I saw a young man on the bus yesterday wearing a “Christmas Shack” t-shirt. It took me a minute, but I soon realised he was on his way to work. At the Christmas Shack. Which means the festive season – God help us – is on its way.
This isn’t a rant about how early shops start promoting tinsel and tacky gifts (but it so easily could be) this is a rant about how, once again, I am the one who has to bend over backwards to make sure Christmas works – for everyone.
In this case, that includes my ex-husband, three daughters, grandchildren… oh, and me. Because damned if I’m going to miss out on spending those precious Christmas morning moments anywhere other than with my grandbabies.
As our entire family lives scattered across the Eastern seaboard, this is going to take some serious planning. And cost, too. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Christmas surcharge has already been slapped on all flights in December and early January, so unless you want to fly to Canberra on Christmas Day, you’d better book now.
I used to think Christmas was hard when I had three small children, a reasonably useless husband and 25 people coming for lunch but, even though I have finally learnt that it’s okay to just buy a damned pudding instead of making one from scratch, I find it extremely complicated now that there are adult children’s expectations to be managed, their partners’ families to consider and distance to be travelled.
So we’ve started making tentative plans and thus far they involve three Christmas lunches held on different days.
Aside from juggling family commitments, the trouble is my kids and their partners work so hard. There is a level of expectation that Grandma will save the day by rushing in at the last minute to help out with childcare or organising Christmas in those mad, mad days before the actual event.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t resent this, in fact, I love that I am in a position to help. But for all three children? I know already, in September, that I’ll be spreading myself too thin.
I’m not alone in feeling stressed out about Christmas. Last year, Relationship Australia released survey results that were, I suppose, designed to reassure us that we’re not losing our minds, we’re merely under the influence of Christmas-Induced panic.
The survey showed that close to 40 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women experience stress related to spending time with extended family, including in-laws at Christmas. Money, childcare, work pressures and relationships between family members were all factors that contributed to pre-Christmas stress.
For grandparents, the stresses are unique and can range from financial to personal. Speaking to my friends I know I’m not the only one who feels torn at this time of year. I’m just lucky enough to still be working and have the ability to jet around the country during the most expensive season in an attempt to fit it all in. Others aren’t so fortunate and some of the stories they have to tell about expectations from their families, well, let’s just say, they’re steep.
Are you in planning mode for Christmas? Do you find it stressful? What worries you the most?