There is a moment every Christmas, where everything just gets a bit too much. The moment when the to-do list suddenly feels too long; when the pressure to be perfect is too intense; when the hustle and bustle of the festive season feels too overwhelming. There is a moment when suddenly the bubble pops and Mummy snaps.
My meltdown moment. It happens every year. No matter how hard I try to resist the pressure to make Christmas perfect, no matter how much I tell myself that it really doesn’t matter if third-cousin-several-times-removed Mabel doesn’t get a Christmas card this year – every year I succumb to desire to make Christmas magical and perfect – and just too much.
It doesn’t make Christmas magical. It makes Christmas – or at least the run-up to it – miserable. I want to enjoy the festive season, I want to relax, to have fun, to soak up the sparkle and recapture the magic that Christmas held when I was a child. I don’t want to be the grumpy mummy crying in the corner in the kitchen. The one who feels like she’s turned into Scrooge all of a sudden.
I know that the most important thing about Christmas is that we are together and enjoying time as a family. That the true meaning of Christmas is love and hope. It’s not about mountains of presents and piles of cards and stressful shopping trips on Christmas Eve. I know that Christmas can still hold magic even in challenging circumstances – even if the magic isn’t always so easy to find.
There have been many challenging Christmases past. The Christmas where my dad passed away in the run-up to Christmas, the one where I was suddenly and unexpectedly made redundant two weeks before Christmas. Our first Christmas as a family spent in hospital. Each of those Christmases taught me that togetherness is what matters – not the trimmings. So why do I still succumb to the pressure each year?
The trouble is, Christmas is like a magnifying glass. The stress of the season can highlight the fractured points in our relationships. The little niggles and minor irritations suddenly become blown out of all proportion. It can intensify loneliness. That feeling of being on the outside looking in is more intense at Christmas than any other time. I know I am lucky. I am not alone at Christmas, I have a roof over my head and food to eat, a safe place to sleep. Yet for a short period of time, I appreciate none of these things. I forget my blessings, the things that are good in my life and let the stress, and the wants, and the negativity take over. This isn’t right, this hasn’t been done, this needs to happen… WHY IS EVERYTHING ALL DOWN TO ME??!!
On the plus side, the one good thing about the meltdown moment is the clarity that follows it. It’s the turning point for me. Once the tears and the tantrums have subsided, there is calm and the realisation that none of the things that have been stressing me out really matter all that much. I just wish I could remember that before I become overwhelmed by it all!