Christmas, Thank You Sweet Baby Jesus, is finally over.
All the guests have gone home, TO THEIR OWN HOMES, and your house is finally empty. Except for your kids—they remain. You couldn’t convince any of the guests to take them. Which you sort of understand—they really are impossible creatures.
The stockings hang flaccid on the mantle, underneath the tree is barren, filled only with piles of dead pine needles. The fridge is stocked with leftover turkey and stuffing and an entire plate of your Great Aunt Bernice’s Christmas Jello-Mold. Every year she takes the contents of her cupboards and dumps them into the gelatin with a sort of sadistic glee. Last year it was water chestnuts, raisins and tuna fish molded into the shape of a wreath. This year it appears—and you can’t be entirely sure—-to be a Lime Jello and Corned beef hash combination, molded into a horrendous iteration of a Holiday Bell. Ring-a-ding-ding.
The presents were opened exactly 47 hours ago and your children, your sweet gracious children, are already really really bored. There’s nothing to DO! They cry from their despondent post on the living room floor, barely able to lift their heads from their apathy. I’ll give you something to do, you want to tell them, threateningly, but you aren’t even sure what that means. So you just glare menacingly from the couch and throw pop-tarts at them like the caretakers throw fish at the seals at Sea World. Eat, creatures. Eat.
As you snag errant strands of tinsel from the carpet, you curse the biggest lie ever written, which appears on the package of every children’s toy: Easy To Assemble. Just forty-seven more steps and this Star Wars Snow Speeder will be finished. That’s about 14 hours of your son standing over your shoulder, stickily demanding to know “how much longer” it’s going to take, while you rue the day you that you decided English was the “perfect” college degree to pursue.
Does anyone want to know what your kids got this year for Christmas? A new Kindle, some fancy makeup kits, large boxes of Legos that are going to be built one time and then abandoned like medieval torture devices on the floor. They got fancy Japanese candy that “Santa” ordered from Amazon IN SEPTEMBER. They got leggings and jeggings and Tom Brady pom-pom hats. They got memories. Wonderful, beautiful memories.
Do you know what you got this year? A bottle of orange nail polish. And a slightly smashed bag of Dove dark chocolate. Except your son ate it ALL before you could even have one itty-bitty morsel. You also got a hangover, because you had to drink just to survive the knowledge that all the kids were going to be home from school for two long weeks. You got papercuts from wrapping four hundred and sixty three presents with the cheap wrapping paper your husband bought you when he offered to “help out” by going to the store. You got fourteen headaches from the repetitive wailing of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You (to stop singing that fucking song). You got pissed off because the UPS guy repeatedly stacks your packages in a Jenga like tower, with the biggest and heaviest ones on the top. You might not care if the UPS dude was actually hot, but instead he looks exactly like your third grade teacher, Mr. Radant. Complete with horned rim glasses and angry snarl.
Somewhere, a young bride is celebrating Christmas with a neatly wrapped package from a Jeweler and a card embossed with the touching phrase, For You, Wife, on our first holiday together. There are tears in her eyes as she takes the top off the box and sees a small heart shaped locket, with her initials engraved inside. Next year, at this time, we could be welcoming a little bundle of joy, she whispers. Her husband nods, hopefully, his eyes shining.
Meanwhile, you’re over here looking down the barrel of a masking taped and festively decorated shoebox, filled with a Snowman that your second grader made from a sweatsock. It’s cute, really. It’s sweet. Everyone knows that things that are handmade and free and drawn with magic marker are way nicer than stuff that comes from the mall. Just ask Amish people. And your creepy neighbor who knits you a “muff” every year for your birthday.
A muff. Now, that’s a gift.
Anyway, you also got that nail polish. Which is great, because orange is a really flattering color on you, what with your pasty Michigan skin, whiter than usual in the cold, barren frost of December. Do you have hypothermia? You imagine a concerned cashier asking as you rush inside to pay for your gas. Hypothermia? What? Oh you mean my hands. My nails. No, that’s a present. My fingers are filled to the brim with Christmas Joy.
Let’s cut to the chase, here, mom. You’re not fooling anyone with that faux Christmas cheer and three layer of under eye concealer. Let’s instead openly acknowledge the slightly terrifying stuffed elephant in the room: Christmas, for moms of young children, is SO MUCH WORK and quite often—not a lot of fun. It’s costly, exhausting, and overwhelming. There’s a lot of pressure on moms, on a average day, to find a way to meet the needs of her family while balancing the needs of herself. During the holidays, this pressure is magnified ten fold. All over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are perfect Christmases, with perfect children in perfectly matching Christmas pajamas, beaming for the camera.
Do you know who is holding the camera, taking that photo in between swigs of a gin and tonic?
A haggard, ghostly woman in orange nail polish.
You. You’re taking the picture. Because if you were actually in the photo, the image of the perfect holiday scene would be ruined.
You’ve had to let yourself go more than usual while you focused on providing an adequate amount of Christmas cheer to your family. Two months without a haircut and root touchups and with only rare, quick showers has left you looking even more matronly and disheveled than usual. And is that a whisker on your chin? You should really do something about that. It’s not exactly festive.
And that is what the holidays should be about: sharing a festive time with your beautiful family all around you.
Except for you. Not so fast, there, Whiskers.
You’ve got to be the one to clean this joint up. Wrapping paper and red plastic cups everywhere. You need to carry the toys up to the kids rooms and remove all of last years presents that they never played with.
Oh and bad news—you should really start getting ready. There’s no rest for the weary, mom. Time is money—and you don’t have much of either.
After all, the Easter Bunny is coming in 4 months and those plastic eggs sure aren’t going to fill themselves.