Are you a person who preps and buys presents in the weeks after Christmas?
Perhaps you buy stuff for people and stash it through the year when something comes up that is nice?
Or are you starting to buy stuff steadily from around October?
Perhaps you are last minute and just hoping for the best?
Or do you make hampers or home made gifts?
Whichever of these you are, or if you do something different, it is likely, as a mum / femme parent, you are doing the lion’s share of this work. And not just that either, the list is pretty endless once our kids are of school age. We are planning where we will spend the various days of the yuletide season, and how we will manage the bigotry from that relative we see each year. How we will handle our kids in front of others for extended periods without undermining our principles as a parent. If you are a single parent like me, you may have had to think months or even years ago how to manage the time between yours and the co-parent, and have the added burden of the co-parent potentially overbuying and “spoiling”your child, whilst, because you are the default parent and spend more money on day to day expenses, like clothing, clubs etc, that you don’t have the money to splash out at Christmas.
And all that is before we even factor in school performances (don’t they need some sort of costume for that?), trips to the pantomime, Christmas Carol service, community obligations, Christmas party for the kids, what on earth are you meant to bring in for that? Random dress down days, ordering a Christmas lunch, maybe buying a present for staff. Organise nice family outings to wholesome places. Buying the Christmas tree. Support the kids decorating it, re-decorating it so that it doesn’t fall over and looks decent in the photos. Getting a list of kids in your child’s class. Writing out a gazillion Christmas cards with them. REceiving more cards than you get and feeling obliged to return the favour, so have a stash sitting in your car. Doing your kids’ hair in fancy Christmas hairstyles that you’ve seen all over instagram, because your kid comes home begging for the latest style.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, you haven’t even fully considered what you are getting for your kids for Christmas, you are scared of judgement because of giving them too much stuff and them being ungrateful. How shameful that is. But equally you are fearful of giving them too little and people thinking you are just mean, and your kids, again being ungrateful. You may need to support your kids to buy or make gifts for their friends and family, and it takes longer than you coming up with ideas, because they are very particular about it, and feel that it has to be just right. You remember that 3 of your friends have birthdays just around Christmas and you have to get them another present and card and you are keen to make a differentiation because you know their birthdays are often seen as an afterthought.
When it comes to the meal, you might be meticulously planning each and every stage, as well as getting all the extras for on and around the day itself, so everyone can feel fully satisfied and you feel like you have been a good host. You might be worried that this year, everything is so much more expensive than it was last year, and with the energy crisis, how on earth are you going to afford the spread you would normally put on. Oh, gosh, yes, and you remember that mince pie and mulled wine evening you offered to put on for a community thing… Gosh that’s going to be a lot of work.
Thinking about the expense of the entire thing is mind blowing and you may want to bury your head in the sand about it, and put off thinking about it until January. Thinking, it’ll be okay. This is the first proper Christmas since 2019 that we haven’t had such a shroud over it. Last year, even though we were out of a lot of restrictions, we were in the thick of Omicron, and many people had to cancel their plans completely.
When I set out to write this, I had no idea how long it would take to write all the stuff. It just kept coming at me like that stupid f*ing CocaCola truck. To be honest, I reckon you will be able to add to this. There is a good reason I didn’t include business or work commitments over the period, because it would be insane. Sadly, this is what is happening in many mum’s minds at this time. And yes, I did genderise that. Although there will be some exceptions, where it is not all down to the femme folk in the family, the vast majority will be up to you.
I didn’t set out to overwhelm you with all this stuff… I know that it is probably already in your head anyway, and you feel like a spinning top trying to keep a handle on it. I did lay it all out like this for you to begin to question some of the stuff that you feel like you “have” to do.
We have more choices than we lead ourselves to believe. I’m asking you to pause for a few minutes and look at what you are doing, who is it serving, in what way, and ultimately does it bring you joy? After all, many people would claim that this is the season of Joy to all.
I’ve created a little sheet you can use, or you can simply write this on a scrap of paper. It might be good to enlist a friend and do the activity together over a cup of tea.
#1 Write down all the things you are doing during the festive period, including appointments you have set that are not Christmas related.
#2 Ask yourself: Do I want to do this?
What would happen if I didn’t do this at all?
Could I give this job / responsibility to someone else?
Is there a way I could do this in a different way that would help me feel better about it, or would it take less money / time?
Is there a system I could set up which would take away some of the mental load and stress?
Am I okay with not getting this “perfect”? If not, what would happen if I didn’t get it perfect?
Am I doing this because of what others might think of me?
#3 Decide on which things you can make a change about. If this includes challenging some limiting beliefs, you may like a friend or a coach to support you on this.
#4 Communicate your decisions with those who need to know.
This could be communicating with your kids about their expectations for Christmas, what is really important to them about the Christmas period etc. Or even boundaries on your time, and that you simply cannot do all the things without complete burnout, so make it clear that particular things have to drop. Remember, whilst it is important to ask your kids about their ideas, they also need to know, because you are doing the work, the decision ultimately is with you.
The Festive Load
So I refer here to the mental load that is dramatically increased during this festive season. Beginning to rationalise what you do by writing it down is going to be a good start. When you have done the activity above, can you bring it to your partner and family and see what they think. Do they believe that you should be doing it all alone? Many families, upon seeing their kind and loving mum / partner overloaded with things; they will want to take some of them off your hands. Some may not. If they are not enthusiastic about doing it, you have awesome choices, you insist on them doing it, or simply don’t do it. It’s your life after all. This might be too challenging a thing to do, and you prefer just to keep the peace. I would strongly suggest that if that is the case you examine things a bit more closely about your relationship when you do feel more able to challenge things… an incredible facebook group called Bridging the Gap, is an ideal place to seek support in this area.
Let’s Unwrap The Whole Thing With Presents
When we buy gifts for our kids, what are we doing? What is our aim? For everyone the answer is going to be different. You might say, to see my kids’ eyes light up; or to get the big things they want; to show them how much we love them… that is probably going to be a big thing if your love language is gift giving and receiving. However, not everyone’s love language is that, and people feel loved in different ways. The expectation of gifts is a cultural concept that has been constructed to fuel the economy. You may be happy to be a part of that, but if you aren’t and you want to challenge that, it may be time to start considering more carefully how you perceive gifts. There is the now popular concept of getting your child just 5 gifts; Something to wear, something they need, something they want and something to read. Perhaps you could reconsider how you do gifts through the year, as birthdays are spread out, you may consider just doing the “big” thing for their birthday, and keep Christmas as a place for more nominal gifts.
Exploring the idea with your daily in a discussion around the excess of Christmas might be a useful activity. We can often assume that our kids want a tonne of stuff, but the other day I asked my kids what was important to them about christmas they each said, spending time together, having a meal together and sharing gifts. Now, gifts were in there, but certainly not, getting a load of presents. Every family is different, and whilst it might be too late to reconsider gifts for this season, it may give you a chance to reflect as a family how you want things to go next time.
The Thing About Family Time
I like to put this into two main categories. Firstly, the time we spend together as a household over the Christmas period. And secondly the time we spend with extended family. The first one can be super tricky and expectations run high. As parents we tend to want our kids to be present over the festive season, so we can enjoy them, enjoying their gifts; to play games; watch stuff and maybe go on outings. As our kids get older the “family time” thing can be a bit much, especially when our kids are so used to doing independent activities. Can you have a chat together about what everyone wants, and work at reaching some compromises about it. If everyone has their say they can feel valued and more likely to engage in stuff than go off in a huff because you’ve “made” them do stuff with you and they don’t want to.
The second one is multifaceted, when it comes to extended family. Have you checked in with your kids about visits they might be going on to visit relatives? How do they feel about it? How do they feel about the individuals themselves? Sometimes we are faced with bigotted opinions and old fashioned views which are not okay. How are you going to handle this when it is coming from your 90 year old aunt who is ill? What do you normally do, but you don’t like doing? You do, simply to save face and not rock the boat? Could you change the arrangements in some way? For example, if you know that having a full meal together with some people and time afterwards might be tricky, could you condense that to a different period of time. So if you have kids who are fussy around food, and know that the people you are with will be judgmental and put a lot of unnecessary stress on the ids around the food eating, could you ensure you don’t see them at mealtime. Or could you be brave and have a conversation with them beforehand about food, what you will and won’t accept regarding conversations about food at the dinner table?
Is it time to think differently about Christmas? What step can you take to help make it better for you? What is going to happen if you don’t?
#1 Get the balance right ~ Join my FREE Mums: Harmonise Your Life & Business Group. Regular solidarity support as well as practical tips to support both your business and family life.
#2 Feel supported ~ check out my podcast Beyond Parenting for stories from incredible parents who have been through adversity, and how they made it.
#3 Have resources ~ Get the Emotional toolkit and support through my complete program and coaching support on an ongoing basis through my Copse membership. The coaching allows you to explore what is going on for you without drawing you into going over things again and again. Together we make manageable, achievable intentions which can fit into your life NOW, even though you are a super busy mum and business owner.
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#6 Let’s chat ~ Just fancy a chat to see how we can help each other, then book in ASAP, I can’t wait to get to know you more.