The Festive ‘Motherload’ Has Never Been Heavier – Here’s How To Lighten It

From Elf on the Shelf to Christmas Eve boxes, mums are shouldering a heavier load of Christmas cheer than ever before

Festive motherload

by Jo Dunbar |
Updated on

As if the build up to Christmas wasn’t fraught enough, with diaries filling up, nativity costumes to buy, and all the pre-Christmas prep (including securing that all important supermarket delivery slot), some newer Christmas traditions have started to creep in. They might be wonderful for the children, but who is picking up the slack? More often than not it’s us mothers who are expected to deliver the magic and accept a bumper-load of guilt if we don’t indulge in whichever memory-making activity has been decreed as the newest way to start Christmas celebrations.

Elf on the bloody shelf

The Elf on the Shelf craze has been around for a number of years. It always seems fairly good fun until about mid way through December, at which point we begin cursing its existence. Any novelty value evaporates, half the time my kids don’t even notice where Ernie, our resident elf, has been parked, and it’s generally mums dragging themselves out of bed at 11pm (after suddenly remembering to move the elf) and scampering around in the dark trying to find somewhere new to shove the cursed elf.

Cosy tradition or costly chore?

Another festive import we’re now supposed to be embracing is Christmas Eve boxes. That’s right, something else to do on December 24th, in between travelling to see relatives, wrapping 74 gifts, or preparing for the biggest meal of the year. Loosely based on the German tradition of exchanging gifts on December 24th, some believe Christmas Eve boxes help smaller children with their pre-Christmas excitement or provide some added festive joy. Whereas I simply see them as something else to source, wrap and pay for, and they’re also filled with yet more plastic that I’ll have to find a home for in January. Instead, I think with Christmas stockings merely hours away, learning to wait a bit longer won’t harm the kids. But the trend shows no signs of vanishing and so remains on many festive to-do lists on what is a parent’s most busiest day of the year.

Santa dash

It’s not new but meeting Father Christmas has now become such a sought-after – and increasingly expensive – experience that has us sharpening our virtual elbows well before December and parting with a lot of cash. I’m guilty of this one: determined to provide a Santa experience while my kids are both young enough to still believe in the magic, I glued myself to my laptop and was rewarded with a 9am outing to meet the man himself. How festive. If you didn’t secure the Santa slot, the race is on to scour garden centre and department store websites until you can queue up to give your kids the perfect festive treat.

What a load of baubles

Buying a Christmas tree used to be a simple transaction, but we appear to have adopted a trend for turning procuring a tree into an Instagram-worthy family event. How anyone can describe standing outside in freezing weather, paying over the odds for a Nordic Fir and getting pine needles all over the car as a festive experience is beyond me. I suppose the Hallmark ideal is supposed to be a smiling family all in matching Fair Isle jumpers frolicking in a forest of perfect pine trees, when in reality, who actually has fun choosing a Christmas tree? No one ever agrees, the journey home is excruciating, and it surely goes against all our climate-friendly ideals, especially if there’s an artificial tree in the loft at home.

Plating up a picture perfect dinner

Christmas Day lunch is probably one of the most high-pressure meals of the year. Up there only with baking and decorating your child’s birthday cake, Operation Christmas Dinner often falls to us mums. Yes, plenty of us pass on or share the cooking on the big day and I’ll happy thrust a potato peeler at anyone who comes within 10 feet of the kitchen. But ordering the meat? Securing a supermarket delivery slot? Crackers? Mince pies? Bread sauce (that no one will eat)? That’s often a mum’s job. And as well as cooking and timing the lunch there’s a new requirement to make the table look beautiful, too, with table scaping leaping out of Pinterest and onto our dining tables. It’s no longer enough to feed your guests, you’re also supposed to deliver an ambience and even a theme, all the time while asking your children to use a spoon rather than their hands, to serve the roast potatoes, and ensuring the toddler’s cup doesn’t get knocked over. Pass the wine, please.

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