Sunday, December 6, 2009

A season for truth

The truth is that lots of women hate the holiday season, although most of us don't dare to admit it to anyone beyond our closest friends.

We don't want others to know we're not perfect or that we may have difficulty dealing with the harsh December reality: holidays are a ton of work and most of it falls on women -- and not because we "enjoy it," despite what some people want to believe.

Even broaching the subject violates some taboo - we're not supposed to admit that we might dread the time of year that's supposed to be all filled with happiness and light.

But in reality, December is not a time of joy for many women, especially those already taking on most of the child-rearing and other domestic duties in the home -- often in addition to working full-time and sometimes also caring for elderly or sick relatives. For the already overburdened, the stress of trying to create the perfect holiday for everyone else is enough to push them near -- or beyond -- the breaking point.

Some people say it's our own fault for trying to live up to some fantasy of what we think the holidays should be, but I notice none of them offer to take on any of the "stuff that's got to get done" like the holiday shopping or standing in line at the post office with an armful of packages.
I've been thinking about all the holiday chores many of us take on to make everyone else happy and I'm already exhausted. Here are just a few examples:
  • Coming up with an idea for the perfect gift, finding it, and then most likely also wrapping it -- and not just for one person, but for several;
  • Putting out the decorations;
  • Cleaning to make the house presentable for entertaining;
  • Choosing, purchasing, addressing and sending holiday cards;
  • Planning the holiday menus, buying the food and then preparing it;
  • Keeping track of the social events for everyone else in the house that often require us to do even more cooking or purchasing (finding a Yankee Swap gift for your husband's office swap also takes time, for example);
  • Making special seasonal foods, whether it be Christmas cookies or latkas;
  • Finding/purchasing appropriate clothing for the season's social events;
  • Attending the extra holiday events, such as religious services, parades or craft fairs, etc.

Add a job to the mix and when you flip the calendar to December, you break out in a cold sweat and wonder why you didn't start planning in July because at work, everyone is also pushing to get things done before the holidays and that mean more work -- and possibly extra hours -- for you.

People say we should just remember the "reason for the season" and be mindful of the importance of family, but they don't come over and help you vacuum or fight the crowds at the mall on your behalf, do they? It's easy to spout platitudes when someone else is doing all the work.

What's the solution? I wish I knew. Maybe talking about it is a good start. And maybe we all need to start asking -- or demanding -- more help from others in our lives to make sure EVERYONE enjoys the holiday season this year, including we women.

Some of you are probably thinking "she needs more wine and less whine," but I suspect others understand all too well what I'm talking about. I hope this helps them know they're not alone in struggling to maintain the spirit of the holidays in the face of all the extra work that comes with them.


NancyN said...

You are so right! I used to have a button that said Christmas is when Mom does all the work and Santa gets all the credit! (Of course, I could only wear it at work....) Now most of it only gets done if the kids will pitch in - which means the weekend after Thanksgiving, or once vacation starts.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree - but I also think the holidays have gotten way out of hand and we need to simplify Christmas. But that would go over like a lead balloon. --S

Paula said...

Sounds like it's time to delegate holiday chores (and if no one else wants to do them, then how important can they REALLY be?), cut back on everything, especially gifts now that the boys are grown, and just sit in front of the fire with Husband No. 1!

Anonymous said...

Did you get something exciting for our swap? and what did you make? Hope it's delish!! haha, teasing you.

JAR said...

Oh - you said it all so well! That is EXACTLY how I feel!!!! I definitely break into a cold sweat and totally dread the month of December. I bet you're going to get a lot of comments from women thanking you for putting into words how we all feel!

Anonymous said...

Amen! Sister, Amen! Add the snow removal I will have to do later. Who needs the Gym! -- LCP