First can I categorically say, I do not want foot spa or a random deodorant gift set. Whoever suggested that is what mums want for Christmas needs a serious talking to. To be fair, I don’t want huge lavish gifts either, but Santa if you’ve got an auld designer handbag knocking around in the back of the sleigh I wouldn’t be opposed to giving it a good home.
When I think about it, Santa, what I really want this Christmas is some time off from making decisions. I want to be able to switch off my in-charge mum brain. I want to take some time to sit back and enjoy my kids at Christmas without having to carry the mental load of the family. I’d also like maybe a little recognition for the long list of invisible stuff I do all year long. All those seemingly small, everyday things that my family seem to think happen by themselves.
As a mum to a seven- and four-year-old, I’d say I’m fairly typical of a lot of mums in their late 30s or 40s, who have a young family. Generally speaking, we are the ones who carry that very heavy mental load. We often split our time between looking after our children and work. Despite that, we’re often known as the ‘default’ parent. The one that’s always on. The one who’s making all the think-ahead decisions. Keeping track of activities, appointments, likes, dislikes, playdates, wants, needs. If the children are sick, it’s most likely who has to drop everything to look after them. Even if our other halves can help out, the kids often just want mammy. Don’t even mention if we are sick ourselves. Mums don’t get sick days and if they do have to take to the bed for half a day, it’s a code red.
A recent survey by Royal London Ireland found that the cost to employ someone to do the work performed by a stay-at-home parent would be around €54,590 per year. Honestly, I’m not a bit surprised. What I am surprised at, is how much others seem to be surprised by it. It speaks to the lack of understanding of what goes into being an at home parent and how undervalued it is. To be honest, until you’ve done it and been in the trenches, talking down a three-year-old and begging them to put on their shoes, you have no idea of the endless tasks that go into being the default parent.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. I love the bond we share; I love spending time with them. I love taking care of them. They are my everything. It can be exhausting though. I don’t have that often talked about village helping me and it can be overwhelming at times. It’s okay to say that. It doesn’t make me ungrateful or unworthy. It just makes me human.
Christmas is a magical time. Experiencing it through the eyes of my young children has been a complete delight and a privilege. I love this time of year. I love sharing the magic with them. But again, magic doesn’t happen all on its own. For every amazed young child at Christmas, you’re likely to see a tired, dark circle sporting mum in the background. And you know what, all the effort is worth it. Every little thing I can do to make Christmas a little bit more magical for them is really and truly worth it. They are only small for such a short time, and it makes me smile like nothing else in this world.
But Santa, come Christmas Day, what I really want is to be able to switch off. To disengage the brain a bit. I want someone else to make the decisions for a change. I want someone else to think ahead. I want someone else to take that heavy bag of mental worry and carry it for me.
When it comes down to it Santa, I just want to be able to enjoy the time with my young children, while they are still young and while I still feel like a human being.