Being a parent carries a lot of mental load: “I must remember to make an appointment at the dentist for Joe”“Mel needs to wear red socks to school tomorrow”, “It is Sophie’s birthday next week, I need to organize the balloons”, “ I need to leave work early on Thursday because it is Peter’s parents’ evening” and on and on it goes. The to-do list is never ending! This is the mental load of being a parent. It is described as the thinking, planning, scheduling, and organizing of family members, and the emotional labour associated with this work. 

I am talking about the mental load of parents but to be fair, in most households this mental load is carried by mothers. It is not me saying this (don’t shoot the messenger), research shows that even when women work similar hours and earn the same or even more than their male partners, they still have a second shift taking care of the house and the children. Because usually when fathers help, they are doing just that: Helping. The woman is still the one that needs to keep all the balls in the air and ask for help. 

I don’t want to sound like the grinch, but the reality is that during Christmas our mental load increases. And depending on how ‘seriously’ you take Christmas it can increase by a lot! Decorations, visiting family (and negotiating family politics and dynamics), organizing (and cooking) meals (considering dietary requirements of half the family), present-buying (don’t forget the wrapping), attending school nativities (for which you have hand-made the perfect shepherd’s costume all on your own and from scratch), organizing Christmassy plans, card-writing, and volunteering at the school’s Christmas fair … And you must do all these while juggling work, taking care of the kids (while they are on holidays), and don’t forget to enjoy yourself and be utterly happy and charming! For many families, financial issues can be an extra concern. It can be a lot, right?

If this is how you feel every single Christmas, my proposal to you for this year is to stop and think about your priorities. It is great that you want to create a special holiday for everyone around you, but you also need to enjoy yourself and if possible, get some rest. How do we do this?

  • Learn to say NO. And say no without feeling guilty or bad. If you are asked to take things on that you simply don’t have the time for or don’t want to do, say so. Learning to say no is a skill that we all need to develop. The more you say it, the better you become at it!
  • Think what is important for you and what is not. Ditch things that are not important. In my case, I totally refuse to write Christmas cards. Have never done it. I don’t want to spend hours on end writing, sticking, asking for addresses … 
  • Share the load with the rest of the family. And I mean sharing the load, not just simply asking them to help. Delegate tasks to other members of the family. However, this means that if you don’t like how they do it, you need to keep quiet!
  • Stay away from social media. If you are feeling stressed those impeccably curated images of Christmas perfection will only make you feel worse. They are part of what makes us feel overwhelmed in the first place. 
  • Finally, the most important one: your children don’t need the perfect Christmas organized by the perfect but tired and stressed mum. Your children want to spend time with you, they want to laugh and play and chat. They don’t care if the decorations are absolutely perfect or how many Christmas cards you wrote. They won’t remember that. They will remember the good times they had with you during Christmas and that you made them feel loved and special. That is the meaning of Christmas. 

Whatever you are doing over Christmas, we wish you and your family a wonderful time. At REC Parenting we will be here to support you, should you need it. You can always get in touch with us at hello@recparenting.com

Much love, 

Ana and the REC Parenting Team

Registered in England & Wales. Company No.13460950. Registered office Salatin House, 19 Cedar Road, Sutton, SM2 5DA, United Kingdom

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