This week’s Thoroughly Modern Mammy column for Donegal Woman is an updates post on Christmas Survival for the Mary of the Poppins types…
“Surviving Christmas,” “Christmas Survival Tips for the Working Mum”, “How to Survive Christmas”…
I googled these last night.
Some of the “advice” online is nothing short of HILARIOUS. I fear most of it may have been written by one of the following:
🎄Mary of the Poppins herself
🎄Someone without kids
🎄A Man… 😂😂😂
Here are some of the best pieces I gleaned, followed by my honest and polite responses: (Buckle up!)
1. “Be Prepared.”
No sh*t Sherlock. As opposed to waking on Christmas Eve and remembering to buy a turkey and gifts? Seriously… This is a useless piece of advice. It’s like telling a woman to calm down. When in the history of the world has telling a woman to calm down, resulted in her calming down? Never. So telling a Mammy to “Be Prepared” for Christmas, is NOT helpful.
2. “Buy gifts throughout the year and wrap them as you go.”
Now this one I can partially agree with, except S-Mum’s version would read “Buy gifts throughout the year, put them somewhere safe and then forget all about them until the week before Christmas, when you have all the gifts bought and then open a box or bag or suitcase and find all the PawPatrol jigsaws you bought in July. Or even better, find them when you’re putting the decorations away in January!”
3. “Choose a theme for your gifts to add that personal magic”.
Here’s a theme. Shut. up. Most of us just about manage to buy for everyone we have to buy for. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll remember someone on Christmas Day and freak out with guilt and embarrassment and mumble some crap about it not being delivered on time, before popping to the loo to order on Amazon with next day delivery.
(But if you doooooo want to add a personal touch and be remembered fondly by your loved ones, put glitter🦄 into all of the cards and gifts so that their floors get clattered and you are applauded for spreading the magic of Christmas. Go ahead, I dare you! 😂😂)
4. “Place delicate or expensive ornaments on higher branches.”
Ok this one, I can empathise with. Especially if you have toddlers or dogs. 🐶But in reality, put delicate or expensive decorations in the ATTIC and leave them there until 2026.
5. “Ice the Christmas Cake 2 weeks before Christmas”
Or in real life, remember on the 23rd that for some reason you need a Christmas cake to have in the kitchen which will never be cut or eaten. Then you’ll either pop to Marks of the Spensive or decide not to bother with cake this year. Either way, it doesn’t really matter does it?
6. “Decorating the home should be a family occasion followed by a family meal.”
Oh really? Should it really? If by “family meal” you mean a bottle of wine after the kids have all gone to bed, then yes…yes this is true. 😅
Decorating the home is, for most, a painful and highly stressful process which generally takes more than one afternoon and involves tears, mess and even declarations of divorcing children… and husbands. If you can get the actual tree up in one go, save yourself the stress and put everything else up by yourself, on your own, without the rest of the family annoying your head. After bedtime is ideal.😘😉
7. “Keep alcohol locked away.”
Out of the reach of children yes, but keep the key in your frilly fricking apron Mammy Poppins.
8. “Stock up on essentials: batteries, bread, milk and cream.”
Why there is no gin or wine on this list, is beyond me.
9. “Go Christmas Shopping without children. Bring a drink and a snack with you.”
Who the hell wrote this? It is common knowledge that drinking while shopping with your children is frowned upon in civil society. Oh… they meant for the children? Ohhhh… I knew that. Well, here’s an idea. If you can get someone to mind the minions for an hour, OF COURSE, go Christmas shopping without them. Then, if you really want to follow the Perfect Mammy rule book, have a drink and eat all the snacks… by yourself!
10. “Create a cleaning schedule for your home to keep on top of things this Christmas”.
There aren’t enough swear words for this one. A Cleaning Schedule? Who the hell has time to write a cleaning schedule? In the time it would take me to write a cleaning schedule, I would probably have half the cleaning done. If you can keep floors lego free and counters salmonella free, you’re doing great! You deserve a treat. 💚
Riddle me this Mammies? Why would you spend hours cleaning before opening the boxes of decorations that are going to cause the whole place to need hoovered and dusted again in an hour anyway? Why?
So there were the Top Ten pieces of advice from the various Perfect Mammy websites…
There were a few little nuggets in fairness. Some of the better advice included “Scale down your expectations”, “Invent your own traditions”, and “Give yourself a break.”
Another gem that I completely agree with is “Buy disposable baking trays”: I stock up on aluminium turkey trays every year and everything is cooked in them. It’s a life saver!
Alos, Yes to shopping lists. And sublists. (Any list! I do love me alist!) Plan your meals for Christmas week and do the shopping based on the list. It will save you from buying piles of stuff that you won’t actually use. Will you actually use that goose fat or are you only buying it because it’s beside the cranberry sauce you’ve lifted…that no one in your house eats.
AND remember to factor in Christmas Eve Dinner too. Don’t do my speciality… realise you have a fridge full of food and nothing for the dinner when you finally get back to the house on Christmas Eve. This will lead to arguments about who is going to the shop AGAIN, or toast for dinner.
The “Preparing for Christmas” articles largely did what they always do however; they put undue pressure on already busy parents to stress themselves to create a Hallmark worthy perfect Christmas card-esque scene that, in reality, is nonsense.
Do what YOU want to do. Buy what YOU can afford. Cook what YOU like to eat. If you don’t like mince pies, don’t fricken buy them. If you want to let your kids open all of the presents on Christmas morning, do it! If you like to wrap all the everything, do so. If you don’t, DON’T!
It’s that simple. We don’t need a survival list to survive Christmas, we need to give ourselves a break and enjoy it, because if you take a second to stop and look around you, often in the midst of lost presents and superfluous food shopping, you can see a little bit of magic without having to buy it.
A perfect family Christmas is like a Perfect Parent… all that’s REALLY needed is love and what works for YOU!
What is your favourite “Survival tip” and why?