Twenty-four. I stopped and did the math and the number of birthday parties I have hosted is TWENTY. FOUR.
My daughter recently had her fourth birthday. She was so excited. She wanted a Shopkins party. And then she wanted a Trolls party. And then Care Bears. And then Frozen. All I wanted was to stay home and enjoy Saturday with nothing on the calendar.
Lauren is our third and last child. She is our baby. The girl born after two boys, she is truly our princess. For her first birthday I went all out with the décor and the theme, complete with matching dress. It was planned down to the color of the straws. For her second birthday, we turned our home into a Frozen wonderland. I learned to make glass candy JUST so I could put an edible frozen castle on top of her cake.
It was the same for my boys. I learned how to make fondant cakes years ago, just so they could have whatever monster truck or Star Wars cake their little hearts desired.
This year, as Lauren’s birthday approached, as usual, she became very excited. I really wanted to be enthusiastic about her birthday party. I really did. But I just wasn’t. I started thinking about why, and I came to the conclusion that I am just partied out!! My oldest is eleven and my second child is nine. Between the three, I have thrown 24 birthday parties at this point.
NO WONDER I’m over it!!! We’ve seen Mickey Mouse, Spongebob, Monster Jam, Star Wars, Mario, and every single Disney Princess pass through this house on a party plate. We’ve partied at trampoline parks, water parks, pizza restaurants, indoor inflatable playgrounds, bowling alleys, laser tag arenas and 15 other places I can barely remember. We’ve rented bouncy castles and water slides at home and gone to my mom’s for the pool. We’ve had sleepovers and campfires and obstacle courses and every backyard sport you can imagine.
I don’t regret any of that. I tend to regret missed opportunities and things I didn’t do far more. I am glad my kids will have a collection of wonderful birthday memories. But as I reach this point of birthday-party burnout, I wonder … have I overdone it?
I think for all of this time I believed I was not overdoing it. Compared to their peers (yes, I know comparison is evil. But still…) I didn’t feel like the parties were extravagant. We tried to keep the guest list light, mostly cousins and a few close friends. I tended to prepare food myself rather than buy it. I kept the party activities light and laid back (no crafts or structured activities) so everyone could just chat and enjoy each other’s company.
But still, here I am. Over it. Does everyone get to this point by the last child? If I’m honest, it’s not just parties. It’s really all of the routines and mandatory activities of parenthood. When I really stop and think about it, that’s actually the real issue.
School supply shopping? Over it.
Homework? Over it.
Strictly enforced bedtimes? Over it.
I’m basically feeling like all parents in the last week of May. Only I’m feeling like that year round.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love being a mom. I honestly enjoy each of my children, and I don’t look forward to them leaving home at all. I enjoy their company and spending time with them. But does there come a point where it’s okay for a mom to say that she’s kind of looking forward to the day when she can just enjoy them and not have to worry about all the things we supposedly HAVE to do?
I don’t know. But I still have a long way to go. I’m only halfway through this process. The oldest is about to be 12, so I’m 12 years in. But the youngest is only four, so I still have about 14 years to go. We still have high school and proms, dating and college testing. We still have to navigate alcohol use and sex, first jobs and last days of school.
It’s wayyyy too soon for me to start coasting. So I’ve come to the following realization: I have to remember that this thing is a marathon. And you can’t win a marathon if you sprint the whole time. I may have started out with a sprint, but I can’t maintain this kind of stride. Not if I’m going to go another 14 years. I have to pace myself.
Maybe every birthday doesn’t have to be a fantastical celebration. Maybe every occasion doesn’t need a new and perfectly coordinated outfit. Maybe it’s okay that we didn’t get professional pictures done EVERY year because at least we did it most years.
Maybe I’m not a Pinterest mom after all. But I am a solid mom. A consistent mom. A mom who values balance over fairy-tale. A mom who realizes that you may not be able to do as much for each of three children as you were able to do when it was just one. A mom who recognizes that she grows tired and weak, but who will strive to always make sure her children’s NEEDS are met.
So, to the teacher who only gets one decent gift card for teacher appreciation instead of five days of themed gifts: I’m not a lazy mom; I’m pacing myself.
To the guests at our future birthday parties who come expecting a meal but find only cake and ice cream: I’m sorry to disappoint; I’m just pacing myself.
To the visitor who drops by my house and finds dog hair on the floor: I’m not giving up; I’m just pacing myself.
But most importantly to my children: Although your mom gets tired, I’m in this for the long haul. While I might not be able to make every single moment of your childhoods magical, I can promise you I will see you through to the end. And when it seems like I’m over it, please know that I will never be over YOU. It’s just that mom-ing is a big job. And I’m pacing myself.