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Christmas Stress and Marriage
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
dressed in holiday style.
In the air, thereís a feeling of Christmas.
Children laughing, people passing
meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner, you hear:
Silver bells, silver bells,
Itís Christmas time in the city
Ring a ling, hear them ring.
Soon it will be Christmas Day
I used to love this holiday tune because it conjured up images of happy people preparing for the most wonderful time of the year. But when I grew up and got married, I realized I had to play Santa Claus and this act was no small job. My husbandís involvement began and ended with untangling the Christmas tree lights. After that, if it was going to be a holly jolly holiday, I had to pull out the Christmas elf in me and ho-ho-hope I could get everything done in time.
Try as I did to stay on the ďniceĒ list, all the stress made me pretty darned naughty. And Iím not the only wife who slips over to the dark side during these times. Why?
A common complaint is that the holiday traditions and prep chores fall upon one spouse, typically the wife. Whose job is it to write, stamp, and mail the family Christmas cards? Pen the annual newsletter? Who does the gift shopping and wrapping for the extended family and friends list? Cookie baking? Untangling the Christmas lights? Planning the menus, grocery shopping, and cooking the holiday meal? Pack and stand in long lines to mail the overseas gifts? Pay holiday tips to service workers (donít forget the mail and newspaper delivery people, lawn service, doctors/nurses, etc.) If you or your kids are involved in school, sports, community or church groups, the to-do list includes more gift exchanges, holiday potlucks, charitable service, fundraising, and performances, too.
What is supposed to be done with the intention of spreading good will ends up becoming onerous obligation. Not because you donít honestly want to show your appreciation and holiday spirit but because there are too many things to do for too many people all at the same time!
Ways to keep your holidays merry and bright
The good news is that there are solutions to minimizing the holiday stress.
Less is more. Instead of the overblown holiday lights display this year, go simple, sophisticated and tasteful. Serene instead of cartoony. Same for interior decorating. Go natural or glitzy, but simple makes a statement. Even just an array of candles can have dramatic impact.
Consider giving duplicate gifts for groups of people. To make shopping easier, buy in bulk. One might think that it takes less thought to shop and give in this manner but it also is fair for everyone. For example, all the daughters-in-law are one group, the nephews, the nieces, uncles, etc. It can be challenging to come up with a gift that will appeal to all in each group but no one can accuse you playing favorites!
Go digital and eco-friendly. Send electronic greeting cards this year. You can personalize it with your family pics and even make them animated (JibJab.com). Everyone will get a laugh out of them and youíll save trees and postage at the same time. Iíve always winced at the waste of paper greeting cards, and now I have relieved myself of that guilt!
Potluck instead of being the Norman Rockwell hostess. Donít use this event to show off your culinary or decorating skills. Itís about good cheer. Gather everyone and ask for potluck contributions so you can enjoy your friends and family at the party.
Shop online.Last year, holiday shopping was too easy. I did it all online. No standing in lines or running from store to store searching for the perfect gift. Point and click. Thatís peace on earth.
Get your spouse to help.You may or may not be able to convince your spouse to lend a hand but if you do, be sure to assign a task that he can accomplish without your supervision. It frustrates men to be assigned a job only to find they didnít do it according to their wivesí expectations. Youíll have better success in enlisting his help if you 1. make it simple to remember; 2. make it something that can be done quickly and easily; 3. give him a task that is fun or can be done while he is doing something fun; and 4. be sure he gets a lot of praise and positive feedback for his contribution.
I know that sounds demeaning to men and entirely irritating to women, but for the majority of husbands out there, this plan of action will get the most success. Letís face it, all the holiday preparations and the resulting displays just donít matter as much to most men. Itís just not that big a deal. If it is, theyíll help. If it isnít, youíll need to beg, bribe, cajole, coerce, threaten, or nag. And thatís not keeping with the spirit of the season. All these things should be joyful.
A little sugar sprinkled on his to-do list will make his season bright. So donít forget to write in the most important task: Meet you under the mistletoe!
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