We pinned the tail on the donkey, tried to throw pennies into a jar, and played duck duck goose in the backyard. We ate home-made cupcakes and drank apple juice out of Dixie cups. We unwrapped Barbies, puzzles, and coloring books. It was simple. It was FUN.

Over time, the “norm” of a child’s birthday party has shifted. The simplicity of the birthday parties we attended as children is no longer “acceptable” or “good enough.” Parents are shelling out hundreds (and hundreds!) of dollars on birthday parties. Goodie bags are now sometimes more expensive or elaborate than the gifts some children bring. Moms are spending weeks researching thematic party games and watching craft tutorials as they attempt to create fancy tablescapes and hand-painted decorations. And heaven help you if you don’t have one of those banners made from scrapbooking paper triangles or if your guests aren’t drinking from mason jars with chevron straws. Oh, and you have to make a fancy cake…I’m pretty sure you have to sculpt your child in fondant – and of course you have to schedule those smash cake photos. Did I mention the entertainment? Heaven forbid if your guests are forced to play a simple game! No – you must put on a show! (You get where I’m going here?)

Non-“Pinteresty” moms feel the same kind of pressure. If you’re not laboring over chevron-topped mason jars, hand-stamped name-tags, and an elaborate and thematic dessert buffet, you’re likely feeling the pressure to rent out your community’s play center or activity park (spending tons of money in the process.)

But, who are these elaborate parties really for? Is our one year old actually aware of the hand-made party favors and shabby-chic decor you spent hours (and hours!) on? Does your three year old son care if all of the snacks you serve at his party are thematic? I think many of today’s mothers are feeling the pressure to create super-parties to keep up with “the Jones’s” so to speak. Many moms long to post the picture of the cake they labored over, so that we’ll be validated, or recognized as “supermom.” We want everyone to know we love our kids so much that we spent a lot of time and money giving them the perfect party.

Kids don’t need perfect. Kids don’t need elaborate. Kids don’t need fancy. Kids don’t need expensive. Neither do you. The size, expense, and creativity of the birthday party you throw your child does not determine your “goodness” as a mother. We all come to the table with different backgrounds, talents, needs, and interests. What works for one family does NOT have to work for you. Whether you have a simple backyard picnic or throw a Pinterest party, if you’re doing it for YOUR KID, that is all that matters.

I am giving you permission to have a SIMPLE birthday party for your child. There is nothing wrong with having a small party at your home. The mom police will not show up if you serve cupcakes you made from a cake mix. Your cake doesn’t need to look like it was decorated by Duff Goldman. Kids don’t need ginormous bags of swag for attending a birthday party. You don’t have to host the most magical afternoon or hire a troop of performers to entertain the four-year-olds.

If you genuinely love planning parties and spending a lot of time creating party favors and decorations – that’s awesome. If your family has the financial means to rent out a play-space, and it saves you from stress – do it! However, if you find yourself planning that “perfect” party just to impress the other moms or because you feel like you’re not “good enough” if you don’t….I am here to tell you that you are one heck of an amazing mom regardless of what kind of cake you serve or where you hold your party. All a child needs is love. If you get it together enough to have any kind of party – you’re incredible.

You have my permission to do what works for YOU and your family’s budget, needs, and time. Buy a cake. Make something fancy-pants. Host your party in your backyard. Rent out a gym. Do what works for you. But keep your child at the center of your plans. That party is not for the other parents. It’s not an opportunity to “prove” yourself. (You’ve already done that! You’re a mother!) Just remember that kids don’t need fancy to be happy. They just need you.

Until next time, remember that ANY type of birthday party you choose to throw your child is okay, and you have my permission.

Needing some extra validation this morning? Check out the full “I Give You Permission” series, where I give moms permission to feed, educate, and parent in the way that works for THEM. Always do what works for YOU, and you’ll be doing the best thing.