The Pressure Moms Feel to Make Holiday Magic Happen Is Real

’Tis the season to feel overwhelmed and overjoyed.
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profile picture of Lauren Barth
Senior Editor
December 19, 2022
mother kissing baby white looking at christmas lights near the window of home
Image: Take A Pix Media

I couldn’t sleep last night. I woke up at 2 a.m. panicking about all the things I have to accomplish in the next seven days. The countdown to Christmas is real, and I’m my own veritable advent calendar of holly-jolly traditions, festive activities and obligatory outings.

As the officially unofficial holiday magic maker in my family, the pressure to create joy, spread cheer and make memories is intense—and I’m starting to crack like a pre-assembled gingerbread house.

The truth is: I have a love/hate relationship with the seasonal role that I’ve been thrust into. On the one hand, I enjoy the crescendo to Christmas Day—the excitement, the anticipation (isn’t getting there half the fun?). Seeing my kids’ eyes light up when Santa comes rolling through the neighborhood in a fire truck brings me immense glee. Hearing the wonder in their tiny little voices as they sing carols at concerts and shows makes me positively giddy. And watching them tear into the gifts I’ve carefully (painstakingly) accrued gives me a major sense of satisfaction. The holiday highs are high—and I thrive on the serotonin rush.

But, inevitably, the flip side of taking on this month-long gig shows its grim, Grinchy face. The frosting-induced tantrums, the perpetually changing present wish-lists, the whines as we wait in a three-hour line for a three-minute visit with St. Nick, the forced photos, the unspeakable expenses, the jam-packed social calendars, the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the almost demonic post-candy-cane crash.

Then, of course, there’s the utter exhaustion that comes with doing all the things for all the people, buying every gift for every family member, making tons of food for tons of meals (that, let’s face it, the kids won’t eat anyway!). Plus, on top of the usual default parenting tasks, I get to take on the whimsical work of a mythical, jelly-bellied man. And, unlike the big guy, I don’t have elves to pick up the slack! Still, as default parents, we do it all, knowing we can’t claim credit, happily accepting that we won’t get the glory. Our children’s pure delight is reward enough (even if it is tempered by the occasional meltdown).

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So if you’ve ever sprinted out of bed at the crack of dawn because you didn’t move the dang Elf on the Shelf, if you’ve shot your partner a glaring look when they claimed credit for a gift that “Santa” brought, if you’ve organized cookie swaps and play dates, if you’ve wrestled a chocolate advent calendar out of a toddler’s greedy hands, if you’ve hot-glued gingerbread houses, if you’ve redecorated the tree after your little one covered it in clumps of tinsel, if you’ve gathered addresses for holiday cards, if you’ve lead sightseeing tours of decked-out houses, if you’ve amassed supplies for holiday crafts, if you’ve baked a cake in the shape of a menorah, if you’ve bought all the matching pajamas, if you’ve tirelessly hunted down a specific Squishmallow, if you’ve stuffed stockings and put together play kitchens at midnight and sprinkled reindeer dust on your front lawn and done all the things to make this month merry and bright and special and memorable—I see you.

They may not see you whipping up holiday miracles behind the scenes, but I do. I see you losing sleep and budgeting carefully and silently stressing about all the things. I see you managing your typical parenting workload while crushing this manic December hustle. I see you hoping that your family feels the love. Whether you’re thriving under the pressure to create an experience for the books, consciously choosing to rein it in or desperately trying to hold it together, I see you making the most of it for your family—and I believe in your magic. A few days to go. We’ve got this.

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