I’ve been trying to convince my almost-four-year-old daughter, Anna, to have her birthday party at a cute nearby five-pin bowling alley. She likes the idea of bowling, but prefers going to parties with open play, themes and crafts. So, it’s not surprising that she’d prefer her own birthday party be along those lines.
Confession: While I think bowling is a cute idea for a party, and I happen to really like that particular alley in our neighbourhood—especially the fact that they supply grilled-cheese sandwiches for the kids—my goal in suggesting it wasn’t really about the bowling aspect. I’m actually trying to keep Anna’s friends’ parents out of my apartment.
My apartment is definitely big enough to host a kid’s birthday party. We live near Anna’s school, so her friends are nearby for the most part. It’s not even about the clean-up afterward. Truthfully, I’m embarrassed of my apartment.
I feel selfish in saying this, because we are not the most low-income of lower income families. But some days it feels like we are the only family in the area that rents. On those days, I feel like I didn’t figure out how to become an adult. My furniture is mismatched—mostly IKEA pieces bought on Craigslist—and most of my household items are old and have seen better days. We don’t have sensible, or even terribly interesting, art on the walls. And, because we lack storage space, not everything has a proper place. We have a hallway lined with visible Rubbermaid bins filled with Anna’s baby clothes, and our family room is more of a playroom than an actual living space. I’m also messy by nature. Not on a disastrous level, mind you, but messy enough that things never look quite clean, even when they are.
I don’t even know that Anna’s friends’ families would judge me, but I feel defensive about it. (Parents aside, one of her little friends once told me that I needed to clean up my apartment!) I have a general sense of where the other families own homes, what cars they drive, where they have a cottage retreat and what soccer leagues their children play for. When Anna goes to a friend’s home for a playdate or birthday party, I often find myself eyeing dining room sets from the doorway. I think about what outing I could take the kids on when it’s my turn to mind them—what outing, simply so that the other parents won’t find themselves standing in the doorway to my apartment.
If I had the resources to live differently, I don’t know that I’d do it exactly the same way as her friends’ families. However, I do know that I’d love to have more space so I could send Anna upstairs or downstairs, or to go play outside in a backyard. While I know this shame I feel is about my income and class more than the state of my actual apartment, I can’t help but have it manifest the way that it does.
Read more: Could you raise a child on $3,500 annually?>
Much as I’d like to overcome this—to just bite the bullet and announce that my daughter’s birthday party will be hosted at my home—right now I’m looking into affordable room rentals at a community centre a friend suggested.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a preschooler. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.