Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved Christmas. Decorating the Christmas tree, dressing up our dolls for a nativity scene in the fireplace and spraying fake snow on the windows.
In our family, with parents who migrated to Australia from Holland, Christmas Eve was almost magical – unwrapping gifts together after walking home from Carols by Candlelight. Christmas Day was spent with family, which in my case involved more than two dozen cousins.
As an adult, my love affair with Christmas continued. Seeing my kids in Christmas plays, decorating the house, making gingerbread, hosting family dinners… you name it, I’m there.
But in the past few years, with struggles with anxiety, I’ve had another reaction to Christmas… to flee from being home for the holidays.
You see – in Australia – Christmas isn’t a one-off event. The arrival of Santa also signals the start of Summer holidays.
While this sounds great in theory – and is awesome when you’re a child – in reality this often means a whole nation of stressed out mums.
In years gone by, I’ve found myself spending hours after work in overcrowded shopping centres (conveniently open 24/7) in pursuit of the “perfect” gifts.
I’ve spent hours stressing over preparations for the “perfect” Christmas dinner – and found myself in floods of tears when I haven’t been able to live up to my own expectations.
Coupled with the stress of packing for an annual holiday, and the fact that it was the busiest period of the year for my husband’s retail store, and it’s beginning to look a lot like “Stress-mas” rather than Christmas.
Which brings me back to the point I made earlier about fleeing.
Last year, having just sold our retail store, we realised that we’d left our run too late to book a holiday in January – peak time in Australia.
So we decided to squeeze in a quick two week break before Christmas instead.
We swapped crowded shopping centers for empty stretches of beach. Took our kids to the caravan park’s pool and mini-golf instead of dragging them around to endless work, kindergarten and church break-up parties. I even had time to make my mum a handmade mosaic for her Christmas gift.
And it was bliss.
We arrived back into town two days before Christmas, relaxed and ready to celebrate the true meaning of the day with our friends and family.
This year, we’ve taken off on a pre-Christmas break again. And we’re taking with us both sets of parents and my sister and her family.
It seems I wasn’t the only one who liked the idea of escaping from the stress of a perfect Christmas.
This post has also been published on stigmama.com – a great website about motherhood and mental illness.