Here we are again. It’s that special time of year when Elf on the Shelf starts to pop up in everyone’s Facebook news feed and you get an insider’s glimpse at all the (admittedly hilarious) trouble that the super-creative, Pinterest moms have created for their little elves to get into — proof that moms are single-handedly keeping the spirit of Christmas alive. In the mornings, their elves have gotten into the pancake mix, or have rigged up a singing toilet, while our elf, Marshall, has forgotten to visit the North Pole. My son will find him still sitting comfortably in the bananas from the day before. Ooops.
I’ve been a mom for nine years now and this holiday season, one thing has been made crystal clear to me: Santa is really a tired, 31-year-old mom who just wants to get through the holidays season without letting anyone down. Christmas is so freaking magical for kids. I mean, for people who can barely manage to put their undies on the right way out and leave the house with shoes on everyone, we really do a better job of creating an alternate reality in which reindeers tread through our houses, and elves get up to mischief while our kids sleep than those guys did in convincing people that the moon landing was fake. In all seriousness, the burden to make the holidays so magical falls so heavily on moms, and something's gotta give.
The other night, my husband and I sat down to finish bingeing our latest TV favorite, Shades of Blue. Our 14-month-old daughter, who shares a room with us, was fast asleep in her crib. She was in one of those deep sleeps that we had been praying for all week so we could have a little uninterrupted alone time. About 15 minutes into the second to last episode, I found myself zoning out. Not sleeping, but completely lost in thought.
“Did you see that? Holy crap!” My husband whisper-shouted.
“Uhhh huuhh.” I responded, eyes glazed.
“Wait… what did he say?”
“Uhhh huhhh.” I responded.
“Are you even paying attention?” My husband squealed at me as he quickly rewinded and I tried to snap out of it.
I was there, but I wasn’t really there. Instead, I was lost somewhere inside my head, thinking about everything on my to-do list, the planning, the wrapping, the ordering, the tracking of the lost packages, the everything. At the same time, my husband sat next to me completely carefree and able to enjoy this moment we had both been looking forward to all week.
And it was only November.
I love the holidays, I really do. I get excited whenever I can start playing Christmas carols and pumping my favorite crisp, cinnamon and pine essential oils all through our home. I look forward to my kids, nieces and nephews and all family members faces as they open the gifts I spent so much time choosing for them. I make sure we get our tree up as early as possible so that I can enjoy the twinkling lights for as many nights as we can and, even though I’m the only one who ends up eating them, holiday cookies are almost always being decorated in my kitchen. I immerse myself in all of it and look forward to it every single winter.
But, that doesn't mean that it isn’t exhausting.
While I do have a partner who helps out whenever his help is needed, I still have to delegate all of these duties, because I’m mom and, like so much of the emotional work of our everyday lives, it all falls on us. It gets a little more intense during the holiday season, because who will remember to get the Fingerlings? Moms.
If there was some magical pixie dust that could actually make reindeer fly, we would have it sitting in our Amazon cart, waiting for it to drop a wee bit in price.
Perhaps a little bit of the issue starts with us. We take on a lot because we really truly want everything to be wonderful. It comes from a good place, but constantly trying to upstage the year before is exhausting. We want our kids to grow up with special traditions and we work so hard to bring make our ideas reality. If there was some magical pixie dust that could actually make reindeer fly, we would have it sitting in our Amazon cart, waiting for it to drop a wee bit in price. Before you know it, you've wasted four hours making a lopsided yule log and have no time to shower.
But it’s so much more than that.
It's bearing the weight of the expectations from everyone around us. Our kids. Our partners. Our families. Everyone wants it to be the best Christmas ever. And even if we do establish chore charts and delegate there is just an unspoken rule that no matter what, we’re the glue that’s holding everyone and everything together.
It’s a blessing and curse. When things go great and our kids have that look of awe in their eyes whenever they open up that gift that they had been hoping to find underneath the tree, it's heart-eyes. But when something goes awry — when your son opens up a set of Pokemon cards he already had, but you didn’t realize because you had five million other things to pick up at Target that day — you feel his disappointment.
It takes magic to fake magic, and I propose that the next time you feel your powers flagging from the exhaustion of creating an entire universe, you hand your partner a bag of carrots and and say, "You feed the reindeer." Because we all want our kids to have a special Christmas, but the work moms put in is more real than any half-nibbled elf cookie.
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