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Here is a little story about my holiday season last year. For reasons that seemed completely reasonable and logical at the time, I unilaterally decided that I was going to take on ALL of the holiday tasks for the whole family. While gifting and holiday magic is generally more of my thing than my husband’s, in previous years we split tasks. Because I told myself my husband was too busy with some other work, I decided I was going to “own” everything. The planning, purchasing, and wrapping of gifts for all the kids and grandparents for Christmas (which we celebrate because my husband is not Jewish) and Hanukkah. The selection and execution of gifts for teachers and caregivers. The suggesting and coordinating of gifts for the grandparents to buy the kids.
On top of that, we had a week-long trip arriving back home on Christmas Eve, so in addition to the major troop movement of taking a group of seven to Florida, ordering groceries for the rental house, and packing toddler-appropriate gear, all Christmas prep had to be completed by December 17th. By the end of the holidays, I was burned out and resentful. My husband felt excluded from the fun of holiday magic by my fierce declaration that I was handling everything. It was not a joyous season.
This familiar tale of gendered drama probably plays out in millions of families, and the holidays can often feel particularly high stakes. But looking back on it, I kind of can’t believe that I beautifully set up this trap and then walked right into it. Me! Whose life’s work is talking about gender equity in the home? Me! Who rails against social expectations on mothers? Me! Who used to host events called the F*ck Mom Guilt World Tour? Yes, readers, me. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
That’s why instead of calling this “the holiday season,” I’m now calling it “the season of dramatically lowered expectations.” Probably from a combination of learning my lesson from last year and my new 40-year-old chill vibes, complete with the regular mantra reminding myself “I can’t have it all,” I’m taking a new tact. My relationship with lowered expectations got a wonderful kickstart in early November during a family photo session that will certainly become part of the family legend for the epic lack of cooperation displayed by our children.
From there, when some of the string lights for the Christmas tree were burned out, I shrugged, and we put that part towards the back. This year are going on a much shorter 3-hour drive trip for three days that requires way less packing and no grocery planning. Two days before December 1st, my husband and I discussed in-depth who is handling holiday tasks, so we now each have our assignments and plenty of time to complete them. I am doing more things around kid gifts, but it’s stuff I like and there’s plenty off my plate this year. We never do Christmas cards, and this year is no different. For friend and hostess gifts, I’m making an extremely easy-to-make chili flake oil in ball jars with a Happy Holidays sticker slapped on it.
My goals for December are having a few nice memory-making experiences, and the kids enjoying their gifts. THAT’S IT. If you start to get overwhelmed by tasks, I highly recommend this video for simple holiday hacks for a stress-free season. 🤣🤣🤣🤣 And if you are feeling any angst about your home not being "holiday ready" like you see in magazines and on Instagram, please enjoy this newsletter from Claire over at Evil Witches that I promise will have you Loling.
I wish all of you, my dear Double Shifters, a peaceful season. For this week’s members-only thread, I’ll be asking, “What expectations are YOU letting go of around the holidays?”
Anyone becoming a new member I consider to be a wonderful gift to me!
That’s it from me for the year! I’ll be taking the next few weeks off from the newsletter to go at a slower pace and dream up some good stuff for next year.
Buy: If you are looking for a gift to suggest that someone else buy for you, I made a Bookshop.org storefront of all the books I mentioned and recommended this year in the newsletter. I receive a small affiliate commission if you buy through this storefront. Enjoy!
Read: Also, I loved how this interview with Allison Lichter turned our for her wonderful newsletter, Matriarchy Report. She had great questions about my care playbook, and framed the tactics as the eight gifts we should give caregivers! What do caregivers deserve more than a major care transformation?!