This morning I heard a woman being interviewed on the radio, claiming that she was not sure how she’d cope if her delayed Ocado delivery did not arrive. Oh please, I thought, is this what we've come to. Could she not lift herself from her despair and go to a shop? And is it really THAT important, will it change her life? Have we gone mad as a society, have we completely lost perspective?
I felt saddened by this woman’s whining and it encouraged me to finally post something I’ve been thinking about for a while...
On Sunday I had a strop. I seemed to be in the kitchen clearing up all day and felt more like a skivvy than a mother. The next morning I chatted with a friend who said she’d had a similar day. With my hands in the sink I’d started to think about all the mums feeling the same. I don’t want to seem bitter, a martyr of my role “oh poor me with all the washing up to do”. I’m not getting into the male-female-shared housework debate here; my husband contributes (when he’s at home). I am very aware that men and women are different animals who see and do things differently and this creates pressures when living together. That’s not what I’m thinking about here. The point for this post is; what is it about Christmas that does this to us, why was I feeling stroppy and hard-done by at the supposedly happiest time of the year?
Is it just the sheer weight of celebrating – there are more meals, more parties, more people so more mess and clearing up? Is it because it’s the middle of winter when living is harder, it takes longer to do simple things in the cold and dark? Or is it because emotions are more intense – we so want everything to be perfect for our families on that one day that we put more pressure on ourselves?
I’m sure some would dismiss me as a miserable old bag but there are aspects of Christmas I find difficult. I like it to be a family time when we can enjoy being together without the pressure of deadlines. Last year M and I eventually stopped rushing around and got down on the floor and played their new board games with the children and it was great, for all of us. But this can be a difficult moment to get to.
I refuse to get stressed about Christmas – it is, after all, supposed to be simply about celebrating the birth of Jesus. One wise person told me to separate the two Christmases, to accept that there is one religious festival and one occasion of consumerism and feasting. That goes some way to helping justify the contradictions between the two. Although this week, with the Copenhagen summit in the news, I feel uncomfortable about the excesses of Christmas. As individuals I believe we all have to do our bit to help preserve the Earth’s limited resources. Obviously we do not have the power of world leaders, who have prevaricated then flown home in their private jets. But we all have to take responsibility, in whatever way we can. So much is wasted at Christmas, so much packaging sent to landfill. This is not a way of life I feel comfortable with.
“But it’s Christmas,” people say, “lighten up!” Okay, so if this is supposed to be the most joyous time of the year, why does it make so many people unhappy in different ways? I’ve seen mums distressed about Nativity plays – because they couldn’t get there or because their child didn’t perform as expected. Should we be creating this pressure on everyone? Children line up for school ghostly pale, exhausted by the hysteria – do they want to sing these songs and perform these plays for their expectant parents or would they be happier in the classroom? People ask “are you ready”, in expectant tones, creating the intensity of a crucial deadline. Is it really that important what we have for pudding on Christmas Day? And I’ve not touched on the major issues of people spending money they don’t have or domestic violence increasing. When did this become “celebrating”?
My point is, if Christmas is supposed to be a special family time, why have we created a plethora of fuss around it so that mums, with their hands in the sink, just feel stressed and unable to enjoy their families? I understand that celebrating Christmas is about traditions – everyone has their routines they like (or have) to go through, without which it doesn’t feel like “Christmas”. But surely there is a way of preserving these traditions without making it such a contradictory Event? Certainly, I often find my “Christmas moment” in the most unlikely of places. Maybe it’s since I had a baby at Christmas, but I can’t help feeling emotional about how it all began; Mary, raw in her motherhood, and her precious new baby, wondering how their life together was going to turn out.
If we could take a step back, reduce the obsessive consumerism, just give a few gifts and enjoy a few simple family meals together, would it not mean that everyone could properly enjoy the occasion rather than feeling harassed about the next job that has to be done in the seemingly endless quest to create the perfect, fabled, but elusive Christmas?