ONE of the many things I have learnt since becoming a mum almost five years ago is that Christmas as a mother of small children can, quite frankly, stink.
Just when you think that the act of keeping small children alive can be tiring enough, Christmas hits young families like a tonne of bricks. Festive celebrations, travel, late nights, kids out of routine, way too much wine, sugar, shopping, cooking and all the work involved with leading up to the day has meant that Christmas becomes a lot of extra hard work and tantrums.
In my experience, it is predominantly women in families who are the owners of Christmas traditions, the ones who put the energy into baking the mince pies according to nan’s recipe, who execute the Christmas gift lists, decorate and help bring the specialness to the season.
I thank my own darling mum, for making Christmas magical and meaningful my entire life. I’m only just realising how hard you work to give us all joy and create our family traditions.
My husband has his own funny little tradition in which he takes it upon himself to find a moment on Christmas Day to sneak out and buy me a card. I never notice he’s slipped away but he somehow finds an open supermarket, chooses the tackiest card there and writes the most beautiful words to me. It cracks me up that he keeps challenging himself to source a card on the day, but the messages inside are worth it.
Last year we both managed to get each other a card – I bought him an overpriced, cheesy “to-my-husband-at-Christmas-time” card-shop special, and he had again pulled off the great Christmas dash for mine.
But we both forgot during the busy day to write on our cards. We laughed that night when we both confessed to not writing on them, so we exchanged blank cards. We have been using our cards as bookmarks all year. I feel there’s a certain level of symbolism in the blank cards as to our state of minds last year! I wonder if we will now create a new tradition where we simply give each other the same blank cards every year.
Another “tradition” is the annual family Santa photo. Before having kids, I would have rolled my eyes but, yes, much to my former self’s horror, this is now a big thing and I love our collection of Santa photos on the fridge door.
The year before last, we were under pressure with finishing work for the year and could only manage to do our Santa photo on Christmas Eve. My family desperately bolted into the city to join the line of last-minute people, only to see the dreaded sign: “Santa will be feeding his reindeer and taking a break for one hour”. It wasn’t going to work, the baby would have to go home for a nap, the toddler would have gone bananas waiting and the idea of coming back for the photo was more than I could bear.
It was going to be the Worst. Christmas. Ever.
My mum, bless her, was with us to help wrangle the children through the shops and fronted up to Santa’s helpers and pleaded and cajoled with them to sneak us through before his break.
It was a Christmas Miracle!
We got the photo done with all of us smiling with the big guy in the red suit. Hurray! But afterwards one of us had a big melt down, and it wasn’t the kids!
Yes, I was the tired, frazzled new mum who burst into tears in the middle of the food court and made a huge scene. I can laugh about it now but at the time, it all felt like too much.
Mum again came to my rescue and gave me the best gift that year. With a big hug, she told me to go home for a nap. Despite all the work she had to do, glazing the ham, wrapping gifts, the final grocery shop, she took the little ones off my hands so I could rest.
That was the second Christmas miracle that day!
And, so for anyone wondering what to give a new mum for Christmas, I can tell you the gift of sleep and support is the best present she could ever receive.
Please, be kind to mothers this Christmas.