I am always careful about my sons’ birthday invitations — Facebook or otherwise — making sure to write NO PRESENTS, PLEASE. Sometimes I do the cutesy “Your presence, not your presents, is requested.” But regardless, every party is a present-less party.
There are several reasons for this. First, my kids have too much stuff. More presents means more stuff for me to clean. Second, a lot of my mom friends don’t have a bunch of spare cash lying around. Many of them live on one income. Or they live on one income and a scrambled side-job. Hell, we live on one income and a scrambled side job and, honestly, I don’t want to have to reciprocate. My middle son had ten kids at his last party. That’s ten freaking presents. Multiply by twenty bucks or so, and that’s $200. Um, no thanks.
So I had all the sympathy when I saw a tweet from @MamaGhoulette lamenting the costs of attending birthday parties:
The kids were invited to a birthday party this weekend and I absolutely hate that I have to get further into debt to buy this kid's present.
— mama. (@MamaGhoulette) July 26, 2017
She goes on to say that she will buy the present, because she’s been the kid who’s shown up with a cheap present, and it was totally embarrassing. It’s even worse when the birthday kid is richy-rich, his parents are richy-rich, and their parents are richy-rich. MamaGhoulette, on the other hand, is a university worker and grad student — a population you can peg as basically the exact opposite of richy-rich. I know. Been there, noshed the ramen.
Eventually she and the kidlets went to the party, and managed to get a present. The birthday boy had the exact same one in his room. And she basically watched her hard-earned money swirl down the drain.
As she says,
Fuck capitalism, basically.
— mama. (@MamaGhoulette) July 26, 2017
The stories quickly began pouring in.
We live in a wealthy school district, on the outskirts. We are not wealthy. My daughter went to a bday party and we got a craft kit. It was what we could afford. They re-gifted it to another kid at the very next party. Using the same gift bag. My girl was crushed.— saoirse scout (@scoutcastoe) January 6, 2018
Moms posted their strategies for affording birthday presents. Many, many, many resorted to regifting promo gift cards, toys their kids didn’t want, things they’d bought on clearance that their kids wouldn’t use. Baby presents were all handmade or coupons for a free meal, for babysitting. MamaGhoulette asked parents to consider who they’re invited to the party.
And folks responded.
Birthday gifts for classmate tradition is really such a waste. The giver forced to spend money, and the receiver get things they don't need. Just because social pressure.— .au (@r_auss1810) January 7, 2018
It's extremely inefficient. Christmas and birthdays both. I wish foregoing presents wasn't such a cultural taboo.— Alex Thayer (@p2008t) February 3, 2018
And it’s not just the money spent on the gift; first you have to find the time to get it, hope you get something the parent approves of, get a card, wrap it, and drop&pick up the kids... the stress does me in... I’ve bought more toys for other peoples kids than my own.— Laurie Freeman (@lauriefreeman72) January 7, 2018
So painful + frustrating. 90% of the kids aren’t “friends” even really - just stupid obligation saying we need to bring a present. 🙃🖕🏼— Marissa Smith (@marissagsmith) January 7, 2018
It’s no wonder that parents are beginning to reevaluate birthday parties. The new trend out there isn’t even to have presentless birthday parties, but to swing the other way and donate your birthday. One kid I know had people bring supplies for a local animal shelter; another asked for book for local homeless children. This doesn’t solve the monetary problem for parents, and makes you look like even more of an asshole if your kid brings a cheap gift, but at least it’s hitting capitalism where it counts, right?
Like this little girl, who GoFundMe highlighted on their twitter account:
A selfless 7-year-old is donating her birthday to charity & helping Australians in need. https://t.co/EcP5qCBtTX— GoFundMe (@gofundme) January 24, 2018
Regardless of whether your kid decides to be a philanthropist, the time has come to ditch birthday presents for all but the nearest and dearest (for reference: we gift to nieces and nephews, godsons and surrogate goddaughters, plus two sets of very close, very loved friends. Still a lot of kids!). Or restrict presents to a dollar amount everyone can afford — say, five or ten bucks. Or ditch the dollar amount all together and stick with the handmade. You can now Pinterest some pretty great stuff, people, so it’s not like you’d end up with armful of lopsided clay sculptures (which you would honestly probably love, because Billy made them).
And there’s always another option, the nuclear option MamaGhoulette contemplates but doesn’t pull the trigger on. When faced with a birthday party where you’ll be expected to produce an expensive present you can hardly afford, which the birthday kid may just callously regift anyway, who isn’t a near-one-and-a-dear-one, ditch the party completely. Take your kids to the park instead. Roll in the grass. Climb on the monkey bars. Invite some friends. That stuff, at least, is always free.
Or you could always be like this parent whose theoretical (yarn!) balls and knitting skills we applaud:
me if i ever have children: *hand-knits a sweater that says CAPITALISM IS A SCAM AND YOUR PARENTS ARE IN ON IT for the birthday of every classmate that’s never visited my house*— Daddy’s Milk (@andrewdavidalex) January 7, 2018