Here’s the thing: I never had a fancy birthday party when I was a kid. It was always at home. There were no special activities beyond pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and opening presents. We are talking a totally old-school birthday here: There were a few balloons and streamers. There were certainly no bouncy houses, Disney characters, or rentals (beyond a Blockbuster movie). And yet — all of my memories of my 80s and 90s birthdays are super happy and great. No notes.
This is the same conclusion that fellow mom Amber Cimiottibiz came to when she recently downgraded her 3 year old’s birthday party to “cake, pizza, family, and close friends.” Why all the extra money and stress for no big bump in satisfaction for the kid?
She explained her thought process in a TikTok that poses, to be honest, a very strong argument.
“So for my son’s third birthday, we did the cake, pizza, family and close friends model,” she began. “I didn’t rent anything, I didn’t rent a bounce house, performers, face paint, I didn’t have a big balloon wall, I did all of my own decorations. I ordered one balloon bouquet from Party City. Moral of the story is that I kept it simple, for a couple reasons.”
Why did she land there? She had a couple of big reasons.
“One, my husband and I we both grew up where our parents didn’t have a lot of money, but we always had great birthdays,” she continued. “We had fond memories of our birthdays. And they didn’t have all of this extra fluff, they just had family and running around with your friends, and presents and cake and the traditional stuff.”
Her next reason? The big bashes take a lot out of her, and for not a ton of payoff.
“I’ve done a lot of stuff for my kids in the past for the birthday, and the birthdays have always been so exhausting to me and a little bit stressful, if I’m going to be honest,” she admitted. “I just wanted to bring the birthdays down to earth a little bit. I’m not saying for bigger birthdays in the future, like my daughter’s 16th birthday, that it’s always going to be like that. I just feel like sometimes it’s nice.”
Finally, she’s realized that it’s the little things that matter most to her kids.
“For us, it’s just been little surprises,” she concluded. “We blew up a bunch of balloon for him to wake up to this morning. We surprised him with decorating the house while he was sleeping. We got super-fun donuts. Things that don’t cost a lot of money but make him so happy. And I have felt like five percent of the stress that I’ve felt on previous birthdays and my kid is just as happy.”
Down in the comments, so many parents were into the “cake and pizza” birthday party model.
“Grocery store party platter, homemade cake, balloons,” one person commented plainly. “Friends and family.”
“This!! We now have 2 February babies and this year we were like nope we don’t need to put a ton into the themed food, the matching decorations, paying to rent a space,” another agreed.
One event planner even brought the real talk.
“I’m an event planner — my kids birthdays were over the top, live monkeys in one party — 12k on another,” one woman wrote. “They remember none of it — now I tell moms don’t do it just do simple 💕 and plan trips instead.”
Some people, though, explained why they like to live it up for their kids’ birthdays.
“I grew up kind of poor, with not enough money to do anything on birthdays,” one person explained. “I do it up BIG, every year for my kids’ bday. Heals my inner child!”
“I wish my kids could have simple birthdays, but all their cousins get extravagant parties so I feel like they’d feel left out,” another said.
To each their own, for sure. But let’s make one thing clear: there’s no shame in the cake and pizza birthday model. All that matters is that your kid feels celebrated and you don’t feel like you ran yourself half to death.