Veteran moms know this. Newbies like me are just learning. Holidays are not truly holidays for the caregiving kind.
Let me start with a disclaimer. I know this is going to sound bad. Complaining over first world problems during the holiday season is ridiculous, and a little embarrassing. We as moms are beyond blessed to have so much love and so many little hands to take care of. I know it deep down to my core.
But this time of year, while so fun and so special, can also be hard on moms (and dads and caregivers all around.) And from the little bit I glean from other moms, who dare not voice complaints this time of year, I can read between the lines. I nodded when I saw a couple of photos a friend posted on Facebook at the end of a long, drama-filled day over the holidays. One was of the clothing and toy tornado that had hit her twin daughters’ room and the other of the pair blissfully sleeping.
I know how it feels to need a “like” or two at the end of a crazy day. The pictures told the story, but I’ll go ahead and put some words to it too, if we all agree to suspend our best behavior for a few minutes and do some therapeutic griping.
What the holidays mean to moms are no school, no preschool, no nanny help and I imagine a lot less daycare. For this stay-at-home mom of three boys ages 3, 2 and 2, it also meant less help from my mom, who lives a mile away. I’m so spoiled to have her help 95 percent of the time, but around the holidays, her attention turns to family members who are visiting from out of town. They usually stay with her, so, no, it’s not truly a holiday for her either.
That doesn’t stop me from missing her and feeling a little bratty about it, as I watch the laundry and dishes she so often helps me with pile up, and see the toys scatter, get semi-cleaned up, then scatter again.
I started the Thanksgiving holiday ready to be a mom champion. My husband was off for the week which was going to be great, but I vowed to give him leeway so it might actually feel like a vacation. And he was doing most of the cooking for Thanksgiving too. All I had to do was make a pumpkin bread, finish a few freelance writing deadlines and enjoy the boys.
Tuesday my husband and I took our boys to the library. On Wednesday we had neighborhood play group. On Thursday morning I ran the Turkey Trot – I pushed the twins, my sister and visiting brother took turns pushing my older son – to get out of the cook’s hair.
By Friday? I was pooped. While our extended family members went off to do their Black Friday shopping or took after-lunch naps, I reached the end of my rope. I had plans to go to bed early that night, so even if the house was a wreck, I would be a ray of sunshine. But somehow a seemingly simple task of finishing a spreadsheet of Christmas card addresses turned into a three-hour ordeal, and at 1 a.m. I was still at the computer, cross-eyed.
The next morning, driving around for our usual Saturday routine of breakfast out, Costco, then a visit to see my father, my husband kept asking me what was wrong. Apparently my face gave me away. “I’m just tired,” was all I could think to say, not wanting to complain and fighting back tears.
Luckily for me, my husband doesn’t need a ton of words to get the picture. After we put the twins down for a nap that day, he offered to get our oldest son down – or at least police his “quiet time” – while I went for a run. I left dirty dishes in the sink and was out the door. While I was gone, my husband got on the computer and fixed the spreadsheet. Then late that afternoon, the cavalry arrived.
With our extended family headed for home, my sister brought turkey sandwiches over for dinner. My mom offered to take our oldest to her house but when she got to mine, she started picking up toys and gathering laundry instead. She coaxed the twins down to the playroom while I got busy on the dishes.
It was in that moment, that I felt my most thankful.
Christmas is coming. It’s not going to get any easier. At least now I know what’s coming and have a better idea of how to handle it. My recommendations? Don’t be afraid to ask for help when it gets bad. Unload a dishwasher for someone you love. And hug a mom. Chances are, she can use it.