Mom Asks Guests to Pay a Cover Charge for Her Child's Birthday Party

In The Boston Globe's advice column, a friend of the mom asks whether or not she should say something about the eyebrow-raising move.

birthday party cake
Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

April 23, 2019

Every mom wants to give their kiddo a birthday party to remember, but just with any big event—bridal showers, weddings, baby showers—the extravagance and accompanying cost can add up quickly. But, given commonly-accepted etiquette, the expense is something most parents accept as something they'll need to cover themselves. Unless you're the mom who was recently featured in The Boston Globe's "Miss Conduct" column. According to an anonymous close friend of this mom, she's been charging her guests a cover for her daughter's birthday parties. Yes, really.

The Ludlow, Massachusetts-based friend explained, "I have a close friend who I adore. She is lovely and kind and a truly wonderful person. But every year, she charges people to come to her daughter’s birthday party." She elaborated that if the party is at a venue, "The e-mail will say something along the lines of 'please bring $20 to cover the cost of your child.' If it is at her home, there will be an envelope or basket asking for 'donations.'" The friend noted, "They’re not poor. People talk about her behind her back." Her question for Miss Conduct: "Should I say something?"

The advice columnist, Robin Abrahams, a writer who has a PhD in psychology, had no doubt that telling the mom was the right thing to do—for her daughter's sake!

"Yes, oh yes," she wrote in response. "Don’t tell her people are talking behind her back or say 'we all feel that way' — that kind of thing only makes people paranoid. But yes, speak up before her poor daughter has to, since sooner or later the girl will realize what her mother is up to and be humiliated."

That said, she urged the advice-seeker to keep her beliefs about her friend's finance to herself. "Unless you’re her accountant, you don’t really know how she’s doing financially, and anyway plenty of people have bizarre neuroses about money that make their objective circumstances irrelevant," she noted. "Your friend could well be in that group."

Globe commenters weighed in, as well, finding the mom's conduct "cheesy." One advised, "Have her over for coffee, and, as a friend, discuss it honestly and without passing judgment. Then charge her $5 for the cup of coffee. If she's a good friend, don't charge for a refill."

One commenter observed that "these parties have gotten out of control," while another said, "If she can’t afford these foolish blow out parties at the local gymnastics studio or bouncy house place, tell her it’s totally OK to get a sheet cake and some balloons and call it a day. Maybe throw in a game of pin the tail on the donkey. For you folks who don’t have younger kids, this will blow your mind. Ready? EVERY birthday party my 4 year old goes to results in HER leaving with a goodie bag. She gets excited to see what she’s going to get at the other kid’s party. Makes me crazy. I’m hoping to buck this trend when we have her next bday party. Wish me luck."

This isn't the first time that news of parents charging a cover for their child's party has made headlines. Last year, a mom took to Netmums forum to share that she had been asked to pay a $46 cover charge for her daughter's friend's birthday party. “My 10-year-old daughter has been invited out for a friend’s birthday,” she posted. “There’s about 10 of them going and we’ve only been given two days notice. The mum messaged me and asked if [my daughter] could go to which I said yes, she then replied with a price it would cost.”

Here's hoping viral stories like this one will help send the message to parents everywhere that sometimes, when it comes to a kid's birthday party, less is more—especially if that means you can avoid charging an entrance fee!

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