For many moms, Black Friday kicked off not only the Christmas shopping season, but the season of overload: too much to do and too little merriment.
Family calendars swell with social obligations—work Christmas parties, neighborhood cookie swaps, school Christmas plays (with socials afterwards), and generic “holiday” events hosted by nearly every group on your email list.
Credit cards climb towards their limits; discounts, sales, and urgent offers induce us to spend more than we ought. (But what can we do when the list of people to whom we “owe” presents seems almost as long as Santa’s own list?) And then there’s the shopping itself: whether online or in stores, our available time shrinks, shrivels, and disappears as the “to buy” list lengthens. In the meantime, school, work, and normal family commitments continue apace.
The result is predictable: stress boots mom’s happiness right out the window. And the race to “get it all done” by Christmas leaves family relationships choking in the dust.
Been there? I think we all have. So what’s to be done?
See the problem for what it is: it’s not “the Christmas season” that creates our stress. It’s our own unrealistic expectations, coupled with the hazards of multitasking.
First, multi-tasking. For working moms, especially, multitasking at home generates unhappiness. New research shows that in dual-earner households, dads and moms spend near equal time on work and family tasks, but women multi-task more often at home—and it makes them unhappy. The Michigan State study found that men more easily focus their energies at home, enjoying their children: “unlike moms, dads … were more focused when in charge of their kids.” Other research shows “that fathers are more likely than mothers to engage with their children in ‘interactive activities’ that are ‘more pleasurable than routine child care tasks.’”
Moms, in contrast, juggle family management tasks, such as errands, shopping, carpools, and school activities, as a way to spend time with their children. Too much multi-tasking, however, and mom may rob herself of the joy that emerges at child-speed, from laughing, playing and simply enjoying her children.