As Christmas approaches my Face Book news feed fills with pictures of lit trees; cups of cocoa staged before crackling fires; children happily decorating cookies, green frosting smeared across chubby cheeks; babies snuggled peacefully in Santa’s arms. Warm family moments captured and posted for posterity.
We all know it’s a load of crap. We all know as soon as the picture was snapped that bowl of green frosting became the center of a sibling squabble, and now your husband is repainting the kitchen because green food coloring doesn’t wash off yellow walls.
We all know your toddler started screaming the moment he saw Santa and was only persuaded to smile after you gave him a candy cane and played peek-a-boo behind the camera man.
I say that like it’s an accusation, but it’s not. Let me show you something.
Here is my current FB cover photo.
Cute right. Look again. See what’s in my son’s hand. Yup, a candy cane.
Because here’s what was happening moments before.
You’ll notice he has a candy cane in this picture too. He didn’t seem to know what to do with it, and I was so desperate to score a perfect picture, I actually shoved it into his mouth for him.
See my hand? Because, you know, when you resort to force feeding your baby candy for the sake of the camera, you haven’t crossed any sort of line.
I wanted something mantle worthy, Facebook worthy, so cue stage mom Natalie. (BTW, the baby is my new niece; I didn’t go and have another without telling you!)
But this isn’t a post about the fake and unrealistic standards pictures on social media can create. Many before me have written on that, most more eloquently than I could ever hope to be.
This also isn’t a post about how to embrace the spirit of Christmas. Because for every photo of holiday bliss filling up my media-mind there is an equal and opposite post encouraging me to remember the “reason for the season”, to slow down and enjoy, to reduce my consumerism and increase my giving. And periodically there is even a story, headlined with a picture of a perfect family, about how they reclaimed their Christmas spirit and had a stress free holiday by cancelling it altogether.
Can I be honest. The social media prescription for holiday peace is as overwhelming to me as the endless photos of perfect holiday cheer. I want all the traditions of Christmas. I want to visit Santa, and decorate trees, and hang lights, and bake cookies, and prepare guest rooms, and make a huge dinner, and remember to move the elf, and wrap presents. AND I want to do it while keeping the spirit of Christmas.
I want to do it all.
And I want to avoid a Christmas induced mental breakdown.
If you’re like me, and I bet a few of you are, Christmas falls to you. The cooking, the cleaning, the decorating, the shopping the traditions; sure everyone jumps-in and puts an ornament on the tree, but you’ve coordinated it all, and as a result Christmas feels like a heavy burden you carry until the last star has made it safely back into the box.
In a funny twist of fate, while I was writing this very post, my husband texted me a simple question. Did I sign the kids up for swim lessons. I sent him this doozie of a passive-aggressive, stressed-out response.
But it leaves me wondering, why do I take it all on myself? Why do I let myself get so stressed? Why didn’t I just ask for help in the first place?
The truth is, most of our holiday overload is self-induced. Most of us who get bogged down under holiday pressure are there because we haven’t asked (nicely, calmly, gently) anyone to help us carry the load. And I bet we haven’t asked because no one can do it as good as us, or so we believe.
So let me offer a solution. You don’t have to cancel Christmas. You don’t even have to slow down if you don’t want, but you do have to give up the idea there is perfect. And then you have to ask for, and accept, help.
Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll take my own advice!