First birthday party etiquette
February 10, 2014 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I live in a big city and am a part of a group of 10 or so women whose babies are all turning 1 in and around the same month. At best, I would say the majority of these women are acquaintances, people who it's been nice to spend time with on weekdays while on maternity leave, but who I may not see after that. The birthday party invites are starting to come out and we are being invited to many of the family parties. Problem is, for my babies birthday we intend to have a small gathering of family and a handful of very close friends and maybe a couple of the women from the group who I've become close with. Would it be appropriate to write the group and indicate that we are having a small party for family only and tell the two women I'm inviting not to mention their invites? Should I suggest to the group that we do the birthday equivalent of a Secret Santa to save us from buying 9 presents for the other babies? I should add that I am currently unemployed and a bit concerned about the expense of gifts for all of the babies. Thoughts and any suggestions to navigate this?
posted by laroodles to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Should I suggest to the group that we do the birthday equivalent of a Secret Santa to save us from buying 9 presents for the other babies?

Babies are expensive, so I think you might get a lot of support for this idea. I'm sure you're not the only parent who wants to mark these birthdays without spending a fortune. I like this idea a lot!

But, I just noticed that you say that invites are already starting to arrive. I think suggesting the Secret Santa style exchange post-invites might seem odd to some of the parents involved. I would start preparing to buy token (think $5-$10) gifts for these babies just in case that does happen.

Would it be appropriate to write the group and indicate that we are having a small party for family only and tell the two women I'm inviting not to mention their invites?

I would personally feel uncomfortable at this request. I don't like keeping secrets like this from other people. But maybe that's just me.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:15 AM on February 10, 2014

I think you should decline the invitations to the parties for the babies whose moms you're not close to (and don't send a gift) and invite the moms you are close to to your baby's party. No need to explain. If you're going to drift apart from these people, just start now!
posted by mskyle at 6:16 AM on February 10, 2014 [27 favorites]

Decline the invitations of those folks that you do not expect to invite to your little-one's party. Don't send out a blanket notice, just send your regrets as each invitation comes in.

Don't necessarily ask the people you're inviting to your baby's party to keep mum about it, but tell them conversationally, "we're keeping it small." They'll pick up what you're putting down.

You don't need to weigh in with a baby gift if you don't want to, especially if you're not attending the party. It's not like any of these babies needs a cute outfit or another toy.

You can still be friendly with these folks, as you will run into them at day-care, Gymboree and other little places, you don't have to be in each other's hip pockets.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on February 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think you should decline the invitations to the parties for the babies whose moms you're not close to (and don't send a gift) and invite the moms you are close to to your baby's party. No need to explain.

Agreed. This is how it went down in my social circle and everyone seemed to survive it well. I also think that you can feel free to attend a baby's birthday party without bringing a gift. It's not like the 1-year old will even notice. And I don't know any parent of a kid that age who thinks, boy, wish I had more toys cluttering up my house!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:37 AM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I was gonna say what ThePinkSuperhero said -- are you sure they're expecting presents? I don't think anybody brought a present to either of my kids first birthday parties, and it wouldn't occur to me to bring something to one unless the baby was a relative of mine. (I am in the US, not sure where you are.)
posted by escabeche at 6:54 AM on February 10, 2014

If you invite some but not all of your baby group to a party, please make sure to exclude them from seeing photos if they are your fb friends. I was in a baby group of the same size when my kid was little, and when one of the mothers invited only some of the group (but we all saw the photos) to her kid's party it caused a lot of hurt feelings. To you this might just be a nice group of acquaintances, but some of the other moms might see it as more of a lifeline.
posted by 41swans at 7:30 AM on February 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't know, this would rub me the wrong way. You've benefitted from the company of these women at a time when most new moms need support. Did they offer that? Did they give you a place to go so you could leave the house and talk to grown-ups? Did they help you feel less isolated, or did you get any comfort from hearing about their experiences with their newborns? If so, it seems kind of, well, unkind to not acknowledge that by not attending these birthdays or failing to invite them to yours. You could for example go to these parties, and then move on.

(They know you're unemployed, correct? I doubt they'll be expecting massively expensive gifts. You could get by with little things - a book, a small toy. And your party wouldn't have to be long or posh either.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:24 AM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Personally, I'd be thrilled to not be asked to endure another disgusting cake smash. I didn't even have a first birthday for my own child though there was some scheduling conflicts that made for a handy excuse.

It's appropriate to send invites to people who are invited. I wouldn't mention it at all to the people who aren't invited. We adhere pretty closely to the general rule that the number of friends invited are the childs' age plus one, so inviting two one-year-olds sounds right. If your child has a particular friend, I'd invite them regardless of your opinion of the parents.

In our circle, the friends' parties that haven't specified "no presents" have involved gifts have been very much in the token range, opened after the party. A small board book or an offer to be the designated photographer for the parties you want to attend is fine, and you don't need to attend them all.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:58 AM on February 10, 2014

You do not have to bring expensive gifts to a one-year-old's birthday party. If you want to go to one of these parties, bring a board book (you might call ahead and ask the parent whether the child already has the book first before purchasing one, of course). You can get a decent baby board book for around $7. When my kid was that age, I was THRILLED whenever someone gave a book to my child instead of more flashy plastic crap that beeped at me.

A one-year-old does not even know what a birthday party is for and would undoubtedly be just as thrilled with a piece of dryer lint as a $100 "baby brain gym" or something. But a book is something parents and baby will both appreciate.

When it comes to your own child's party, you might just make the excuse that your baby does not do well with big crowds and loud noises (lots of babies don't), so you thought it would be more fun for your kid to have a small celebration. You might even use this same excuse to skip a couple of their parties, if you are overwhelmed by the number you have been invited to.
posted by BlueJae at 10:00 AM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

41swans one of the moms has a baby a bit older than the rest and did that - posted photos on Facebook of the party with a woman from our group in attendance. I was not invited to that party, and was not bothered but my close mom friend in the group was really hurt. I hear what the majority of people answering and liking posts are saying but something about what tchemgrrl is saying is striking a chord with me. With this added piece of info, say I invite all the moms and their babies, do I invite the mom who didn't invite me if I invite all the rest? I'm guessing the answer is yes.
posted by laroodles at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2014

I think you should propose that, in leiu of a big round of social obligations, that your group have a big-group "We've survived one year" celebration, at which the MOMS each bring one gift and swap them around, yankee swap style. One gift per person, and gifts do need to be for the moms' not the babies.

Because the invites have already started, I don't think you can change to the secret santa thing at this point; decline the invites you want to decline, accept the ones you want to accept, invite who you want to your own home, and don't make excuses for any of this. If you're worried about the price of the gift, I highly recommend getting multiple copies of this book ($3.94 on Amazon) with a nice inscription written from your baby to their baby (and maybe a fingerprint or handprint). It's cheap, and they'll love it.
posted by anastasiav at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also: if you choose not to invite everyone to your party, don't post photos on Facebook. That's where the drama lies.

You should never go empty handed to a party but babies don't need presents. You can split a batch of cookies, wrap them decoratively, and provide to hostess if you are concerned about costs and do not want to decline invitations. As a parent, I was fine whenever someone chose not to contribute to the uncontrollable mountain of baby crap in my house.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:18 AM on February 10, 2014

The group of moms I hang out with throws a "birthday play date" that isn't really a proper birthday party but a group celebration. Everybody gets a cupcake; no gifts are exchanged. The kids are lined up in a row for photos. Rinse and repeat the following year if you like. Then it's understood that people will celebrate their individual child's birthday in their own way.
posted by ambrosia at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would lean towards inviting them all, including the mom who didn't invite you.

It's good to have these kinds of contacts, especially as people transition back to work. Who knows, an acquaintance could be a job lead or a backup babysitter or transition into your daytime chatting pal.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

No. Do not invite people and ask them to keep it a secret. That's inappropriate, unfair, and not okay.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:48 AM on February 11, 2014

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