Lifestyle: How to handle Christmas if it is not your favourite time of the year

I think often we are caught up in the festivities and busyness of Christmas and we can forget that it is not always an easy, or wonderful time of the year for everyone. 

I think it's important we shine a light on the not so glossy elements of life so that no-one will suffer alone. Everyone has problems, but some people cover them up very well. That is regarded as a badge of honour in our culture but it is extremely damaging to ourselves and those little people in our care.

For some, Christmas can be a stark reminder of troubles, financial difficulty and loss. The expectation to have a holly jolly Christmas can overwhelm people, as the expectation doesn't marry up the with the reality.

Particularly in 2020, the year of lockdown, many will be facing the prospect of an even lonelier Christmas and that is a really sobering thought.

People fleeing domestic abuse, which often gets worse this time of year, will possibly face a bleak Christmas with young children in a shelter.

Many have lost loved ones and face the mixture of grief and joy at Christmas, making it a real roller coaster of emotions.

People will feel immense pressure to get into debt to make this a jolly Christmas, in spite of struggling to put food on the table out of guilt, shame and expectation.

For many, myself included, it can feel very lonely, even if you have young children and a partner, for which I regard myself as extremely lucky, so I can only empathise with those who are also physically alone.

Mum's have the huge mental load of being the magic makers, planners of celebrations, buyers of presents, being the oracle for little people with fickle minds and logistics manager of not just family life but now also the pressure of making the most jolly time of the year better than ever!

After a few years of losing myself and every support network I had, and the pressure of isolation, loss of identity and postnatal depression, and not being supported but rather frowned upon, shut down, or judged, there are very few places left where mum's can safely speak their truth. Even when we're high functioning and doing a good job at home, it can be lonely to summon the huge amount of energy required to keep all the wheels moving.

After a rough week with feelings of judgment and erosion of confidence, and on top of the usual million ouchies to soothe, accidents to cuddle away, eleventy billion questions from a curious preschooler and learning to talk toddler, breaking up hundreds of squabbles, negotiated every minute decision with two of the sweetest, but sometimes belligerent toddlers, day in and day out ... after all the never ending cooking, cleaning, playing imaginary games (usually two simultaneously as they don't want to play the same one), entertainment planner and caretaker for two littles, home and family life and all the while never a break, either in a physical or mental sense, where the only voice in my head is my own, 

When I asked my partner how mum's didn't crack up, not just with the load of motherhood, but the never ending judgment of each decision we make from society and often from our own relatives, especially this year with zero support from outside, he still assured me it was a problem all parents shared. 

Whilst yes, parenthood is hard for all parents, the primary caregiver, particularly to highly dependent children, bear the brunt. And I have to say, fathers who change a nappy are regaled as heroes (not their fault, they just are), not judged and denigrated for their every decision or shortcoming. Except, when we are burned out, touched out, talked out, positived out, through the exhaustion we still have to defend our odd moment of weakness where our patience slips, or we've just simply had enough and want to tap out to someone else but knowing as a mum you never really can.

It irritates me when people imply that stay at home mum's have it easy or that others know exactly how they feel or have it worse, for many reasons  Is it also amazing? Yes! Would I change this time at home? No! I have loved and feel blessed to have had this time with my babies through these precious years. But it can also be very lonely and isolating. 

I've had high pressured jobs, done two part time degrees, ran a side hustle, trained 6 nights a week and traveled the world in my spare time, and that was nowhere near as stressful or taxing as the last few years have been. Especially when no-one has sat with me in the darkest times. Even if the odd person asks if you're alright, they receive the abridged version or the positive spin because it's too complex to put into words. Meghan Markle so famously said that no-one had asked if she was okay and that's the experience of mum's world over.

With the lack of the village (which I wrote about here) and just a general more individualistic culture, rather than the days of old where communities came together to support one another, where it's not cool to admit having feelings, let alone bad ones to other mum's for fear of judgement, shame, competition or misunderstanding, a huge amount of mothers are suffering.

During this year of pandemic and even further isolation, it may feel incredibly difficult to muster the Christmas spirit that us mum's know we have to bring to everyone. Of course, my amazing little people deserve the best Christmas and I want to bring them all the magic, but it's an incredibly difficult thing to deny your true, authentic feelings for other people, when there's no-one to pass the baton on to bring the joy when we need a little break.

So if Christmas is complicated for you, or you're not feeling it this year, or abundance just seems wrong this year, or its lost its joy, purpose and meaning for you, or if you're looking forward to it but are also burned out after a really difficult year and all the tasks that come with Christmas, then that is okay. Let me say that again. It is okay not to be okay. 

Christmas will pass, just like those feelings will, and you do whatever it takes for you to feel better. Call in a favour for some help, reduce the workload and excess, take some time to help yourself and /or others. Whatever brings joy to your heart and stops your suffering.

How do you find Christmas? Complicated or full of joy?


If this Christmas is lonely or difficult for you, here's some phone numbers that might help. You are never truly alone.

Samaritans. To talk about anything that is upsetting you, you can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email or visit some branches in person. You can also call the Samaritans Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

SANEline. If you're experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).

The Mix. If you're under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (Sunday-Friday 2pm–11pm), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.

Papyrus HOPELINEUK. If you're under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling, you can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email or text 07786 209 697.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, you can call the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) or use their webchat service.

Nightline. If you're a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.

Switchboard. If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day), email or use their webchat service. Phone operators all identify as LGBT+.

C.A.L.L. If you live in Wales, you can call the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) on 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text 'help' followed by a question to 81066.

Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines. Mind's Infoline can also help you find services that can support you. If you're outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.

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