Here's a little secret between you and me: Some days, I hate Christmas.
It's not the kind of admission someone yells while running through the town center of Bedford Falls. It's not something one's proud to share with anyone, ever, unless you're game for being stoned by a gang of elves. ("It's not about you!" "I feel sorry for your children!")
But in my defense, I know I'm not alone in allowing that Christmas (I'm talking about the whole season, not just December 25th) can have its darker moments. There's the sheer work of the shopping and the wrapping that falls largely (okay, solely) to the women of the family. There's the expense. And for every perfect classic like "White Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," there's the danger of running into the teeth-gnashingly bad "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Funky, Funky Xmas." (New Kids on the Block. Don't tell me you missed it!)
When seemingly everything around you is wrapped in green and red and white lights, sending the message that you should be happy and joyful, it can feel especially lonely to have moments where you feel like an odd Grinch out. (I have a friend who said about this time last year, "The next person who asks me to contribute to a group gift gets punched in the face.")
So many people struggle this time of year. For me, it's about family. My Christmases have gotten tremendously better since I became a mom, as children are always a joyous distraction from residual holiday sadness, which for me is the fact that it's been a very long time since I had Christmas with my parents (hopefully now watching over my munchkins from above). I have friends who are having hard holiday seasons for their own reasons: a recent personal loss, a sick family member, unemployment, the fresh pain of divorce.
It's always helpful to me at Christmas to remember I'm not alone. That's why I like this story in Parents by Hallie Levine so much, "You're Doing the Holidays Wrong." No matter where you fall on the stress-o-meter at Christmas, you'll find practical advice to get you through, and even enjoy this magical season a little more. My favorite tip is at the end: "Ultimately, when it comes to the holidays, it's all about finding the moments—and new ways—to cherish and love one another."
The moments. For me, they will include hearing my son play bass beautifully in his orchestra holiday concert; singing "Auld Lang Syne" with my daughter and our community inside a white church on a winter's night; and smiling every time my 4-year-old mixes up the lyrics from the commercial "The Hess Truck's Here." (She thinks it's "The hash brown's here.")
If you're feeling seriously sad this time of year, I hope you have the courage to seek help.
If you are hanging in and pushing toward the finish line, see if you can scale back on the stressful, dare-I-say-unnecessary stuff. Really, so what if you don't have the energy to create elaborate Elf on the Shelf shenanigans involving flour and toilet paper and costume changes every night? All the more power to those moms who happily do that, but just because you don't, you are not a "bad mom." (Kids are super-happy just to bound down the stairs and see where he moved from the night before, right?) Most of all, with so much going on in the world, I hope you find and feel your own small moments of peace.
Chin up, mamas.
The hash brown's (almost) here.
Gail O'Connor is Senior Editor for Parents and a mom of three.