One Mum explains why spending money on a birthday party makes everyone's lives easier and why outsourcing birthday parties has become the standard.
Emma Babbington states: "The a-ha moment finally came when a stroppy six-year-old guest rolled her eyes and muttered, 'seriously, isn't pass-the-parcel for babies?'
After resetting my facial expression, I realised the moment I'd been waiting for had arrived. It was time to give up my preference for throwing at-home birthday parties for the kids or figure out a way to up my game in a major way.
Upshot? It was time to take the party outside and I've never been more relieved."
Everyone's doing it
Outsourcing birthday parties has become standard among a lot of Aussie families who don't have enough time, space or energy to organise this yearly stress-inducing occasion.
In a completely unscientific poll of my now nine-year-old daughter's classmates at her Sydney public school, 80% had paid-for parties last year. The average cost? Between $300-450 per child, per party.
While not everyone has the budget to pay for thirty kids to play laser tag every year, for many parents the cost is completely worth not having to be the one to tell little Johnny to not throw cake at the ceiling.
'On my son's fourth birthday I invited his preschool class to our (small) home. All the parents dumped their kid and left. Being on full alert for three hours, with just my husband to help, was no fun. My kid doesn't jump on the furniture or try to strangle his friends, but these did. Totally feral. Even threw food around! How we survived I've no idea,' remembers Liv who since then has been a firm party outsourcer.
Parties should be fun for us too
Instead of martyring ourselves to home-made birthday cakes and garden scavenger hunts, it's time to accept that parents should be allowed to enjoy the festivities too.
'I absolutely love outsourcing parties,' says Karen, who has a nine-year-old son. 'There's a local place near us that's like an indoor kids adventure playground and a sound proofed lounge area for adults. The kids go mad while I order coffee and brunch!'
Last month, Alicia had a pizza party for her four-year-old's birthday at a local restaurant and couldn't be happier that she didn't attempt something similar at home.
'It meant all I had to do was organise a cake, show up, drink some prosecco and take him and his bag of gifts home,' she admits.
Go big or go home
But in a world where pass-the-parcel is considered daggy, not every paid-for-party is going to cut it as the children get older and more demanding.
Thankfully, when indoor play centres and trampoline parties become passe, there are dozens of new activities hitting the competitive birthday scene every month.
In the past year, my children have experienced an incredible range of activities - none of which I've done in my forty-something years - including a ghost walk, flower arranging, horse trail riding, karaoke, splatter art and one very peaceful afternoon when the attendees learnt to sew at a craft cafe.
Mum of three and owner of carpentry Built By Kidz Parties, Josephine Azizi, sees first hand how parents - and their kids - are desperate for new ways to celebrate.
'Birthday parties have got so competitive nowadays. Everyone's looking for something that makes their child's party stand out from their classmates. Parents know their child is probably going to attend at least ten other parties in a year so they want party planners to come up with something that's different and fun and has everyone talking.'
Emma concludes: "In May, when daughter number two's birthday rolled around again, we discussed our budget (small) and what kind of activity she wanted to do with her friends (everything?). As she ran through the list of all the recent parties she'd attended, I nodded and tried to look enthusiastic. Eventually, we narrowed it down to about eight options.
Then I had a brilliant idea. I suggested we skip the party this year and go - as a family - to Luna Park instead. She agreed immediately.
It was awesome."