Birthday Party Guilt

Updated on August 18, 2014
K.C. asks from Irvine, CA
19 answers

My daughter is in a preschool class with 24 children. Most of the kids last year - and at least one coming up in fall - have birthday parties where they invite the entire class. At most of the parties, almost everyone came and many brought siblings. It could easily be 40-50 kids with all the siblings. I'm having major guilt issues because I don't want to invite that many kids to my daughter's bday, and feel like I can't invite just the few kids she plays with the most.

Our preschool does NOT have the rule that if you invite one, you have to invite everyone.

We have a very close group of friends from our playgroup, plus several family friends and a couple of cousins that I always invite to her parties. This group is about 15 kids.

So, I just need some help easing my guilt. I think what I want to do is have a party with only the non-school friends and not invite anyone from preschool. Then, I'll just invite everyone at school to join us for cupcakes right after school one day (many of us have a picnic lunch anyway, so I could just announce that I'm bringing cupcakes). I would not expect any gifts from the school friends if I do this. Do you think that sounds ok? Or would I be the "unfriendly" one if I didn't invite all the kids from school to the real birthday party? Would it be wrong to invite the 3-5 girls she plays with the most to the real party (invites would be mailed, not passed out at school). She goes to a co-op school, so I do know all of the parents and children pretty well, which is why I feel so guilty! What would you do?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for easing my guilt. I've been leaning heavily against inviting the classmates and I'm glad to know most people agree. I doubt we'll invite anyone, since I do think I would feel too guilty having a few school friends and not all. We will stick to her playgroup pals and the few family friends & cousins.

It really was almost the entire class once the first person did it. I think we got between 8-10 invitations from February-June. The kids with bdays last fall didn't do it because we didn't know each other well yet. We really did have parties 2-3 weekends per month. It was crazy.

Anyway, thanks again!

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answers from Washington DC on

i don't get this. i don't get why ANYONE would have a party that big for a preschooler, and i don't get why it's difficult to invite 4 friends and that's that.
so i guess i'm not much help.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I once fell into the guilt trap of inviting everyone from preschool. We had a bowling party. Every child showed up. Some didn't RSVP, they just showed. And to top it off everyone brought siblings. I paid for, no joke.... 75 kids to bowl. I was so upset over it.. Since then, we will invite close friends that my kids know out of school, family, and then family friends. I no longer hav guilt over inviting people. If the school allows, send in cupcakes for the class to celebrate. That's what we do now. If they don't allow cupcakes, make up little in expensive treat bags and hand out. They can sing Happy birthday and everyone is happy!!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

You do not have to feel guilty! My daughter is seven years old and I have never, EVER invited her whole class! Her birthday parties are intimate experiences, I invite close friends only! Especially since we usually have her party at our house. It may change one day, maybe we will do something more extravagant next year, but both she and I have been very happy with that arrangement. In your situation, I think your idea is great! Cupcakes with the class, and the party with the closer group! Nothing wrong with that! No guilt required!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Just because everyone else does this, does not mean you have to do the same thing.

ALL of the other children do this? really? I cannot imagine. That would mean you would be going to parties every other weekend.

You and your family celebrate the way YOU want to celebrate. If that means with just family fine. If it means your group of friends, continue that tradition, it sounds like fun.

And if the school allows cupcakes one day, then that sounds like fun too. If not, do not say anything about her birthday at school. It is only preschool after all.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

No, it would not be wrong to invite the 3-5 girls she plays with the most and exclude everyone else. Or to invite only her non-school friends. Or to only have the cupcake party. Or to have no party at all. She will probably not remember this party, but you will, and wouldn't it be better for everyone to have a good time than for you to feel stressed out over it?

I never could have hosted a large party like that (psychologically or otherwise), and never did, regardless of whether my kids got invited to them or not. That would mean that I couldn't have any parties unless I matched the other families' incomes, how fair is that?

We have four kids, and they had parties until about 8-9 years old, every other year. My daughter just had one at age 12, but the boys had no interest after age 9. They were allowed to invite up to 10 children if we had it at an outside venue, or "their age+1" if it was held at the house. I have no idea if anyone ever judged us for it, but no one ever told me I was breaking any party etiquette rules, and Miss Manners is on my side, according to what I have read.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think parties with 25 kids are ridiculous! It's overstimulating for the children, it's a big gift-fest designed to take in a big haul (which becomes a huge financial obligation on the parents), and it's not the message we really want our kids to get (Oh, it's your birthday, let's get 25 gifts!). Parents are going into debt and trying to outdo each other making the next party as much or more fun than the last.

I encourage you to stop the madness.

Invite the people you want to invite. You don't have to invite the whole class. I don't think it's right to invite 23 out of 25 kids, mind you, but definitely invite the 4 you are friendly with. The preschool teachers should not be asked to distribute invitations to only a few kids - you should send/email those outside of preschool. So you are right in the way you plan to invite.

Also, don't accept every preschool invitation you get - just go to the ones of the kids who are really your child's good friends. Cupcakes after school at a picnic are fine. No gifts.

Get off the guilt train. You are doing the right thing for your child, for your budget and for the other kids. Perhaps you will start a trend and others will be grateful to you for getting them out of this birthday party rat race. It's only going to get worse when the kids go to elementary school.

You can encourage the co-op friendships by organizing periodic pot luck picnics or family days separate from birthdays.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Only once did I invite the entire class, and it was after we moved and my son's class was very small (like 10 kids). Inviting just a few from class is fine provided your daughter doesn't talk about her party in front of the ones not invited. And as long as inviting the friends in class doesn't leave one girl uninvited, that should be okay.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have never invited the entire class to birthday parties. It's okay to only invite a few school friends to the real party. I do think your cupcake/park party would be really fun too, as a little way to celebrate with the whole class. I still bring in treats for my kids in elementary on their birthdays, so they get to celebrate a little with everyone. It's not necessary though, if it seems like too much to manage.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Do what you want and let go of the guilt. Invite who your daughter specifically wants at her party and have fun. If you want to do cupcakes or little baggies with a few small trinkets for the rest of the kids at school, great. You are under no obligation to invite everyone! Although my son went to a birthday in January for a classmate, every boy was invited, except One, and that I think wasn't nice. I just think if you're going to invite all the boys or all the girls of a class you shouldn't leave one out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I think you have a perfect solution.

I invite who I want and don't worry about the likes or dislikes of others. I feel there will be people who don't like your decision, but the decision is yours.

It is sad that you can't invite the class in fear you will feed the entire family of your guests. I have had two issues with invites bringing the family. One brought mom, dad, and 5 cousins that live with them. The other brought Mom, a friend, the boyfriend of the friend, the friends child, and three siblings.

If you want to invite a select few, do so.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Reading on

Honestly, it's unreasonable to host 40-50 kids! The general rule of thumb I always heard is have as many kids as the age of the child. More than that can be overwhelming to the birthday child. I gave up trying to reciprocate on all the parties long ago (although her invites are usually from kids we would want to invite anyway).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

When our kids were in pre-school the same thing happened. I think it was because it was the first time for the kids to have the "class" party. Every kid came every time.

Here's my honest opinion. If your kiddo is going to go to any of those other kids parties then you should have one. It's fair to everyone inviting you to theirs if you invite them to yours. It's one time per year.

If you invite one kid from school you should invite them all. If you do decide to not invite the whole class then you shouldn't invite anyone from school.



answers from Baton Rouge on

No need to feel guilty.
A bunch of three-year-olds aren't going to hold a grudge because your daughter had a birthday and they didn't get to go to a party.



answers from Chicago on

There is nothing wrong with not inviting pre-school--or other school--classmates. I think it is nice of you to want to host a cupcake snack time after school.



answers from Kansas City on

We don't invite kids to our parties, just family. Well, kids in the family come. Last year we invited our daughter's 2 best friends and that was it besides family.



answers from St. Louis on

I did not start inviting my kids 'school' friends (prek, k or 1st grade) to the birthday until they asked (daughter just did for her three friends and she is just now entering 2nd grade). They never asked so I didn't offer! And we didn't go to any school birthday parties until my daughter was really good friends with the kids up until 1st grade (and we had just moved to the town so I figured she should go to meet more kiddos!). We have between 8-10 close friends with kids that my kids like so I invite them first and now, as I get declines, I may add in a school friend or two. Don't let mommy guilt eat you up over this. Not worth it :)


answers from Santa Fe on

Wow, I read the SWH. So, do you GO to all those parties? I get sick of kid bday parties honestly and we usually reply we are busy (it's the truth though bc we often have something planned and it would make our day too crazy). I let my kids go to their very best friend's bday parties of course! If I were one of the other parents I would be perfectly happy if you did not invite my kid to a party! I say invite 5-10 kids (we usually do about 5-7) and have a smaller more quality birthday. Otherwise you feel like a chicken running around with it's head cut off! No need to feel guilty!!



answers from Santa Barbara on

Do feel guilty.

I have never heard of a preschool that says all or none. Every school I have been to said, if you invite a select few do not bring the invitations to school. The public kindergarten teacher said " If you invite all boys, all girls or the whole class then pass out invitations in class." If you invite a a few girls or boys, then pass out away from the room.

Are you not allowed to bring the cupcakes to school? Some might think of bringing a gift if the cupcakes are passed out outside of school. Also, you may want to plan on extra cupcakes for siblings and the parents.


answers from Norfolk on

Our sons preschool class was smaller so inviting everyone wasn't a problem.
We never invited siblings.
We usually did Chuck E Cheese - the birthday guests we at our party table and if parents wanted to be near by they'd have their own table near by and kept siblings there (doing their own thing on the games) till the party was over.

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