I am entering the holiday season feeling particularly grateful this year. Since, This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today, so many people have been so good to me that I get choked up just thinking about it.
As I travel and fit activities in around my job, both my husband and daughter have put up with my absences and demands on my time, plus my husband has taken on the bulk of the family work and daily logistics. The people I met on my travels let me sleep in their homes, bought me dinner, picked me up at the train station, dropped me off at bookstores, sent out press releases, and called on friends to come out and see me, and even gave me gifts for coming to visit when they were the ones who put in all the work to make it happen.
This busy period of my life foreshadows the craziness many of us feel as we enter the holiday season. Plus, the holiday season often kicks a couple of my outdated assumptions, or mental maps, into high gear:
- Mother is responsible for and naturally better at caring for family and home.
- Mothers who pursue personal fulfillment are selfish.
I know that even before Thanksgiving, I’m already starting to think about good gifts for our daughter, which holiday rituals we can fit in when, what favorite foods to have for special days because that’s what a “good mother” would do. Yet my husband probably isn’t. I know that with my to-do list longer than usual, I am likely to try to manage every minute of every day more closely and set aside taking care of myself. I know that I am less likely to ask others for help because I assume they must be busy too. Fortunately, the last eight weeks have reinforced for me a few Remodeling Motherhood tips that I think are especially important for all of us to remember during the holiday season.
Ask for Help
When I talk with groups about how outdated assumptions keep mothers from taking time for themselves or asking for help, I often pose this question to the group, “So if a friend called you tomorrow and said I need to (go to a professional networking event/have an hour to myself/fill in the blank), can you watch my kids for a couple hours, how many of you would do it?” Of course, every hand in the room goes up. Then I ask, “And how many of you have ever asked?” Usually only a hand or two goes up. We think it’s not okay to ask, that we’ll be adding to the burden of someone else, that we ought to be able to do it all on our own. I learned once again on my trip that it is okay for me to ask and that I couldn’t do it on my own. Perhaps more importantly, I was also reminded that the person providing help feels fulfilled and energized, and that asking and receiving help creates rich connections between people. So this holiday season, ask.
Manage Energy, Not Time
This busy period in my life also reminded me that managing energy is more important that managing the minutes of every day. As I made my way through my whirlwind schedule, always having more to do than the minutes in the day, I made time for exercise and getting enough sleep. I knew those two things would give me the energy I needed to both get things done and enjoy them as they were happening. So ask yourself, what gives you energy and how will you make room for those activities during this busy time?
I’ve also realized it is time for my husband and I to talk about who would do what for the holidays. I’ve already begun in my head to take on responsibility for the perfect holiday. Unless we talk about it, I’ll assume that as the “good mother” I have responsibility for the gifts, the food, the rituals, the calendar. I know if I continue down this path without pausing for us to get on the same page, I’ll get so tired and resentful that I won’t enjoy the season myself and no one will enjoy me! Plus, I’ll rob my husband of the chance to share the responsibility. So it’s time for us to talk about what we want the holiday season to be like, what’s important to our family, and how we’ll share responsibility for making it what we want.