We were lying in her bed together around 9 p.m. I was trying desperately to get her to go to sleep, when my daughter turned to me and said, “Mama, for my birthday I want a Dora party. I need Dora streamers and balloons and a shirt with my name on it and I need all of my friends to come and we need to run through the sprinkler then go on a scavenger hunt because that’s what she does on the show. She also has a friend who’s a monkey so maybe we can get a monkey too?”

Did I mention she’s turning 4?

I had just about fallen asleep myself when her precious, albeit totally impossible, demands quickly shocked me awake. As her mama, I, of course, want her to have the best, most memorable birthday ever. Yet, I have to remember that she’s only a few years old and will revisit this party only through photographs when she’s older.

Here are a few tips I’m using to help me plan this year, so we can reach a happy medium that leaves us both satisfied.

1. Create realistic expectations.

Nope, I’m not calling the local zookeeper and renting a monkey for a day, as much as it would make my daughter’s eyes light up like the Eiffel Tower. To reduce my stress, I decided to have a conversation with her, in terms that a toddler can understand, to explain what she’d be getting. Yes, I’d do the TV-show themed party she wanted. I can scan the local online bulletin boards to find nearby parents with plenty of similar party gear they’re looking to sell for cheap. I can do a miniature scavenger hunt, but we can’t “cross a river and go through a forest” to find the items, as she requested.

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I was careful to play up the great stuff we could do rather than harp too long on what we couldn’t. In the end, she understood and I had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, so that’s a win-win.

2. Delegate, delegate, delegate.

Yes, I’m her mom but I’m not supermom no matter what my coffee mug says. I need help and I use it on a daily basis. We’re fortunate to live near family, so I’ve enlisted my mom, sister and mother-in-law to help me plan and carry out the details for her big day. One is making all the cupcakes, one is helping me design and address the invites and the other is coming an hour early to help me set up.

Even if you don’t have access to such personal resources, it might be worth the extra bit of money to at least hire a babysitter to help keep the younger kids occupied so you can focus and get a few of the major tasks done solo. When it comes to food, if you don’t want to make it yourself, there are also tons of unique delivery options that can make it a stress and hassle-free celebration. There is even mobile pizza catering, which could be such a fun treat for little nibblers!

3. Rent a space outside your home.

For me, one of the greatest stressors when it comes to party planning is making sure my home is as clean and tidy as possible. This is probably because I do have so many close friends and family who live nearby. Do a bunch of toddler buddies care if my essential oil diffuser is lit or if my kitchen cabinets are wiped clean? Of course not. We pay attention to those details for the adult guests present.

Last year, we decided to nix the at-home party and instead, we did it at our church picnic shelter. We used disposable products, minimal decor and it was the best thing ever. Then, we came home to a clean, clutter-free house with nothing to pick up. Rental fees for outside spots like shelters and parks are usually minimal and totally worth it.

4. Narrow down the guest list.

I have a tendency to over-invite. It’s just in my blood. Yet, while I was searching frantically last year for odds and ends to fill 25 gift bags, I realized I may have overdone it just a little. Now, I understand that while my daughter might love the idea of inviting her entire preschool class, that doesn’t need to be the plan. Rather, I stuck to three close friends and the rest is family and I felt my stress diminish immediately.

We may have a playdate later in the summer where we’ll invite more friends over to come play by the pool, but the formal celebration will be more close-knit and that’s perfectly okay.

5. Reset priorities.

How many of us host parties to impress others or to outdo other parents? That spirit of competitiveness is hard to overcome, but it can be a pretty vicious cycle. Instead of thinking about the parties my daughter has been to in the past that have been elaborate and over-the-top and wondering how in the world I can even start to compare, I’m remembering what I’m celebrating.

Four years ago, I became a mama for the very first time and experienced one of the most defining, life-changing moments of my life when I held her in my arms. I don’t need expensive party decorations, a professional clown, or an extensive menu to commemorate that moment.

At the end of the day, we naturally want to give our children the moon and this is especially apparent in our valiant efforts to make their birthdays as special as possible. Yet, throwing a memorable and fun party doesn’t have to add a ton of extra stress and it definitely doesn’t have to break the bank. With these five tips, you can refocus, reset and even (gasp!) enjoy the party yourself!

Featured Photo Courtesy: Rahel Daniel via Unsplash