Moms: You’re Doing Enough This Christmas

As of yesterday, we are within four weeks of Christmas. If that thought stresses you ought just a bit, you’re not alone. An untold number of studies say that the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are among the most stressful of the year. And while I think that’s true for all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, I think that’s particularly true for parents. Parents who want to make sure Christmas is great for their kids while also attending to all the usual stuff at work and home and, at this time of the year, trying to please their own siblings and parents as well.

And, truth be told, when I say parents, I want to add a particular shout-out to moms. Because while gender roles have changed and dads share in a lot more of the parenting responsibility than even a generation ago, moms still seem to shoulder more of the load, at least when it comes to making sure that everything that needs to be done gets done. As one friend – who’s a mom, professor, wife, pastor and more said – “No matter how much my husband does – and he does a lot! – I’m still the air traffic controller and if I’m not minding flight patterns, planes crash.”

And it’s not just that there’s a lot more for moms to do, balancing parenting and work and all the rest. It’s also that there’s a lot less help doing it. More and more of us live at a distance from the family and friends we grew up with and now do this balancing act alone, even alone as a couple (and if you’re a single parent, it’s all that much more challenging!).

Recently I stumbled across a post that names, and responds to, some of these newer parenting challenges really well. I was pointed to it when I looked at the blog of Maryann McKibben Dana when she commented on an earlier post I wrote (that’s the wonderful way the web works) and I wanted to share it.

Amy Morrison worked as a creative director at an ad agency before going freelance. Now, among other things, she writes the blog Pregnant Chicken that tells the truth – in a fresh, supportive, and delightfully saucy kind of way – about pregnancy and parenthood. A recent post of hers titled “Why You’re Never Failing as a Mother” reminds us helpfully of the differences between the context in which we parent and that of our parents and grandparents. While what she writes can also, I think, apply to dads, it’s particularly important for moms to hear:

If you think about it, if you had a baby thousands, if not hundreds of years ago, you would have had your mother, all your sisters (all of whom were probably lactating), and your nieces all taking care of your baby. They would help with food preparation, show you how to manage, and make sure your baby wasn’t eaten by a bear. Your kid’s feet probably wouldn’t have touched the ground until they themselves would be able to carry around an infant.

And it’s true – most of us don’t have nearly the help or support that parents of even a generation or two ago could count on. So beware comparing your struggles with the triumphs of the previous generation. As Amy writes,

As for the past generations that like to tell you that they raised six kids on their own and did it without a washing machine? Well, sort of. Keep in mind child rearing was viewed pretty differently not that long ago and you could stick a toddler on the front lawn with just the dog watching and nobody would bat an eye at it – I used to walk to the store in my bare feet to buy my father’s cigarettes when I was a kid. As a mother, you cooked, you cleaned, but nobody expected you to do anything much more than keep your kids fed and tidy.


My grandmother used to tell the story about how she forgot my mother at the grocery store in the early 40s. She walked up to the store with my mother sleeping in her carriage, parked it outside with all the other sleeping babies (I’ll let that sink in), went inside to do her shopping, then walked home forgetting that she’d taken the baby with her. She quickly realized her mistake and walked back and retrieved my mother who was still sleeping outside the store.

Why are things at least more complex, if not also harder, today? Because the expectations are so different. As Amy reminds us,

There were no flashcards, there was no sign language (unless you were deaf), there were no organic, free-range bento boxes – your job was to just see a kid through to adulthood and hope they didn’t become an idiot….


Feeling like you also need to keep on top of scrapbooking, weight loss, up-cycled onesies, handprints, crock pot meals, car seat recalls, sleeping patterns, poo consistency, pro-biotic supplements, swimming lessons, electromagnetic fields in your home and television exposure, is like trying to knit on a rollercoaster – it’s…hard.

Whether your parenting a newborn, toddler, teen, or college-aged kid, all this gets amplified at Christmas time. So many opportunities, so many expectations. Way more, in fact, than any of us can handle.

So here’s the deal: moms (and dads) everywhere: you don’t have to be perfect. Because you know what? There is no perfect. And you know what else? You’re doing enough. Really. More than that, you are enough. You just are.

Your job is to remind your kids you love them, do what you can to help them ring in the holidays with a modicum of joy and minimum of fisticuffs, and that’s about it. Actually, that’s not quite it — don’t forget that you’re invited to have a little fun as well. Because the thing is, God didn’t come in Jesus to add stress to our lives. God came in Jesus to tell us that God loves us just as we are, not as the pictures on the parenting magazines tell us we should be.

This is hard to remember, but maybe if we remind each other of this once in a while over the next few weeks we can take a little bit of the individual and collective stress out of the holidays and sing “Joy to the World” like we really feel it.

Notes: 1) Thanks to Maryann McKibben Dana and for her great work at The Blue Room.
2) You can find the whole of Amy’s post as well her other musings on parenthood and more at The Pregnant Chicken. Take note that I described her writing as saucy, which really is a euphemism to say she swears. I think it adds something to what she’s trying to say; you may or may not. 🙂