It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… Or is it?
Why being a Mum at Christmas isn’t all Merry and Bright.
Remind me: what’s the name of that person who brings all the presents on Christmas day? You know, makes sure the children get everything on their lists, all beautifully wrapped, and tied with a sparkling bow?
You know, the one who makes Christmas Day a magical experience for everyone? It’s on the tip of my tongue. Has a wobbling belly like a bowl full of jelly? Oh yeah, that’s right, IT’S ME.
Santa might get all the credit, but I’ll bet you all the Frankincense in Bethlehem that behind every successful family Christmas, there’s an exhausted Mum who’s engineered the whole bloody thing.
Don’t get me wrong, being a Mum at Christmas is wonderful at times.
Watching my kids perform in their nativities are memories I’ll always treasure (particularly when my youngest son refused to follow the donkey up on stage because he thought, like Joseph, that he would literally have to marry the girl playing Mary.
That’s it son: abandon your heavily pregnant bride in a stable because you’ve suddenly got cold feet. Make Mummy proud.)
But Christmas is also a stressful, exhausting, and often thankless time for Mums. With that in mind, I thought I’d remind us of all the good things. Call it my gift to you. You’re welcome. The receipt is in the bag.
- Day Drinking. January through to November, if I walked around my local market drinking wine from a paper cup, people would say I’ve got problems. Come December, heat that wine up and throw in a cinnamon stick, and suddenly I’m being festive.
- New stuff. I consider myself pretty lucky that my husband is unimaginative about gift buying. He just tells me to email him links to what I want. Some might say this ruins the element of surprise. I say, “I don’t want surprises. I want the exact shade of lipstick that Jennifer Anniston wears.”
- Gluttony. Not a deadly sin in December, but an expectation. Chocolate for breakfast? Of course, have another. Uncomfortably full after eating your three-course lunch? Well, undo your top button and persist. That cheese board isn’t going to eat itself you know.
- Unexpected guests. No, really. When Mary gave birth to Jesus in that stable, the world changed forever. That’s right: the tradition of guests turning up on your doorstep unannounced at Christmas was born. Normally, there’s nothing that strikes fear into my heart like the sound of my doorbell when I’m not expecting anyone. But in December, just like those Three Wise Men, they’ll usually bring gifts with them when they turn up unannounced. Who needs gold, frankincense, and myrrh when my Auntie Vivien will bring a tin of Quality Streets and a bottle of Baileys?
- Christmas parties. There was a time, pre-kids, when the thought of yet another night out was nothing special. Now, the opportunities to dress up and go out partying with my friends are so scarce that buying a sparkly dress and going out for tapas is like winning the lottery. Even the prospect (read, likelihood) of a 3-day hangover isn’t enough to deter us.
- Spending time with family. Bear with me on this one. The entire family tends to congregate at our house at Christmas. It’s a lot of preparation, work, and expense. I used to rush around all day taking care of everything single-handedly and then find myself putting my children to bed on the 25th having barely spent any time with them all day. So now, I delegate. I had the calculations all wrong. I was thinking: more guests = more work when I should have realised more guests = more help. Yes, we’d love you to join us for Christmas dinner. Can you bring a starter/dessert/crackers with you? Would you like another glass of wine? Of course – the bottle is over there, and I’ll have another glass too while you’re up. It’s win/win. The children get to spend Christmas day with their aunties, uncles, and cousins, and they also get to spend plenty of time with me (top of everyone’s Christmas list, naturally).
- Making memories. It may be sickeningly twee but it’s also true. As the years whizz by, memories of my childhood are beginning to blur. The ones that have stuck are invariable of the big and magical occasions like Christmas. The details and minutiae may have faded, but the yearly traditions and the emotional memory remains. The harsh reality is that my children probably won’t appreciate all the work that goes into Christmas until they become parents themselves, but when they do, I want them to be able to look back fondly and know it was all for them. That way, they’re more likely to get me a top-notch gift, right?
Whatever your plans this Christmas, I hope you have a good one, filled with happiness and love. And, if your own Mum is still around, be sure to give her a hug and say a huge thank you for all she did to make Christmas magical when you were a kid.