So, it’s nearly December.
Maybe you had all your presents bought and wrapped by the end of the January sales, wrote all your cards in July, and have already planned the purchase and decoration of your Christmas tree with military precision.
(If yours is already up I don’t even want to hear about it. It’s NOVEMBER. Suffice it to say we could never be friends in real life.)
Or maybe the very mention of the fact that Monday marks the start of December is enough to bring you out in a cold sweat. There are a myriad of reasons why that might be the case. Maybe your finances aren’t in the greatest shape, or your own health or that of someone you love is a major cause for concern this Christmas. Maybe your relationship with your partner has seen better days, and you’re wondering if this might be the year that you finally call it quits. Or maybe you don’t have a supportive partner around, and you’re feeling the pressure of handling the kids at Christmas on your own.
Now I don’t meant to get you down - I hope that for every one of you reading this with a heavy heart there are twice as many with reasons to feel cheerful this December.
But whatever the exact details of your circumstances, I know everyone has something that they would change this Christmas, if they could. Nobody’s life is perfect, and no other occasion brings that quite so sharply into focus like Christmas can.
The TV adverts, the present catalogues, the shops full of stuff nobody really needs, all dressed up to make us feel as though our lives are somehow incomplete without more of it. The pressure to spend, make, give, do and be so much more than many of us can really handle. I don’t know about you, but I’m already tired of it. So this Christmas I’m giving myself the gift of not trying live up to anyone’s ideal of the perfect mum anymore.
It’s a gift I think we could all do with sharing. I only have to glance around at my friends at the school gates to happen upon lives marked by the kind of sadness and stress that no-one wants to deal with at any time of year, but especially not at Christmas. So if that’s you, and you’re wondering how to get through the festive season without freaking out, know this: you’re not alone; and it’s ok that your life doesn’t look like something straight from Pinterest. Mine doesn’t either. And neither does hers, or hers. Heck, even that mum who you’d secretly love to be more like probably has a chaotic pile of laundry hidden behind that seemingly perfect veneer.
Nobody’s life is perfect, and the sooner we wise up to that and stop comparing our lot to those of people who seem to have it more together than us at Christmas, the sooner we might actually be able to enjoy a touch of festive cheer.
It’s ok if your heart’s breaking or your finances are falling apart or your family life leaves a lot to be desired. Just do yourself a favour this December and go easy on yourself. You might not be able to change your circumstances, but you can certainly increase your capacity to cope by throwing off the burden of trying to live up to perfection.
And if none of this resonates with you then please, don’t write off these words and assume I’m talking nonsense. Delve a little more deeply with your friends and family; be open to the possibility that not everyone around you is feeling as full of festive cheer as you are this Christmas. Then do what you can to spread a little of your own Christmas magic, since you’ve got some to spare.
Invite someone out for a glass or two of Christmas fizz and pick up the bill if you got more than you need this month. Offer to mind a friend’s children for a couple of hours so she can catch her breath and ready herself for Christmas. For one afternoon lay all the merriment and mayhem aside and just be with your kids, mindful of the fact that no toy or present in the world can really compare, in the eyes of a kid, with the joy of a parent’s undivided attention.
And when the stress bubbles up and you start to panic about all that’s required of you this month, repeat after me: I am giving myself the gift of not trying live up to anyone’s ideal of the perfect mum. That’s all I really need this Christmas.