Tonight pretty much sucked. 1. We found out the puppy who was supposed to arrive in 2 days is pushed out at least 3 weeks due to parvo virus in another puppy in the home. 2. MIL told H & kids she wants to visit in May for S's birthday. Oh hell no.

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SIL wanted to get together for a birthday party for our nephew. We lied & said we were busy. So sick of family obligations!

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My aunt never went to any of my birthdays or anything when I was growing up. Now she is in her 60s and needs help. Listen bitch, I'm pretty sick of family obligations over here and we have no relationship. Hire someone to help you.

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Many times birthdays (especially our kids’ or our spouse’s) cause us angst because they remind us how much our in-laws suck. Whether it’s because they’ll expect to get together, or they selfishly make drama and put the spotlight on them, they just get it wrong and it pisses us off.

My mother-in-law stopped giving my kids birthday & Xmas presents. She has money. My two are older, but they always wrote thank you notes and always gave big to her. What gives? Who stops giving to their own grandchildren?

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My in-laws will get my kids a birthday gift and them make them keep it at their house. Who does that to a kid? "Here's your gift but you can't keep it". If you want to keep a toy at your house then buy something else as a gift.

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From now on my niece and nephew are getting what my kids get for their birthdays - money stuffed in a card and handed to them a week later.

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Which is worse? When our in-laws insert themselves into our family birthday celebrations and cause issues? Or when they blow off the special day all together? Either way, they suck.

I buy all of my own Christmas and Birthday presents. With H's money. That way I get whatever I want. Used to be gracious with H, and "grateful". Not for the last few years, though. No patience for H's tasteless crap. I won't say this out loud, to H.

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DH forgot two of my last three birthdays. This year, I'm buying myself a clit-sucking vibrator for my birthday. On his credit card.

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A fucking decade+ together and my husband still can't figure out love languages. He's like a 5 year old buying me hot wheels for my birthday. You're supposed to get me what **I** want, idiot.

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This is the second year in a row that my husband ruined my birthday.

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This is one many women can relate to. Year after year, their husbands screw up this day. Like why? Why is this hard for you?

My DH gave me the shittiest birthday present ever. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you what it was it was so bad. I keep thinking he will make up for it...but every package that has arrived the past weeks since has been crap for himself.

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My birthday is this weekend. All I want is for my husband to plan something special for me. I mentioned some things I would like to do and he said “that sounds like a lot and you’re not good at doing a lot of things. Crying myself to sleep. Awesome.”

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Today was my birthday. My H bought a chocolate cake from a high end bakery. For his mother.

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We just want you to make this day special. Make us feel special. You can do better, we know it.

2nd covid birthday is coming up. I'm a lot more depressed than I thought I would be.

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So disappointed that I yet again have to plan my own birthday. I know I’m 35 years old and shouldn’t care, but I always try hard to make everyone feel loved. why can’t anybody celebrate me?

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What is the point of life? I always check on people - no one checks on me. I used to remember everyone’s birthday etc and never got reciprocated so I quit and now I feel so empty what’s the point

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The truth is, birthdays as kids are usually fun and full of noise and joy and presents. And then we grow into crotchety old adults and our birthdays can become depressing. We feel alone and unloved, and for many of us, our birthdays are a giant neon flashing sign that reminds us just how unappreciated we are.

Let this be a reminder to send love to the people in your life on their birthdays. They get one day that’s theirs, and they deserve to feel special and celebrated. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to say “Happy Birthday.” But you do have to say it and mean it—just as you hope they’ll do for you.