cute dog wearing a party hat

The Birthday Helper: teaching boys to share the mental load as men

Many years ago when B was turning 2 years old, W threw a ferociously destructive tantrum upon realising that the presents and the balloons were for his brother, not him. When it was time to blow out the candles he cried. That’s when I decided to create the role of ‘birthday helper’ and unwittingly taught them both how to share the mental load of running a household.

flat lay photography of desserts
Photo by Karley Saagi on

What does the birthday helper do? How does it teach boys to share the mental load?

The birthday helper essentially helps to ensure the smooth running of any birthday celebrations and help the birthday person have a great day. This started off as helping to hand presents to the birthday person to open, to now helping to plan the day and being a ‘birthday buddy’.

As somebody who has always advocated for raising feminist boys, it didn’t occur to me what I was doing until last week when B (6) asked if he could help make his brother’s birthday cake. He then presented me with a list of birthday gifts he thought his brother would like and asked me if I could help him to make a card. It certainly doesn’t feel like a big achievement but when I think back to my own experiences with an inconsiderate partner when it comes to celebrating (or even remembering) important dates and I know it’s not an uncommon issue many of us face. Well, then I realising my parenting style does not only benefit me, it also benefits them and their future partners.

How can my child be a birthday helper?

Your child doesn’t need to have a sibling to be a birthday helper. You can encourage them to help with other family member’s birthdays either their other parent, a distant relative or even a pet! One thing that’s key is to encourage them with lots of praise for all the hard work they’ve put in to help make the day so special. The icing on the cake of course is when the birthday person writes their thank you letters (yes, we still do this in our family) they include a note recognising the efforts of the birthday helper. Here are just some ideas that your birthday helper can help with:

  • making the birthday cake
  • pick a gift (the boys know what each other’s preferences better than I do)
  • help with the decorating
  • do the birthday person’s chores for the day
  • help plan the birthday tea menu
yellow pink and blue party balloons
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

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