Do you ever dread that question: “what are you doing for Christmas?”
Sometimes it’s a hard question to answer when you’re aware of expectations around Christmas. It “should” be a happy time. It “should” be family time. It “should” be fun. For many people Christmas can be a sad time, or a lonely time, or a time riven with stress and conflict. People may dread Christmas for many reasons and the innocent question about their plans can underline to them how their Christmas differs from the greeting card image.
So what are the ways to deal with a sense of dread at this time of year?
- Remind yourself that Christmas card images are just that – images
It is easy to compare our circumstances to what we imagine other people and other families will be doing. We think everyone else will be surrounded by happy family and friends. In fact for many people Christmas is not like that. Christmas is not the idyllic family time that the adverts and the magazine features try to sell.
- Release your expectations for a perfect Christmas
Perfectionism can show up in different ways at Christmas, such as:
- Spending too much money on too many gifts
- Stress in trying to create a traditional Christmas dinner
- Pressure on our family and ourselves to feel happy or to behave in certain ways
If we can let go of the way we think Christmas “should be” it gives us and those around us the freedom to relax and be normal. It allows us all just to be, to muddle through, to have fun and to create our own traditions. It acknowledges that we are all human and if things go wrong we are able to cope. It can mean we’ll be more tolerant of Grumpy Grandad, the Truculent Teen, or even ourselves.
It may also help us if Christmas includes the sadness of bereavement or the pain of divorce. Acknowledging that Christmas can be difficult can take away the pressure to enjoy it. If we do not resist the grief we may find that there are small moments when the heaviness lifts and we can find a smile.
- Decide what will be meaningful for you this Christmas
Letting go of the “Christmas should be’s” enables us to decide what we want Christmas to be for us. We may be unable to change our circumstances or the people surrounding us, but we can choose how to respond to them. Part of this can be deciding how we want to be at Christmas:
- what are our values and how best can we express them at Christmas?
- what memories do we want to build?
- how are we creating space for a meaningful Christmas?
It might be helpful to sit down for a few moments and really consider what is important to you this Christmas. This will help you to focus your attention and your commitments to choose what you want for yourself and your family. It means you can feel less guilty about not doing those things that are not important to you.
- Do what brings you joy
When we let go of perfectionism and our need to seek approval, it releases creativity within us. For example, letting go of the “I should be able to buy an expensive present” means I have the space to think creatively about how to give someone something of value that doesn’t cost a lot.
Rather than seeking to please others with our Christmas preparations we can choose to do those things that fulfil us. For some, creating a beautiful dressed dining table brings real delight. For others it is a burden best avoided. Likewise with the cooking. Some people love nothing better than creative hours in the kitchen and the satisfaction of feeding their loved ones. For others this is nothing short of a chore. Each of us has our own gifts and when we let go of the ways we think we should be as mothers, we are then able to be the unique mothers that we are. We are able to create Christmas traditions that play to our particular skills.
- And Delegate
One mother told me recently how she’d forgotten to ice her Christmas cake so she delegated the task to her two small boys. It is now a Christmas tradition for her grown up sons to decorate the cake.
By concentrating on the things we’re good at, and delegating where possible, we release ourselves and others to shine. That’s got to be good for Christmas.
You can watch the video I made about this here (if you're reading this by email and the link doesn't work, visit www.thegoodenoughmum.com/blog):