It used to be that children's birthday parties were a simple affair. There would be a few games with a parent firmly fixed to the CD player, some sandwiches and crisps plus the climax, a piece of party cake wrapped carefully in a napkin and held all the way home in a sweaty palm where it was eagerly consumed.
But time has moved on and now parties are becoming all the more extravagant. While the party givers have pressure on them to provide balloon modelling, face painting and bouncy castles, not to mention a full spread for the guests plus a bulging going-home goodie bag, now the party guests are being thrown into the spotlight.
This week celebrity mum Myleene Klass posted an email exchange between her and two mothers who had sent a round-robin email to her daughter's class.
The mother's email contained a present request for a joint party being thrown this month. Instead of detailing the date and time of the party, the mother was requesting party guests contribute to the birthday girls' desire for a more expensive present (one wanted a Kindle and another a desk).
"Very studious choices" joked the mum, before suggesting a £10 donation and issuing the instruction she would be collecting the money via the children's book bags).
Myleene was quick to email back her riposte entitled 'Let's put the fun back into Bdays!' joking that her daughter Ava would like a real live unicorn and Myleene herself would settle for a Ferrari and Leonardo DiCaprio.
While her reply was most definitely tongue in cheek, along with her made up URL: wwwgetwhatyouregivenandendthismadness.com the truth is that Myleene is far from alone when it comes to being sucked in to the party process.
With parents shelling out an average of £214* per party, they're now insisting they get something to show for it.
Lucinda, 25, a mum of two, from Hertfordshire recently took her children to attend a third birthday party and was shocked when the mum hinted she should have brought two presents. "I'd had a joint party for my two as they were so close in age and the mum had bought them a present each. When she saw I'd brought only one present for her son, she said 'Maybe I should have bought Jack and Lottie a joint gift as you've only brought one.' I can laugh now but I felt so uncomfortable at the time!"
Glyn, a professional face painter, has seen more than her fair share of children's parties and admits she has seen the madness grow.
"I often go to my second or third booking in a day only to find some of the children already painted from the party I have just come from.
"Just the other week one four-year-old boy was so worn out by the third party (he had been to all three) that he just wanted to sit and cuddle his mum."
She adds: "Sometimes mums of children in the same class think its better they all have a separate party, but in my experience the ones that work best are the ones that share. The children enjoy it all so much better."
Nicola, 40, a mum of two, from Watford, also resents the shuttling to and from birthday parties every weekend.
"We are often booked up with parties for weeks in advance, but our girls are rarely both invited. This means my husband and I have to alternate who is doing the party run. As a result we barely have any time together just the four of us.
"The cost of presents is also ridiculous, too. I often have a stack of gifts I've picked up when I've spotted a bargain, otherwise I spend so much more when I'm in a rush to pick up a last-minute present."
It's not just the exhaustion and the lack of family time, it can take the mind of a CEO to organise party logistics as Andrea, 41, mum of two, from Kent found out to her cost.
"One weekend we had five parties to get round. As I budget around £10 per child gift-wise, that was £50 on presents alone. But the worst thing was, I'd got so confused with all the different times and locations, I dropped my daughter off at one party just as everyone was leaving. She was devastated and now I make sure I cross reference invites with my calendar to make sure I've got it right. Although I don't think I'll ever attempt five parties again."
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just last week Dannii, 33, mum of two from Surrey, received an invite to her neighbour's three-year-old's party. It strictly requested no presents and then politely asked the parents to explain to their children there would be no party bags either.
"I won't be sad not to have a plastic bag full of cheap toys that will end up in the bin before the end of the day. My daughter might be a little disappointed, but as long as there's pass-the-parcel, I'm sure she'll be happy."
As Myleene succinctly put it: End this madness – one party at a time!
More on Parentdish: Myleene confronted by angry mums in the playground
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