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I throw fancy first birthday parties because I love my kids

Mary is a writer living in the Midwest with her husband, Chris, and her two daughters. Mary loves to write about all of the things she loves the most: motherhood, marriage, food, current events and really great books.

Why I'm that mom throwing over-the-top birthday parties for babies

Moms who love to go all out throwing elaborate parties for their baby's first birthday don't always get the kindest feedback from other parents. Some say we're attention-seeking. We're trying too hard. And others think we are wasting time and money throwing a huge party for a child who won't even remember the party when they grow older.

I am one of those moms "wasting" time and money throwing all-out first birthday parties. I don't do it for attention or to try too hard. I just love it.

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Heck, I love throwing birthday parties for any age. When someone’s big day is on the horizon, I am the one creating a Pinterest board, writing out menus and perfecting decorations for months beforehand. I have two young daughters and a third baby on the way. For my first, we threw a vintage-themed picnic in our front yard with three different cakes and a combination of handmade decorations and flea market finds. My younger daughter's birthday was indoors and I filled our dining room with fresh flowers, cupcakes, fruit salads, punch and truffles. I am sure I will have just as much fun planning for baby No. 3 when his or her first birthday rolls around.

I don’t throw parties to keep up appearances and I know it isn’t for everyone. People have different priorities for how they spend their money and their time.

Even though I do more than most of the moms in my circle, when I start to search Pinterest, I realize my efforts are still pretty tame. I have a strict budget; I don’t order designer anything; and there are never wild animals or clowns present (not judging those who do those things, of course!). Still, birthdays are something I prioritize. I love to pick a theme, make handmade decorations and make all of the treats from scratch.

I understand the reservations many have about putting so much time and effort into a two- or three-hour party. Some believe that Pinterest has played a role in breeding competition between moms, setting the bar incredibly high for all aspects of motherhood. I think the argument that moms should never throw a party out of pressure or to meet expectations is completely valid.

But in an effort to take undue pressure off of moms, I wonder if we have shifted too far in the opposite direction. Now moms who love to cook or throw parties or decorate their homes are told they have some reason to feel shame. Not all women love the world of domesticity, and that's OK. But that doesn't mean the women who do should feel ashamed when their hobbies revolve around childrearing and homemaking.

For many of us, competition or appearances have nothing to do with the decorations, layered cakes and handmade outfits. We devote weeks of planning to an event our child will never remember, not as a means of keeping up with the Joneses, but because it is something we love to do.

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Here’s the thing, I have always loved to make a big deal of the people who are special to me. It might be through random acts of kindness, thoughtful gifts and sometimes elaborate birthday parties.

My children are at the very top of the list of people I adore, and I love to treat them to a few hours of wonder and sweet treats as a way of showing them just how special they are to our family.

On top of my love of celebrating the people I care for, I am also a huge fan of food. OK, so maybe that sounds silly. It isn’t just that I love to eat (who doesn’t, really?), it’s that I love to cook. Experimenting with how flavors taste together is one of my favorite hobbies. I love writing menus and working with ingredients that are unusual or unexpected to make something delicious. Birthdays, in my opinion, are the perfect opportunity to flex my cooking muscles. What better reason is there to try my hand at baking a difficult but beautiful cake, cooking some fun new appetizer or putting together a lunch buffet? I know this it is not something many would consider a great source of entertainment, but it is one of my favorite things to do.

First birthdays aren’t just about the food or celebrating a healthy baby, they are also kind of celebrating the parents too. Maybe it’s self-centered, but I love what a first birthday party signifies. It is my way of saying, “We did it." We made it through one the most challenging years of parenting with a healthy baby and an intact marriage, and that is something worth celebrating.

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So, yeah, maybe a first birthday party is a completely unnecessary and frivolous way to spend your time and money, but I think there is a lot of good to say about the practice. In the end, all of parenting is about finding your own way of doing things. If making a big deal of birthdays is an endless source of pressure or stress, skip it!

As for me, I am not about to give up my love of throwing shindigs because I feel judgment from those who think it’s a waste of time or money.

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