December is probably one of the most difficult months for me. As a working parent, December means I need to do all of the things I usually do (which pretty much fill up every waking minute I have) PLUS make the Christmas season magical and bright for my family. I also have to make sure I enjoy this month too because well, let’s face it, there’s nothing after Christmas to look forward too except dark, cold, dreary wintry days FOR MONTHS. But I digress…
I love the Christmas season, do not get me wrong. I love giving gifts, I love Christmas decorations, and I love Christmas music (especially that Mariah Carey album–don’t pretend you don’t). My adoration of the season however, cannot make up for how unbelievably overwhelmed I can become.
I am very lucky to have a partner, my husband, in this crazy busy life I lead. He is a UPS driver. This means that I really don’t see much of him from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. He works six days a week and usually ten to twelve hours a day. He works outside in the cold, rainy (or snowy) weather that is typical of Southern Connecticut in December. And he works a huge chunk of his days in the dark. The real Santa Clauses of this online shopping generation we live in, my husband and his UPS colleagues deliver presents and toys by the hundreds, each day. So as much as he may want to get into the Christmas spirit with me and our girls on Sundays (his ONLY day off a week) his aching body is usually found in his favorite chair for most of the day. I don’t blame him and I can’t say that I don’t appreciate the extra money he makes for our family this month.
Christmas, however, must go on, and I must be the one in charge of the entire production.
During the month of December I:
- Make lists of gifts to buy for my kids, my family members, my husband’s family members, and our closest friends. I also make a list of every teacher/coach/special adult in my three kids’ lives and decide who is worthy of a gift card (hint: they all are). This task requires texting and calling various siblings and sisters-in-law to get ideas for their children and encouraging my own children to not simply circle EVERY item in the toy catalogs that get sent to us from places like Target but to please give me some real suggestions. I then take those suggestions and divide them among their grandparents, their aunts/uncles, and then me. I then take the gifts assigned to me and decide which gifts should be assigned to Santa. This task alone can take days.
- Purchase every gift on the lists I have made. I shop a little on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then every single freaking day of December, either online or in a store, until everything is stashed in my basement.
- Design, order, address, and mail Christmas cards. I usually have them all set to go at least a week before I remember to buy stamps.
- Assemble and decorate our Christmas tree. Yes, we have an artificial tree for many reasons. The biggest reason is the only decent place for it is next to a gas fireplace and I need that fireplace on to heat my house. A real tree would dry up in 48 hours. My secret reason, however, is I have absolutely NO DESIRE to trudge through a Christmas tree farm looking for the perfect tree that will almost definitely not look perfect in my home as it sheds everywhere and quickly dries up. My husband also has no such desire to go anywhere that would require him to walk, in the cold, carrying something heavy (why? read the above description of his job).
- Decorate the rest of my house and the outside of my house. Every year I spend a Saturday while my husband is at work cleaning the house, dragging up bins of Christmas decorations from the basement, and turning my home into a festive space. I then get the girls outside to find all of the Christmas lights and three large inflatable Christmas characters. We then figure out how to get them all arranged, connected, and lit using the one outlet on the side of the house that’s connected to a timer. Every year I have absolutely no idea how I did it the year before and every year we figure it out…again.
- Bake Christmas cookies and other Christmas treats. I hate baking. The kids love the cookies. So I bake.
- Wrap all of the presents. I start wrapping gifts the weekend before Christmas. I’m always so impressed with myself and always feel as if I “got so much done!”. I then put off the rest, every year, until December 23rd. That evening I’m usually up until about 2 AM wrapping the rest of the gifts. Every year I tell myself I’m not going to wait until December 23rd and every year I do. So…it’s my “tradition”. I watch a couple of my favorite Christmas movies (Love Actually and The Holiday), drink some wine, and I wrap until my back aches and my eyes are heavy.
- Get my kids dressed up and off to church on Christmas Eve. They all perform in a Christmas pageant and then we stay for mass. By the time we hit my mother’s for Christmas Eve dinner I will start to feel the effects of my marathon wrapping session from the night before and, of course, my night is far from over.
- Get my kids home and prep the house for Santa. (Side Bar: Depending on the day of the week the holiday falls and depending on the volume of deliveries for that day my husband will finally arrive home for Christmas sometime between 4 and 8 that evening). We make and decorate our front lawn with reindeer food (oatmeal and glitter) to light the way for Santa. Put the magic key in the mailbox since our chimney does not give access to our living room for Santa so he needs to be able to come in the front door. Put out a plate of cookies and some milk. I then wait at least two hours for them all to finally fall asleep. Since I have a 12 and a 14 year old this usually means I’ve finally got three sleeping kids around 10:00.
- “Help” Santa stuff stockings and arrange gifts under the tree. The stockings take forever. I don’t know why. They just do. I also gather and organize the rest of the gifts for all of the family we will see the next day at my mother’s house and then with my husband’s family. I decide what we will all be wearing the next day. I try to remember when I washed my hair last so I can plan accordingly in the morning. And then I crash next to my sleeping, exhausted husband counting the hours in my head between then and when our little one will come barreling into our room the next morning. And I sleep fast.
I know I am not the only mother who is in charge of Christmas in their home. I think in most cases Christmas, and everything that goes along with it, falls on one parent disproportionately. There may be good reasons for this or it simply may be because one parent enjoys it more or is better at managing it all. If you are that parent, well, I feel you. My tired, overwhelmed, busy self is with you. We can do this. Let’s try to enjoy the magic of it all while we do.