This has probably been written a million times before, by many a father and many a mother. Christmas with a toddler is like no other. For so many wonderful, contradictory reasons...
The season, with children, completely renews the magic you experienced yourself as a child. Those feelings all come back to you, and you want to make it just as special for them, if not more so! But you also realise you have no time to actually have those days mooching the shops picking gifts for all your friends and family. Amazon becomes your new best friend.
Even without kids, it's manic. Seeing all your friends, the gifts, the planning, the baking, the food, the drinks... add a child, in particular a toddler, to the mix and i feel this increases the anxiety levels ten fold. Babies sleep more often. Four to five year olds are that little more independent and get even more excited about the holiday. TODDLERS on the other hand are like small, drunk people with no regard for the Christmas tree, the pretty decorations, no desire to go into any shopping centre, they want to unwrap everything under the tree (no concept of waiting) and the meltdowns and standard end of day behaviour don't stop just because it's Christmas. Don't be absurd! They don't even know when it's your birthday let alone Jesus's!
Christmas is beautiful but it's also busy. And the amount to accomplish is often overwhelming. So why the hell do we do it to ourselves? Because if we didn't we'd be sat alone at the happiest time of year not sharing the process of putting on a stone of weight with anyone.
Below I'm sharing my five top tips to getting through the holiday season with minimum fuss as a working dad. But it applies to the single parent or even a stay at home parent. Because whatever way you tackle Christmas with a child, it ain't like it used to be...
- PLAN AHEAD. Ok, it's really obvious but no one likes a last minute Lucy. I try to start shopping in November, just so you can spread the cost. I don't think i could start any sooner, i like Christmas to last a good few weeks, but not starting from the summer!
- LISTS. I am the biggest believer in lists. I have them for everything and Christmas is no exception. I have my Christmas Card list and the 'Who to buy for' list saved on my laptop that i pull out each year and just add (and less often take away) names as necessary. It just means you don't need to start from scratch every year. Last year was the first year we hosted Christmas Day and the food plan was so well done by The Chef (aka my husband) that we've typed it up too just so we can edit the amount of food by the number of guests (Ok reading this back i literally sound worse than Monica Geller). #OCD
- DON'T DO IT ALL. Seriously, we've all seen the mums and dads achieving everything on social media. These parents have already had a magical Christmas party for all the kids, someone dressed as a Father Christmas even turned up, last week they popped to Lapland for a few days and this week the Elf on the Shelf has had a better social life than you. Oh, not forgetting the mountains of presents they bestow upon their children. Newsflash, no one likes a bragger either! Don't try to reach these crazy levels of Christmas. It does not matter. I was freaking out the other day that i hadn't had labels printed for my sons presents. You now the ones, personalised with cute pictures etc etc but then i thought 'Hang on... he can't read... i'll just use normal tags like every year, I'm sure he won't mind...!'. Think about what you want for your child and make the target achievable. Don't overstretch or kill yourself trying to achieve this magical Christmas you've built up in your head. It WILL be magical just having the family together with a few lovely gifts. Trust me! Plus, WHO HAS THE TIME??!! Even as a stay at home parent, do your children sleep for four hours a day or something to allow you to accomplish these levels of achievement? Or do you just not sleep at night? Well I'm telling you now that i need my ZZzzz's.
- SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY. If you are a couple, you both need to pull your weight. Usually couples have their roles nicely defined at this time of year. I hear about so many wives/girlfriends/mothers and how it all get's left to them (a big stereotype perhaps?) but share the load i say. You buy gifts for your side of the family. Your partner does it for theirs. Job done. For your children, work together. For the food, work together. My husband cooks food and i bake the treats. Perfect compromise.
- ENJOY. I swear i'm such a lush at Christmas. Yes, it is really all about your little bambino... but don't forget, you work bloody hard 24/7 365. This is a time for you to enjoy just as much as them. Any excuse for a mince pie and some mulled wine. A Christmas movie and some snacks on the side. It is the ONE time of year we can get away with doing little (usually when you can after Boxing Day). I usually find the time off work between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time to let go... eat... be merry and forget what it's like to set the alarm.
Oh wait, no... i have a toddler. He's my alarm.
Still, I wouldn't change this time of year for anything. Spending it with my beautiful boys.