When you think of the last kid’s birthday party you went to, who do you give credit to for it being a well-put-together or not-so-well-put-together party? A dad, or a mom? Be honest. Unless we’re talking about a gay couple or a single dad, you’re probably thinking a mom was responsible for the adorable gift bags and the too-cute-by-half perfectly frosted cake, right? Not the dad, the mom.
In my household, The Hubs and I plan the parties together. But I’m the one who obsesses over details of things like how the cupcakes are arranged and what the decorations look like. Because I know I’ll be the one judged by them.
I don’t find my joy in stuff like that. When I was younger, I did. I liked entertaining and trying to make the perfect Martha Stewart turkey for Thanksgiving and whatever, but now I just find it tedious. I don’t enjoy trying to impress people people anymore. But I often feel the pressure to do it, and kid birthdays are when I usually succumb to that pressure. Last year, I didn’t, though. Cancer was a simple excuse to escape from the goodie bags filled with junk no one wants, and the carefully planned activities, but the truth is, I didn’t do it because I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I don’t say all this because I think it’s wrong to throw cool parties for your kids. Some women I know really enjoy that stuff, and I think that’s awesome. What’s not awesome, though, is the pressure to do it if it’s not where you find your joy. And the pressure to throw a Pinterest-worthy party when you don’t like that stuff is a peculiarly mom thing. Most dads don’t seem to have this problem, and I think it’s because party-throwing is still perceived as a mom task. Dads do home improvement projects; moms throw parties.
Here’s the thing: anytime there is a task like that–like installing a shelf or cupcake decorating–and you hate doing it but you feel like you have to because of your gender, that’s a problem. That’s a big red flag. And when stuff like this comes up, you should ask yourself some questions. Like, am I doing this because it’s actually necessary or it’s important to me, or am I doing it because I worry other people will judge me? And, is this something that a parent of another gender would feel judged for? If not, then why am I doing it?
There is enough stress in parenthood without feeling trapped into doing stuff simply because it’s expected of your gender. If you love it, do it. If you don’t, and it’s not really necessary, then fuck it. And if anyone actually does judge you for it, fuck them. As The a Girl likes to say when someone upsets her, “You’re not invited to my birthday party!”