How not to be a victim of the 'birthday burnout'

The very real threat of the birthday burnout.
The very real threat of the birthday burnout. Photo: Getty

I was that mum, the one who poured over every meticulous detail of the birthday party extravagances I once hosted for my children. But not anymore. When I was in Sydney earlier this year, helping with the preparations for my godson's christening and then eight weeks later the preparations for his first birthday. Cutting out and sticking together bunting till all hours of the night, drowning in a sea of baby's breath trying to make sure each detail was perfect, not to mention all the other things. It was border line crazy and so were my thoughts: I just can't do this anymore. I was burnt out.

It is old news that children's birthday parties and celebrations have significantly changed from the days of yesteryear. But at what cost? Is birthday burnout real and how many mums are suffering?

Mum Lisa was burnt out before her son even had his first birthday. "Between my husband and I our immediate family alone is twenty-one people! Then when I include a few close cousins, uncles and aunts, plus closest friends a small intimate first birthday party was going to turn into a full blown event that was going to require catering. His birthday came two months after his christening. I couldn't deal with more planning. I just had the grandparents over for cake the night of his birthday."

"I don't like organising parties," says Lisa. "The christening was supposed to be an intimate affair but it just escalated. We ended up having around sixty-five people for the 'intimate' christening. Even thinking about his first birthday was too much after that."

Anita loves planning parties, but the burnout from throwing celebrations for her three children has become too much. "For me it is more the pressure, really the pressure I put on myself. I enjoy putting parties together, I love all the little details and the big details. I could spend hours on Instagram swooning over parties and that won't stop anytime soon. Part of my problem is that I like doing a lot of it: the planning, the baking, the making, the decorating and crafts. I have put the pressure on myself to do it all and that alone is exhausting."

Anita's son had his birthday over the weekend and this time it was a far simpler affair. "He picked the trampoline party and I picked not to make the cake, not because I couldn't but more I didn't want anything big to worry about. I still did a few little extra things: my own theme, decorations and party favours. But I did not do anything that will cause me stress."

Stress is the number one thing clients of event stylist Naomi Estephan from Created by Naomi do not want. "I experience the burnout and the stress, not my clients." Naomi's clients are the social media mums who are looking for the extravagant unique event that no-one has ever had. And when the budget allows, the events are truly lavish.

One such event saw a one-year-old celebrate his birthday with a custom built woodland theme, complete with babbling stream, footbridge, custom apple centre pieces and even little bunny rabbits to match. "It was four or five months of planning and work. I organised everything and I was the one who had the sleepless nights over the event, not my client."

But for Naomi it is work she loves. "It's a passion for me, I don't consider it a burnout, but if I didn't love what I do it would be exhausting, so exhausting. Seeing my clients walk in to their event and their reaction makes it all worth it for me."

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"It is all about keeping things in perspective when it comes to celebrations," says professional cake baker Belinda Rizzo from Baked by Belinda. "I have clients sometimes justifying to me why they are spending less on a cake this year from last. I usually get oh it's just not within the budget, or baby number two or three has come along and everyone is tired. I always tell my clients it doesn't always need to be a spectacular; it just needs to be celebrated. Candles need to be blown, wishes made, fun had and photos taken. It doesn't always need to have face painting, jumping castles and matching tableware. Kids just want to feel special and that happens by the people around them."

Belinda has three boys of her own and throwing a birthday party for her middle son, only weeks after her third son was born was just too much. "The burnout was real I was so tired with my newborn; I couldn't even fashion an invitation. I felt so incredibly guilty but the best I could do was make a cake and we went to the park. If you ask my son, he thinks it was as awesome as the party I spent months organising the year later."

Belinda's rule: "It should be fun and you should be looking forward to it. If not have a rest from it. The kids will rather remember you happy on their birthday than stressing. But always remember the cake! It can be from somewhere fancy or a few donuts stacked up high with candles. There just always needs to be cake to make a wish on and people around you to love."

I'm taking on Belinda's advice next year and ditching the burnout for a simple celebration for my boys and their birthdays. Cake and people who love them, maybe some bowling or dinner at the pub – either way I'm sure they will love it and I will too.

Have you experienced birthday party burnout? Can mum's keep up this level of birthday planning and enthusiasm forever?

 Josefa Pete is a writer and mother to two boys. You can follow her on Facebook or read her blog.

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