November 18, 2010
I love Christmas – I really do! Starlit nights, presents under the tree, and a baby in a manger bringing peace and goodwill – it all gives me a happy, warm glow inside. But once we turn the corner of the year into November, I feel an nagging knot of stress lodge itself in my stomach. Christmas is coming – and there is so, so much for Mums to do!
The problem is that it all just takes such a lot of work. There are presents to be bought and wrapped, cards to be written and posted, relatives to be invited and catered for, special meals to be organized … the list goes on and on. For each child in school or nursery there will be at least one Christmas play or concert, for which Mum will be expected to make a costume (I got off lightly with Rudolph the red nosed reindeer this year – a costume you can buy) and then take time off from work or domestic duties to attend the event. Brownies, churches, clubs all have their own parties, nativity plays or carol concerts – they’ll bring tears of happy pride to your eyes, but they do all take up that precious, precious time. Of course we are expected to keep up with all the normal expectations of family life – meals, shopping, school parents’ evenings, keeping everyone and everything clean-ish and dealing with the ten or so urgent pieces of paper that land in our kitchens every day. Christmas doesn’t let us off any of that – oh no!
The past couple of years I have arrived at Christmas Eve feeling honestly rather run down and sick of the whole thing. All this was then compounded by guilt because, actually, I love Christmas and I want it to be a special time, for my family and for me too. Not a time when Mum is weeping with exhaustion .
So, this year, it has got to be different. To achieve this,I am trying to work out ways of reducing some of the workload, without losing that Christmas magic. And here are some of my ideas so far (many of which were in fact contributed by my long-suffering family!)
- Buy and wrap only one main present for each child – they don’t really need or enjoy dozens of parcels to open all on one day, and they will actually prefer going shopping in January to spend money from relatives
- Allow someone else – Dad, Granny, Uncle, or in my case older teenagers – to take charge of the whole Santa Claus stocking filling thing
- Shamelessly buy ready made mince pies, Christmas pudding, gravy mix, pre-prepared vegetables etc, rather than trying to be a domestic goddess on the busiest day of the year
- Try where possible to meet up with relatives at a restaurant, for a picnic (maybe indoors!), or (bit cheeky, this one) at their house, so I don’t have to be the perfect hostess
- Beg, borrow, buy or steal (ie don’t make) costumes for plays, and be brave enough to tell the teacher why, if necessary
- Do all shopping online, especially for food
Those are all the lazy bits, which demonstrate me to be a selfish, lazy and uncreative old Scrooge. But … hopefully they will set me free to enjoy the bits of Christmas that I really love, including…
- Feeling the tears well up at all those lovely nativity plays
- Doing some special cooking with the children, making Christmas biscuits to hang on the tree, or sweets to give to relatives
- A chilly, rosy- faced walk all together in the woods on Boxing Day
- Having some time just to myself, to take a long, scented soak in the bath, or go out for a bracing run
- Exchanging cards and letters with so many dear friends we hardly ever get to see
- Letting the children decorate the tree, even if it doesn’t look as perfect as I would like
- Coming home from church on Christmas Eve, feeling that there is magic in the air
- Actually spending time with the people I love
This is what I am hoping for this Christmas, but I think to get it I will have to swallow some of my pride. Fighting off all those unrealistic expectations foisted on us Mums by the movies and magazines can be tough, but it has to be worth it. We are not domestic goddesses – we are all too human!
by guest blogger Karen Lawrence
Karen Lawrence lives in Billericay with her husband, Adrian, and their seven children, whose ages range from twenty-one down to three. Her family life is busy, varied and full of challenges and fun. She gives her job title as “Mum”, but also works part time as a baby signing teacher, helping young children develop early communication skills. Her hobbies include running, cooking and karate, plus anything else that helps her stay sane.