Have you ever put together 25 goody-bags for your kid’s birthday party? It totally sucks, right? What about thank-you cards? Have you ever had to sit with your seven-year-old while he painstakingly wrote out the same two sentences on 25 different cards? If you have, and you’re anything like me, it made you want to slam your head in a door.

These types of mindless social niceties get on my nerves and lend credibility to my suspicion that there’s a top-secret order of overachieving moms whose mission is to antagonize ordinary moms by creating asinine social expectations to which no normal human could conform without copious amounts of illegal narcotics. This exclusive organization is sponsored by Hallmark and that Chinese toy company that makes the tiny army men with parachutes (the ones that get hopelessly tangled the first time your kid plays with them and you have to toss them in the trash while your kid sobs).

It is probably officially called “The Committee to Create Social Expectations for the Subjugation of Ordinary Motherhood” (because they like to keep things as complicated as possible). They call themselves “The Social Expectations Committee” for short.

Ordinary mothers are not invited to meetings of The Social Expectations Committee, obviously, which is why stupid ideas like goody-bags and thank-you cards always pass the vote. If a few ordinary mothers were to infiltrate such a meeting and the topic of goody-bags came up, here’s what would happen:

One of the ordinary moms would kick over a metal folding chair and shout “You mean to tell me that after I drop 150 bucks on a grass-killing bounce-house you want me to pony up another $50 to provide a bag of junk to each child in attendance?” Then Committee members would eyeball each other nervously and say, “Umm, why… of course, dear, how else are we supposed to make all the other moms feel incompetent and inferior?” Their speech is as yet unguarded because they still haven’t figured out that ordinary moms have breached the perimeter. The ordinary mom would respond, “Yeah but what if I already spent a shit-ton of time cleaning and decorating my house on top of entertaining and feeding the guests? Wouldn’t that be enough?”

At this point the Committee would realize something was amiss because real committee members don’t say things like “shit-ton.” So they would quickly put the matter of goody-bags to a vote before things got out of hand. “All in favor?” someone would declare, and all but the ordinary moms would raise their delicate little arms. Meanwhile the ordinary mothers would begin screaming things like, “I will not approve of this tomfoolery!”

The ordinary moms would totally lose their shit and put the Committee members in headlocks until they agreed to strike goody-bags from the ballot. Committee Security would show up just in time to escort the ordinary moms out on the grounds that, in the last Committee meeting (which the ordinary moms didn’t even know about, duh) a provision passed which expressly forbade headlocks during Social Expectations Committee meetings.

This is a crying shame because that would mean the ordinary moms would miss the vote on thank-you cards. But if they had been permitted to remain present, they would’ve responded thus:

“Do you hate the planet? Or is it just trees specifically that you hate? Because I really can’t think of a stupider use for paper than making cards that get thrown away the instant the receiver is done reading them, if they read them at all. The only logical conclusion is that you hate the earth. ARE YOU PEOPLE INSANE?”

By this point, metal folding chairs would be flying across the room and security would be tasering moms left and right, heedless of Committee membership status. The unholy pandemonium caused by the ordinary mothers would leave The Committee to Create Social Expectations for the Subjugation of Ordinary Motherhood in such a state of upheaval that none of its members would ever dare to reconvene.

Yay! Ordinary moms win!

Except… they don’t win. Sadly, all of this is a sweet delusion. Ordinary moms clearly don’t get invited to these super-secret meetings of The Committee to Create Social Expectations for the Subjugation of Ordinary Motherhood where huge, life-impacting decisions are made without our knowledge or consent.

But we’re here now, right? Let’s join forces. We may be impotent as individuals, but united we can affect change. It’s time to exert our stalwart determination to bring an end to the ridiculous social expectations that have surreptitiously crept their way into our most sacred celebrations.

I henceforth and forevermore declare: I will never prepare another goody bag nor make my child write out 25 thank you cards! I will, however, rent a kick-ass bounce house, bake the most delicious strawberry cupcakes you’ve ever tasted (okay, it’s Betty Crocker, but seriously, fucking delicious), order ten pizzas, and entertain your kid for a few hours. And when you come back from your mani-pedi to pick him up, I’ll wrap you in a sincere, no-bull-shit hug and you’ll get a verbal “thank you” from both me and my kid.

And because you’re an ordinary mom too, you’ll say, “No, sweetie. Thank you!” 


Kristen Mae is a novelist, freelancer, classical musician, and artist. Follow her on Abandoning Pretense, and check out her books, Beyond the Break and Red Water, available now at most online booksellers.


  1. I often feel incompetent and inferior…ESPECIALLY after taking my kids to other parties and events where things are massively (and expensively, I may add!) over the top! And don’t even get me STARTED on school events and recitals where parents come in with armfuls of bouquets, home made signs, and other trinkets for their little “super star”…ugh. No MoTY awards in my foreseeable future….but I WILL say that when I take my kids to school I am bombarded by little kids asking when they can come over to play and/or sleepover at OUR house and when we are having our next kick butt birthday slumber party….so eat that Committee to Create Social Expectations for the Subjugation of Ordinary Motherhood!

  2. I am 100% with you on goody bags, and frankly, not only do I hate paying for them and making them, I hate RECEIVING them. Oh yay, another fucking bouncy ball, two more of those shitty pencils that won’t sharpen properly, and a handful of vile SpongeBob candy or a Fun Dip (aka, there’s fucking sugar powder all over my car). DEATH TO GOODY BAGS.

    Thank you notes I’m a little on the fence about. I completely agree that they just get tossed in the trash, and I’ve always been of the opinion that if someone thanks you for a the present in person, that’s good enough. My rule is that my kids have to write thank yous for things like checks and presents from grownups, particularly if the grownup wasn’t there when the gift was opened. I’ve noticed that thank you notes have been sort of falling out of fashion for kids. My kids have been to several parties in the last couple of months and we haven’t gotten a thank you, which was FINE with me. We still get them from one or two die hard moms, who actually aren’t annoying perfect mommies, I just happen to know that their moms insisted that THEY write thank you notes, and I think they’re really just getting even.

    • Oh absolutely things that come in the mail should get a thank you card, phone call, email… SOMETHING. It’s the 25 cards of the same 2 sentences that get me. Happy birthday, sweetie! My gift to you is a hand cramp.

  3. I’m with you on the thank you notes. But have to stand form on the candy bags.

    Who cares about the kids?!? The candy is FOR ME! I rifle through the bag for the good candy and throw away the rest. Just me?

    I’m an “ordinary mom” but I like giving candy jars.
    I like doing it and it’s not to make any other moms feel inferior. I’m getting tired of parents demanding that other parents stop doing something as small as goodie bags because it makes said parents feel bad. If you don’t want to do them then don’t do them. I don’t understand the goodie bag rage. If you’re secure in your decision to not give goodie bags then who cares what other moms do?

    But enough with the muthafucking thank you notes. Not that I ever did them in the first place.

    • I agree. I love sending the kids home with a thank you that just happens to give cavities. Its not to make other parents feel bad but to make the kids happy that they came and participated.

  4. I never have and never will never prepare another goody bag nor make my child write out 25 thank you cards!

  5. Thank you notes aren’t the norm in my community but the goody bags are! I refuse to make them too. I figure that I’ve already dropped a bunch of cash to feed and entertain them. They don’t need an extra bag of candy to take home with them!

    • Yeah and personally I’m not too keen on my kids bringing home candy after eating pizza, cake and whatever else was served. And don’t even get me started on the plastic junk. On the other hand, if you’re a huge over-achiever and ya just can’t help but make something awesomely creative, HAVE AT IT. What I really don’t like is that we’ve come to a point where we’re all *supposed* to do these things.

  6. Yes…death to the goody bag and screw the thank you cards! I make my child thank the parents and birthday person (and wish the bday person another “happy birthday”) for the invite before she leaves and I’m absolutely fine with the same in return at her party. The stuff she brings home in those goody bags are 99% junk and 10 minutes after the oohing & aahing stops, it’s promptly forgotten about…forever!

  7. Mande Sumner Reply

    I’m so with you on the Thank You notes AND the goody bags. I was the room mom for my kiddo in second grade and some of those DA**ED mothers brought freaking goody bags for every occasion. I mean seriously. Welcome back bags, Halloween bags, Thanksgiving bags, Christmas bags..I could go on.l, but you see where I’m going. The worst freaking part was I felt OBLIGATED to do the same after the “welcome back” bags because those bi**he’s looked at me like I was Satan in disguise when I didn’t have goody bags. Eff goody bags and eff thank you notes!

  8. I am completely with you on the goody bags. I don’t need any more little plastic sh** to step on. And those noisemakers terrify the dog. But I am an advocate of the thank you note. My kids get gifts of some kind or another practically ever week. I think they might grow up to be thankless cads. And if they are writing thank you notes, at least they are practicing their handwriting and spelling. I hope that still matters in the future. But I agree that 25 really does seem like TOO MANY. OMG you kid must feel like Harry Potter. Does he have any scars on the back of his hand?

    • After he wrote full sentences in the first two (which took 10 minutes), I just told him to write “thank you” on the rest. I’m not making the kid write for two hours. That’s considered torture in most countries. 😉

  9. Reading stuff like this makes me even more glad that my son is 17. Though there is a possible graduation party looming in his future, but I doubt we will get a bounce house for that. Ponies for sure, but no bounce house.

  10. Every time I pick up my son from a birthday party I think “oh, sh** he got a goody bag. Maybe I should do them, too, next time. On second thought, no thanks!” The kids have and get too much stuff already. Mindless little toys, candy that goes into the Halloween bucket (yes, there’s still stuff in it, and it’s May, wait, June!!)
    I think parties are memorable enough without goody bags.
    As for thank you notes, I agree that it’s enough to thank the kid and the parent on the day of the party by looking them in the eyes and showing your appreciation.
    Lastly, it’s YOUR party! You decide what effort you are willing to make. You don’t need to attend any stuck-up meetings!

    • The funny thing is that many moms complain that they hate giving AND getting goody-bags… but we still feel compelled to do it. Can we just stop tormenting ourselves and just agree to only do it if you REALLY want to? 😉

  11. You’ve hit on two of my hot buttons with these goodie bags Kristen. I hate wasting money and I hate junk in my house. I don’t need to fill my kids up with candy right after they have been sugared up with birthday treats. They are sweet enough already. I’m just going to throw that candy away. I also don’t need a bunch of throw away toys. That is such a waste of your money! Go to the dollar store and buy a book or skip the goodie bag completely. I’m OK with that! It is expensive to throw birthday parties and we like to make our babies happy, but it has gotten out of control. My daughter had 18 girls over for a sleep-over (thought some of them would be busy that night)………….we spent close to a grand by the time everything was said and done. Whew! Need to cut that number down girlfriend! Goodie bags was a big chunck of that expense.

  12. I am guilty. I am one of those moms. My kids are older now, but I loved giving them birthday parties and end of year class parties. I was also a “goody bag” queen. I promise you I had pure intentions with my over the top birthday party themes. I really just wanted all of the kids to have a really fun time and make everything special. A few months ago, my oldest son went to his girlfriend’s brother’s wedding and when he called to tell me how nice everything was he added, “I told Kristen you would’ve blow this thing up!” So, that’s what he took away from all of my super special birthday parties I hosted for him. He assumed I would take a perfectly lovely wedding and make it over the top!

    • Awwww, I think that’s sweet. I’m totally not knocking the over-the-top parties. I know it’s crazy, but I “get it.” (And I’ve done it too – I’ve made Minnie Mouse cupcakes complete with ears, okay??) It’s the wasteful stuff at the end that I can’t deal with. The junk and the stupid pretentious cards. You did okay, mama. 😉

  13. Joanne McHale Reply

    Let’s be real about this Blunt Moms, if you feel inferior at other people’s parties – it’s because you are inferior compared to them.
    Basically this makes you sound lazy- and that’s totally fine- I love being lazy- but let’s not pretend you’re some sort of Joan of Arc , burning on the cross of goody bags for the good of all. You just can’t be bothered. You’d rather drink some wine. You do you.

    The reason you offer a goody bag and a thank you note, and the reason you spend those painstaking hours with your child, is to pass on some manners and graciousness to your spawn (this is commonly known as parenting).

    It was nice of those kids to come to your party, some of them might not even like your child, they are in it for the goody bag- and unless your child happens to be like, the most charming thing in the world (unlikely)- maybe continue with social niceties so that your kid learns to function in polite society.

    • OMG, seriously? “Polite society”??? Are we in 1800’s England? Yeah, I’ll go ahead and have no part of THAT.

    • One person’s lazy is another person’s strategic. I back the author in spending time, money and resources on meaningful things, not bags full of rubbish.

      As far as manners, there are plenty of better ways to instil manners. As someone else posted in the comments: cards for gifts received by post make sense. When you’ve already thanked someone in person, it’s just wasteful.

      And keeping on the theme of manners and graciousness – if your kid is only attending the party for a goody bad, you may need to work in his priorities or better yet RSVP no next time.

    • How’s your kid doing with the social niceties, Joanne? Your comment isn’t exactly a shining beacon of manners. If it’s internet trolling skills you’re out to role model and master, tip of my hat to ye.

      I for sure agree that the author didn’t so much need to split moms into 2 groups, one coming off as superior. It’s more of the mommy wars we’re all so tired of. But how was your comment helpful or kind?

      I hate the goody bags, too. That’s doesn’t make my parenting less gracious. It just means I do shit differently. I’ll continue to hate goody bags and love the people who make ’em.

      In the meantime, maybe you could figure out what unmet need led you to sourpuss commenting. I try to imagine what I’d say to the person if they were in the room with me. Is this how you talk to people you’re trying to have a conversation with? Does it work for you?

      I dunno man. I’m just so tired of people being assholes online just because they can, yanno? There’s a human being on the other end of your thoughtless words.

      • Beautifully put! I think people genuinely believe commenting on blogs is a free for all. Personally I thought the piece was funny, and tongue in cheek. I think a well developed sense of humour would serve when reading all the Blunt Moms posts.

        • Oh for sure it was tongue in cheek. I get that. But I also think there’s this underlying sense of shame and insecurity amongst moms that makes comparisons — even funny ones — sting.

          Feeling hurt or defensive doesn’t mean you don’t have a sense of humour.

          But… yeah… down with the fucking goody bags. PLEASE.

  14. And this folks is why I abide by the one kid per year – 4 years old = 4 friends. By the time my daughters will be having twenty five friends at their parties, they will be organising them by themselves.

    As an environmentalist, I too cringe at the goody bag culture. My work around has been to have cupcake decorating as an activity and kids get to take theirs home as the treat. I’ll make an exception if it’s meaningful but since it is generally just a bag full of poorly-made tat- I can’t get behind that.

  15. I have 4 sons, ages 27, 20, 5 and 3. I have never given out goodie bags and both of my older sons have turned out to be quite wonderful young men and surprisingly enough, their goodie bagless friends continued to come over all through high school, I have even found love letters from the girls over the years. Stick to your guns ladies, your child will not be labeled with “shittiest mom” in the yearbook senior superlatives section.

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