It happens every year. One minute Christmas is ‘ages’ away, the next it’s crept up on me and suddenly it’s a few weeks away and I’m nowhere near ready.
I’ve seen stuff on social media that you shouldn’t let Christmas affect your mental health. Of course you shouldn’t, but it’s also really hard to cut down on Christmas. I don’t have anxiety or depression, but I am one of life’s worriers and I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect my mental health.
I’ve seen something else on social media saying women shouldn’t do all the work for Christmas and that men are perfectly capable of helping. Of course they are, but it isn’t always practical. My husband works 12-14 hours a day. Every day. He still has 17 days’ leave to use up before 31st December, which clearly he isn’t going to use. He is the main breadwinner and I only work a few hours a day. My job is to look after the kids.
And unfortunately Christmas is an extension of that.
I don’t hate Christmas, but I’m not one of those people that gets overly excited about it, either. I don’t love buying presents, I don’t love wrapping presents and I don’t love decorating the house and tree (although I quite like it).
I would happily do Christmas every other year.
Because getting ready for Christmas is pretty much a full-time job. A full-time job which has to largely be carried out while my kids are at school. While I’m supposed to be doing my part-time job, earning money for the family.
This year, we have 18 people to buy for, including our own kids and my husband. We don’t buy for many adults – just my parents, my mother-in-law and my brother. With the other adults, we have an agreement that we will just buy for their kids. But even the adults we do buy for are hard work. My parents don’t like ornaments and clutter. They don’t like candles and toiletries and all the stuff which is endlessly recommended on gift guides. So buying for them takes a fair bit of thought. And, believe me when I say, I really do try to get it right. Because my parents are amazing. They’re always there for us, helping out when the logistics of life gets a bit too much. They deserve a good present.
We have a fair few little ones to buy for and they’re easy. I would go as far as to say I DO enjoy buying for them. Because you can buy pretty much anything. There are so many toys and books to choose from, so many gorgeous cute clothes.
And my daughter is a pleasure to buy for too. She’s 12 and there’s lots of nice stuff out there suitable for 12 year old girls. She also chooses what she wants and lets us know, right down to allocating presents to her grandparents etc.
Then there’s the teenage boys… Seriously, have you ever tried buying for teenage boys? We have our own two, plus two other family members to buy for. While we can get away with vouchers for the other boys, we have to buy proper presents for our own sons. And I would love to buy them something meaningful and something they really want. But boys are notoriously difficult to buy for.
My younger son genuinely doesn’t want anything. He has everything he needs already and doesn’t see the point in getting things he doesn’t need. This is a great attitude to have. But it makes Christmas quite challenging. In the end, he opted for some new headphones. His beloved old headphones, which he wears for hours a day, have broken slightly, so he wants some new ones. They’re expensive ones, slightly over the budget, but it means we literally don’t have to get him anything else. (We don’t really do ‘stocking fillers’, partly because the boys are so hard to buy for and I’m also a big believer in not causing excess waste by buying stuff for the sake of it.) Luckily, he doesn’t mind that he won’t get anything else, because that’s all he wants (clearly he will get stuff from other people, which may or may not be what he wants).
Then there’s my eldest. Who has recently developed a taste for expensive clothes. He’s earning more money at his new part-time job and also seeing these brands as he goes into work and now he wants them for himself. So the budget will only run to a couple of T-shirts and a couple of pairs of socks, at £18 a pair (yes, really!). Luckily, he knows the value of these items, so doesn’t mind that he won’t get ‘much’.
My husband and I took a very rare day off work to do Christmas shopping, and actually managed most of it, which massively relieved my stress. We even did my brother’s present, which we usually end up doing on approximately 23rd December.
If I had my way, all Christmas shopping would be done between the middle of November and the start of December, but it never works out like that.
Needless to say, there are still a few bits left to get, including the other two teenage boys in the family, my parents and something else for my niece, who most inconveniently has a birthday very close to Christmas.
And the Christmas stress hasn’t completely gone, because now I have to find hours which don’t exist to wrap presents and hours to write the Christmas cards. Every year, I moan about Christmas cards, every year I say I won’t do them next year or I will do less of them. And every year, I write the damn things again, moaning as I go.
And on Boxing Day, you will find me breathing a sigh of relief that Christmas stress is over for another year.