Three days before Christmas I had a meltdown. After 32 years of preparing Christmas for my family, you’d think that I’d learn how to avoid meltdowns, but I haven’t. Every year, I repeat the same pattern.
The month preceding Christmas, I gear up with baking, cleaning, buying yarn to knit things, pulling Christmas decorations out of the basement and stringing lights on the trees in front of our house. In addition to my normal workload, I add hours each day working to help make Christmas special for my family. In the beginning, I love it. I kindly ask my husband to help and he usually does. After a day or two, he loses interest and I find myself shopping alone, baking alone and decorating the Christmas tree alone. After a week or two of this, you can guess what I begin to do- feel sorry for myself that I’m working solo.
Still, in the spirit of being a “good mom,” I trudge on. I change bedsheets, cook casseroles and freeze them, buy gifts for the needy (usually my husband’s idea since I’m so busy) and help out with Christmas goings-on at church. By December 21st, I’m feeling like the supreme martyr and am more than eager for everyone in my family to heap praises and thank you’s over me. I deserve them because I’ve worked so hard to make everyone happy. The martyr in me begins to listen for kind words and gets annoyed when they don’t come.
So three days before Christmas, when my husband complained that I was irritable, I let him have it. How dare he criticize Mrs. Claus, Mother Teresa and Martha Stewart rolled into me? I was, after all, exhausting myself for him and the kids. The least he could do (since he clearly didn’t understand how hard I worked, how important I was to keeping family traditions and making the holiday special), was to be nice to me. For three days, I fumed. He was completely unappreciative and selfish.
Have you been there? Every mother has. We who love through cooking and creating memories replete with important tastes and smells, exhaust ourselves to make life nice for our families. Then, we get mad when no one notices or worse when they complain about our hard work. The truth is, much of what we do to make Christmas special, we do for ourselves.
Yes, kids love traditions and great meals, but they really love it when Mom is in a good mood. How much kinder I would have been to them if I had cut a few meals, plates of cookies and left some beds for them to change and been fresh when they came home for Christmas? I thought that running around like a crazy woman would make us have a better Christmas but usually, the work backfires. I want to feel like a great mom. I want to give gifts that make them happier than the gifts from last year. I want to feel like they all need me to have a great Christmas. Then, I get upset when my exhaustion makes me irritable and fights break out.
Next year, I’ll probably repeat much of this, but I am determined to make some important changes. So, how about this for a New Year’s resolution that looks all the way to Christmas 2013:
Worry less. Cook less. Clean less.
I’m not going to fret so much about “creating a great experience”; I will focus more on being refreshed and nice to be around. I think that my adult children would prefer to have me greet them at the door with a warm smile that says, “I’m SO happy to see you!” while standing on a dirty floor, than with a snarl that says, “How dare you to
make me work so hard by showing up?”
Nope. Next year, I’m going to do less, jettison the martyr cape and enjoy my family. If we cook together, great. If we don’t, then maybe we’ll go for a hike instead. Regardless, I’m going to work on giving them a nicer me instead of more food, homemade gifts, and dozens of Christmas cookies.
How about you? How was Christmas at your house this year?
What did you learn in 2012 and what are your resolutions for the new year?
Happy New Year to you and yours!