Mums' Christmas Survival Guide.
This year will be my 26th Christmas as a mum!
Holly asked me, what advice would I give my younger self? I’ve been trawling my memory banks and this is what I came up with:
1. Christmas is comedy gold.
Forget the scented candle, the real Christmas tree or the designer gift wrap, the most important item on your Christmas list is a sense of humour. Mine frequently goes missing about noon on Christmas Day and that’s a shame as it’s the funny moments that form lasting Christmas memories. Like the time my youngest daughter Faith’s wobbly tooth was finally dispatched by a Curly Whirly from a selection box on Christmas morning before breakfast. This created a major meltdown, exacerbated by the lack of real food.
Some Christmas disasters take longer to become funny but there aren’t many that can’t be improved with a healthy dose of humour.
2. Decide what’s important to YOU.
Christmas expectations are crippling if you don’t keep an eye on yourself. I remember one year frantically stapling Christmas cards to lengths of string tied to the banister at 4pm on Christmas Eve. I was waiting for my husband to come home from work and had two small children who were beside themselves with excitement and driving me crazy.
I was obsessed with getting the cards up and I was foul. It was not one of my finest moments and it’s one I would dearly love to forget but looking back I can have more compassion for myself.
I had done all the food shopping, the present shopping and wrapping and attended endless nursery Christmas events. I just wanted my home to feel Christmassy. This was something we did when I was growing up and it was part of what I enjoyed at Christmas.
So my advice is decide what’s important for you. This isn’t about creating the perfect Christmas and meeting unrealistic expectations inflated by retailers. It’s about finding your Christmas feeling and identifying what gives you that. It might be cooking, or finding the perfect Christmas gifts or a fabulous outfit or decorating the house. It doesn’t matter, there’s no judgement here.
The only caveat is choose one thing and put that top of your list. Don’t wait until Christmas Eve when the shops are about to close and you are too exhausted to tick if off. The other stuff will get done, it always does, so make sure you do what brings you joy too.
3. Expect the unexpected.
I am pretty organised. By the end of the first week of December I usually have a list of my Christmas lists but every year without fail, Christmas seems to throw me a curve ball. Despite what the adverts would have us believe, chaos is part of family life. We only torture ourselves imagining that every other family in the country can get through Christmas without an incident.
Some are annoying, like the year Patrick, accidentally pushed a table into a window on Christmas Eve, and broke it. Almost as annoying as the time he decided to dismantle his cabin bed while sitting on it on Mother’s Day.
Some are upsetting, like the year my brother’s legs seized and they couldn’t get him downstairs to visit us for lunch.
And some are surprisingly lovely. One of the best Christmases for me was the year after I separated from my husband. We all got together for Christmas Day and it was just the 5 of us. This could have been a recipe for disaster and many people were expecting it to be so but we all had a lovely time. We weren’t trying to be a happy family anymore. Bizarrely, this meant we were all happy.
So make the lists, have the plans and then trust.
4. It’s not just about Christmas Day.
Some of my fondest memories are of things that didn’t happen on Christmas Day. Watching Dirty Dancing with Faith late one night after Christmas, sitting in a cafe with Holly on Christmas Eve before we picked up the turkey and an impromptu game of charades on Christmas Eve.
Christmas magic can show up anytime and anywhere and the more present you are the more you will find. Don’t let your expectations about what Christmas should be like stop you enjoying what shows up.
5. Buy yourself a bravery present.
One of my favourite times is the period between Christmas and New Year. All the Christmas fuss has died down and we aren’t expected to venture into the world yet. A few years ago I began to buy myself a gift to enjoy during that time.
One year I bought a set of bath oils, another year a book I had been wanting to read. It was lovely to know that there was a treat waiting for me the other side.
This was one of the reasons I wanted to create The Winter Retreat. With nine soulful exercises to take you through our self-care grid, it’s the perfect way to look after yourself when you’ve finished looking after everyone else. Tuck it away in a drawer and it will be waiting for you when it’s all over.