Christmas isn't about presents, it's about getting to love people. That's how my four-year-old put it, after watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas the other night. She wanted reassurance that “we still get presents, right?” and added that it was also “Jesus's birthday”—a sometimes overlooked aspect of the secular celebration that dominates the U.S. and Western world.
Yet rather than complain about the commercialization of Christmas or any lost religiosity, it's worth celebrating that this core aspect of the Christmas message—the importance of loving the people around us, in spite of their flaws, and committing to sacrifice for them—still seeps through.
The “in spite of their flaws” bit is worth lingering on. The holiday season may be a joyous time, but it's also stressful for many. Family get-togethers can bring out tensions. The many duties of the Christmas seasons—getting the decorations up, making cookies for kids' holiday parties, purchasing, wrapping, and sending all the presents and cards—can become overwhelming. Unrealistic expectations for the joy of the holiday, the idea that we should bask in perfect familial harmony while sipping hot cocoa in front of the fireplace as a light snow falls outside our window, are also a burden.
Recognizing how romanticized images can diminish real life joy seems a critical step to enjoying the holidays...and life in general. A recent article by Parenting.com's Martha Brockenbrough, entitled “Why We Get Mad at Our Husbands,” suggests American women may particularly benefit from a reset of expectations.
Brockenbrough details the anger that plagues many married women with children, who are consistently disappointed by their spouses' inadequacies. She reports “46 percent of moms get irate with their husbands once a week or more.” For about one-in-ten, the anger is “deep and long-lasting,” rather than intense but fleeting. Top complaints center around dads not doing their fair share. Women are frustrated that men wait for instructions on what needs to be done, rather than notice on their own, and then often fail to carry out tasks properly. Women with the youngest children and those with multiple kids tend to be the angriest.
Brockenbrough closes by noting that 60 percent of moms “don't tell their friends what they're going through, or they make light of it.” She encourages women to discuss their anger more, not just with their friends but with their husbands, presumably in hopes of leading to a change of behavior, or in her words to make them “more like us.”