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A surprising number of moms secretly hate Christmas. Here's how to bring back the joy.

No one talks about the mental and emotional toll of having to make all the holiday magic.

woman holding her head in her hands
Canva

Some moms are done with the holidays long before they start.

The holidays are supposed to be magical, right? Who doesn't love the decked halls, the pretty light displays, the big meals with family, the visits from Santa, the Elf on the Shelf's antics, the cookie exchanges, the caroling, the Nativity pageants, the presents under the tree and all the things that fill the Christmas season with joy and wonder?

A whole host of moms responsible for making all of those things happen, that's who.

This time of year, parenting groups start seeing anonymous posts from overwhelmed moms who admit to hating Christmas because the role of making magic for everyone else in the family has become too much. "I feel terrible for saying it but I've come to loathe the holidays," one mom shares before laying out the laundry list of magic-making to-dos added onto her already full schedule. "Is it normal to start crying in the grocery store because it's all just too much?"

Inevitably, the comments start filling up with others who feel the same way. "This is me." "I totally feel you." "I hate this time of year, too. I just can't wait for it to be over." Cue the shame and guilt of admitting a truth that no one wants to say out loud because who on Earth hates Christmas?

Clearly, this is not how any holiday is supposed to be. How did we get here and how do we fix it?


Don't start off sprinting when you're running a marathon

We'll tackle the "Moms shouldn't have to do it all!" truth in a minute, but first, let's look at the reality we're in. The age of Pinterest and HGTV and social media makes everything look like a perfect magazine spread, and the pressure is always on to up the ante. We want to create these idyllic experiences and memories for our kids, so in the beginning of our parenting journey, we may bite off more than we can reasonably chew over the long haul when it comes to holiday magic.

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you don't pace yourself early on, you'll burn out. Most of the moms I see complaining about the holidays aren't the ones with little kids; they're the ones with teens who've been at this for a long time, whose families have come to expect certain traditions without recognizing how much work they take. Setting the bar too high from the get go leads to overwhelm down the road. Keep holiday traditions purposefully simple, don't give in to social pressure and remember that countless generations enjoyed the holidays without move an Elf on the Shelf every night.

We all need to intervene in the expectation that moms do it all.

As far as we've come with gender equality, we haven't solved the problem of moms being the "default parent." We've gotten better about things like dividing up household chores, but the mental load of moms still largely goes unrecognized. In some families, this is more of a reality than in others, but statistics show that moms still bear most of the mental load of parenting—making sure kids' clothes fit, keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments, basic well-being responsibilities, and the like. This is true even for moms who work full-time, so adding "making holiday magic" on top of all that feels like just one more thing, even when that one thing seems like it should be fun.

The responsibility for changing that shouldn't all fall on mothers' shoulders. A little more acknowledgment that moms' plates are already full and doing something—anything—to take some things off those plates will go a long way toward making the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

Moms, you've gotta learn to delegate. For real.

The problem with moms doing it all is that no one else even knows what needs to be done. The invisible work moms do is just that—invisible—unless we make it known. I know a lot of women don't want to complain, but it doesn't even need to be a complaint—just a statement of reality that this is what it takes to make a holiday special and everyone needs to shoulder some of the load.

For some moms, this means learning to let go of some of that Pinterest-driven perfection. Let your kids decorate the house. Let it be imperfect. Start saying no to the parts of holiday planning that don't bring you joy. If the Secret Santa gift exchange at work sounds more stressful than festive, opt out. Delegate Christmas dinner dishes to all family members who are old enough to cook. Tell the family that if they enjoy the holiday traditions, they have to start being responsible for them. The sooner you start spreading out the magic-making, the less stressful the holidays will be and the more prepared your kids will be for adulthood. Win win.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

We live in a world that constantly tells us to do more, have more, be more. But we don't have to. Doing less can feel like going against the grain, but prioritizing what really matters and letting go of expectations we've piled onto ourselves is incredibly freeing. If it feels like too much, it's too much. It's okay for traditions to change. It's okay to let the ones that no longer spark joy to dissolve into just fond memories.

The Christmas season should be a time of joy and family connection—everything else is extra. So decide on a few things that are really important to you and your family, work together to make that special and let the "magic" come from remembering and focusing on what really matters.

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


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Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?


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The 43-year-old, who has a 2-year-old son with comedian John Mulvaney, shared her experience with photos, video and a written statement shared on Instagram.

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