Inside: The Christmas emotional and mental load we find ourselves burdened with each year.
“Are we doing anything on Monday? I need to go do my Christmas shopping.”
There are four days to go and this is the first time my husband has thought about Christmas. Four days to go. And by Christmas shopping, he means having a quick look in the shops to see what he can get me.
Meanwhile, I have sorted out presents for the children, family, friends & teachers. Decorated the house, organised the big food shop and dealt with a Christmas birthday to boot. And I am exhausted.
The mental load
As women we carry the mental load throughout the year, managing the house, the kids, the admin and everything in between. It is something we do because we are good at it, but it is exhausting nonetheless. The problem is that we fail to look after ourselves and so the load slowly crushes us until we collapse.
We share our stories with friends and we know we aren’t alone. It helps to some extent but still, we don’t seem to learn, do we?
I’ve shared the ways that I make time for myself and it does seem to keep me in check for the most part. But this Christmas has seen the mental load take its toll and I am not feeling festive at all.
Parents, siblings, in-laws, aunts & uncles, cousins, friends, close friends & their kids, and on occasion gifts for yourself. Right?
And that isn’t even including the amount of effort you need to make for your own kids. How much do I get them? Have they all got an equal amount? Will they like them?
“What do you mean you’ve asked Santa for a different gift?”
The dreaded words we hope we’ll never hear.
Even if you do everything well in advance it is still a lot to think about, isn’t it? Oh, and you have to wrap them and post them all too.
This year I decided I would go with a handmade approach. I wanted to think more thoughtfully, get things that would create an experience rather than just a voucher or something standard off the shelves.
It was harder than I thought I can tell you but totally worth it. Would I do it again? Yes. Did it ease the mental load – nope.
7 years ago I shot myself in the foot by inviting a Christmas elf to come stay throughout December. If you are reading this and do not have kids yet – DO NOT DO IT. Just don’t. It sounds so romantic, so magical, elves bringing the joy each day of December to entertain your kids.
The reality is that you wake up at 5am in a panic because you’ve forgotten again. You curse the elves for ever darkening your doorstep but can’t get rid of them because the kids bloody love them. And so you carry on, each December, like a fool because the joy on their little faces makes it worth it.
There are 4 days to go and I think I have everything sorted. But I can feel I am coming down with something and I feel irrationally emotional today. I find myself wanting to go away next Christmas so that I don’t have to deal with it again. And that makes me feel so guilty.
I want to give my family a wonderful Christmas and that means seeing friends and family, organising to go see Santa and all of the other things that make this time of year special. And that means I can’t just cancel it and go away.
The true meaning of Christmas
I think somewhere along the way the true meaning of Christmas has got lost under all of the tinsel and glitter. We have all become so preoccupied with making it all so magical and wonderful that we have forgotten that the true spirit of Christmas is found in being together.
My memories of Christmas as a child involve coming downstairs on Christmas morning to find that Santa had been. That was all the magic needed.
We didn’t have elves, we didn’t go ice-skating, we didn’t make gingerbread houses and I think we only went to visit Santa a handful of times over the years.
Less was most definitely more.
Something has to change but I don’t really know how to go about doing it. I can’t tell the elves to stay at the north pole but I think delegating the task of getting everything ready is necessary.
The food shop is also something that can be delegated as is the responsibility of buying gifts for one half of the family.
That would definitely reduce the physical load but would it lessen the mental and emotional load? I’m not so sure.
What do you think?