When I was a little girl, my standard response to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was Wonder Woman. This was at the height of the character’s popularity. I loved her on TV (yes, I’m dating myself) and in comics. She could do anything, and of course she was beautiful.
There is no busier time of year than the holidays, and at the risk of making a sweeping generalization, it’s particularly busy for women. I know no men in any households that stress over as much holiday stuff as their female counterparts. The gifts… not just for immediate family but all sorts of acquaintances, teachers, employees. The house… not just clean vs. dirty but plain vs. cutesied up with all sorts of decoration. The other day I saw a post in one of my women physician Facebook groups that went something like this (paraphrased): “I need to outsource Christmas! I have no tree, no gifts, no cards, no advent calendars, no special pajamas, no family picture, no lights up. I’m screwed.”
Most of the responses were in commiseration. My comment was, “What if you picked just 1-2 of the things on your list that matter to you and your family the most. Ask them to help you, and forget the rest. You don’t need all those things to have the holiday spirit.”
I looked over at my 3 ft tall fake tree on the table with only one garland and a few (non-breakable) ornaments but no gifts yet underneath. My bare window sill. The cards I ordered sitting in their sleeve unopened… Then I turned my gaze to my toddler coloring at her little table. I got out my scissors and walked over. “Have you ever seen anyone make a snowflake out of paper?” I said. “I want to learn how to cut!” she said. The snowflake project ensued, and boom… Christmas decorations.
There’s precious little time left before Christmas, so just say no to being the “Wonder Woman”. What is this season all about to you? What traditions bring you the most joy? That’s what you should focus on, and ignore those urges for comparison and perfectionism. Take a couple of non-essential to-dos off your plate. For example, my Christmas joys are food and family time. We invite family into our home, and we often travel to see people this month. Even if it’s just our small nuclear family, we make a home-cooked meal of leg of lamb or whole chicken with other holiday comfort foods for Christmas day. We don’t do elaborate decorations. My husband doesn’t care about them, and my child just wants to fiddle with them (and break them). We go fairly minimal with gifts: only 1-2 items given per person, no big Santa extravaganzas. We try to buy as many gifts for extended family (all in different states) as we can on Amazon so they can just be directly shipped. No wrapping, no schlepping to the post office. And all the adult siblings decided collectively to not give each other gifts so we can focus on the children. Regarding parties, this year I chose to go to a couple smaller get-togethers that had attendees I really wanted to see and politely said no to the rest (particularly the more formal ones that required special clothing and babysitters).
The other piece of this is expectations. Be honest about your non-negotiables, but respect that others have their own priorities. If it doesn’t feel like Christmas unless you dress up and go see The Nutcracker, then make it known and say no to another event (or two). If you love holiday decorating but no one else in your family feels quite as passionate, do it yourself (I’ve done it) but delegate or outsource the Christmas meal. I used to have very specific expectations for how things should go on holidays or birthdays. No more… I let go of perfect, and I accepted that other people (even people who love me) have different levels of holiday interest. And nothing brings this into sharper focus than the blank canvas of a toddler’s mind: zero expectations or assumptions about Christmas. The only things she associates with Christmas so far are trees and presents. Nowadays, I have no interest in being Wonder Woman. Not now or any other time of year. I cannot do it all, all the time, while appearing perfect.
What are you focusing on this holiday?