Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday pressure

Is it just me or do women, generally speaking, put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect? Or at least to measure up in some small way? I have given up on perfection; I know it is a completely lost cause in my case, yet I still find myself comparing my housekeeping or parenting skills or organizational abilities or hair or thighs to someone close to me. Of course, I always compare myself to someone who seems to achieve standards that defy the laws of probability.

Lately, I have been hearing from many, many friends (and reading on many blogs) how depressing and stressful the holidays are for them. And the common theme seems to be the pressure to make it a perfectly idyllic holiday for their families.
I recently attended a MOPS meeting and the speaker talked all about teaching our kids the true meaning of Christmas and keeping balance, etc. She was an excellent speaker, yet at times I began to feel the defensive feeling I usually get when I sense that yet again I am not measuring up. The speaker stressed that if we didn't make the decision as mothers to teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas, our kids would never learn it. She spoke about her Christmas traditions and how she has eliminated some of the extras that weren't important; she spoke about the importance of balance.

Yet, ironically, I still felt this enormous pressure to begin these amazing traditions that would instill all the most important values (compassion, love for God, selflessness, etc) in my kids' hearts. I started calculating how I would integrate all the traditions she spoke about and I almost broke out in a cold sweat. After pausing and thinking about it, I realized I couldn't make those traditions work. She has her kids memorize Luke 2, for example, and I am just not that interested in quizzing my children throughout the Christmas season. Sounds way too much like homework to me.

Anyway, that is when I realized that I needed my own traditions, ones I choose for myself, not because someone else does them, but because they work for my family. I also realized I am teaching my kids good values yearlong, not just the month before Christmas. This took a lot of the pressure off.

What is it about the holidays that makes us feel this pressure to measure up? Why do I expect my house to look like a BH&G spread? It never does, so why would it now? Why do I think if I find the exact right gift for my mother or husband or child that everything will be right in the world? Why do I even worry about what I get my brother? He is next to impossible to shop for so why do I worry? Why not just try my best and let it go? What do I really think I will accomplish if I find the most delectable dessert to make for Christmas? (I am always in charge of the desserts for my sister's house and I start planning and leafing through recipes in October. I am seriously deranged!)

What about you? Are there parts of the Christmas season or traditions that really stress you out? What have you done about it? Have any of you simplified in order to bring back the joy of Christmas? I have decided to let a lot of things go over the last couple of years, and this year I have let go of even more. I am learning that the more I simplify, the happier I am, which directly translates into how happy the rest of my family is. Forget about the annual bakefest, where in a storm of flour and sugar, I bake and bake and bake so that I can give cookies and candies to every last person I know. We aren't going overboard in our decorating this year (though, truly, we never really have. Bil just isn't all that enthusiastic about stringing lights on every surface inside and outside our house. And I am ok with that.) Instead, we are doing the simple, but fun things that the kids love: driving around town to see all the lights, decorating gingerbread houses (thanks to my MIL who sends us a Wilton kit every year. She is brilliant!), and sitting on the couch with only the Christmas lights on and admiring our haphazardly decorated tree.
Maybe that is why my Christmas spirit is stronger this year than ever before. That and I have been avoiding Wal-mart!

1 comment:

Kim said...

I let go the pressure a long time ago. I just stopped and thought about the things I really remember from childhood. It's not decorations being perfect or lessons on the true meaning or dinner being on special Christmas themed dinnerware. My memories are mostly sitting around the tree with my parents and brothers and sisters and taking turns watching each other open gifts. That and after dinner is over and we all sat in the living room together, which never happened on a normal day, and talked and played together.

Kids don't need a BH&G Christmas, just family.