In a normal household with children, on any given day, the primary caregiver is usually the one with the most amount of commitments and responsibilities. In terms of statistics, it's usually the female-identifying member of the household that gets the brunt of all the stress and guilt that comes with commitments. Moms are working harder, longer, and have more responsibility in running the household than their male partners, even when they themselves have full-time jobs outside of the home.
We are told we need to be able to balance our careers, being good mothers, good partners, cooking nutritious meals, making sure our kids get to their appointments and practices, laundry, bills, keeping the house clean, and the list goes on and on. It's no wonder that when it comes time to the Holidays we feel tired, broke, and overwhelmed. This idea of intense mothering contributes to the belief that we need to manage everything else we're supposed to be committing to during this season, while simultaneously creating this wondrous and magical Christmas's for our kids.
It's a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. If you don't know the effects of stress, I encourage you to read When The Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Mate. Stress is doing awful things to our bodies. Because of the system we live in, it's mothers are who are feeling the effects of it most prominently. We struggle with mom guilt. We think if we can be everything and do everything for our families, then we are failing them and failing ourselves.
On average, the holiday list of commitments can look something like the one below, with mothers usually being the one responsible for making sure all of this comes to fruition.
- Decorate the house
- Put up the tree
- Put up outdoor lights
- Be grateful
- Attend Santa Parades
- Bake Holiday Treats
- Donate to Charity
- Take Photos With Santa
- Bring Out Elf on a Shelf
- Watch Christmas Movies
- Be grateful
- Take Holiday Family Photos
- Send out Holiday Cards
- Shop for Gifts
- Attend all Holiday parties you are invited to
- Attend kids Christmas concert
- Be grateful
- Wrap Gifts
- Holiday Meal Prep
- Decide who's house and how long you'll visit for
- Do secret Santa
- Be grateful
Now, if you look at this list and you light up with excitement, there is NO judgment from me and you can continue on your MERRY way. But, if you're looking at this while thinking about everything else you are still responsible for, and your palms are sweating and your heart racing, I'm going to throw you a lifeline. You don't HAVE to do ANY of it. Stop thinking that if you don't do all, some, or any of what's on the typical holiday list you are somehow failing or ruining your kids.
Come Up With a List of What You Give a Shit About, and What You Don't Give a Shit About
An awesome way to combat the effects of mom guilt is to decide what is important to you and what isn't. What things align with your core values and what things don't? What do you give lots of shits about, and what things do you not give ONE SINGLE shit about? Olivia Scobie introduced me to this idea through her online course "The Secret Lives of Guilt Free Moms". The course changed my life as a parent, for reals.
For example; we love baking for the holidays, but doing gift exchanges left us overwhelmed and broke. The extended family kept getting bigger, friends kept having more kids, and our list grew bigger and bigger. So we nixed the gift buying and instead plan some fun activities with the people that mean the most to us.
Another example; If you are working full-time, you need to spend your downtime wisely. If you don't give a shit about attending all the holiday parties, and would rather spend that time having a Christmas movie marathon with your kids, do so without an OUNCE of guilt. Again, you get to decide what's important and what isn't.
If you couldn't care less about the elf on a shelf, but love the tradition of taking photos with Santa, then that's all your's, baby!
I have friends who have scrapped Christmas altogether, no presents, no decorating, and instead headed south to spend time together on a beach. When I hear things like that I'm like "FRICK YAH!" Deciding that quality time as a family on a beach is more important than braving the masses of the shopping malls was on their lists.
Now I'm not saying everyone skip the holidays and head to the beach, and frankly, not everyone has that privilege due to work or finances. But, deciding what your family commits to this holiday season can be an important piece to feeling connected, inspired, and rejuvenated heading into 2018.
The great thing about the "give a shit" list is that it expands into all things we do as mothers and parents. I don't give a shit about how much time my kids spend indoors and I'm not constantly harping on them to get outside. I really care about kitchen dance parties, though. Those happen daily. I really care about cooking awesome meals for my family, but I don't give a shit about preservatives. I don't give a shit about how much sleep my kids get or if and when they take a nap. Whether it's in the car, on the couch, for 20 minutes or 3 hours, I don't care. I DO give a shit about how much they are reading and we commit to reading with them (almost) every night.
Your give a shit list is going to look different from everyone else's. We need to cut the crap with mom-shame and mom-guilt and start living lives of connectedness and support of one another's parenting choices. We are NOT ruining our kids because of what we decide is and isn't important. The biggest impact on your child's life isn't whether or not they ate whole organic foods, or how pinterest worthy their birthdays are. It's how they are treated and if they feel like they have a sense of love and belonging within their family unit.
So, let's hear it. Whats on your give a shit list and what didn't make the cut?