This is a question for a friend. Ellen, her DH (Paul), and their 1 yr old moved to a new location about 8 months ago. Ellen found a mother's group that had been in existence for 3 years for working moms. It includes about 8 women and about 12 kids between 1 and 4. She really enjoys the group: no drama queens, no one upmanship, no my way is so much better, no hurt feelings if a few decide to do something and not include everyone. They each rotate hosting a weekly get together in their homes every other weekend.
After about 2 months with the group, her family received an invitation to one of the 2 yr olds bday party. In Ellen's and Paul's social background, little kid bday parties are small family affairs and a few close friends. But they accepted as they thought it would be a good way for Paul to meet some of the DH's of the other women. They went with an appropriate present, had an ok time, was a little supirsed about the large party was for a 2 yr old. The next month, they were invited to another 2 yr olds bday party which again they accepted and was suprised again about the party. The next month, another invite arrives, this time for a 4 yr old. Ellen and Paul realize they aren't interested in attending these parties, and she mentions to one of the other mom's they plan to decline the invite. This mom counsel's against declining as it will appear as a snub to this host. So they've now attended about 6 bday parties over the last 6 months. For each one, they've taken an appriate gift and they have also had the hosting couple and child over for dinner a few months later, sometimes alone,sometimes with another family or two.
Her DD's 2 year bday is coming up. They planned to have a small family bday party. She mentioned this to another in the group who told her that she might want to reconsider since the group norm is to host these big elaborate parties and it will look like they are not reciprocating their hosting obligation. That the group sees these parties as a great Saturday get together for everyone and a good way for the kids to be entertained.
Ellen and Paul will not be changing their plans for their child's bday party.
Ellen feels that they have sufficiently reciprocated by having the hosts to dinner.
Paul thinks they should host a large bbq with some kid activites (face painter, blow up slide like the other parties) for the members of the group, so they don't make waves.
I told Ellen I agreed with her, that reciprocal hosting doesn't have to be like for like. But since this group sees these parties as an extension of their Mom's group, that maybe Paul is right.