Jessica James takes a deep breath while doing some last minute Christmas shopping on Friday afternoon. James is a mother of three, who range in age from 5 to 15. Photo by: Lee Adams/Dispatch Staff
December 22, 2012 8:29:36 PM
For moms, there is likely to be no greater misnomer.
For some parents, the Christmas season is a far cry from a Norman Rockwell painting.
In the days of Elf on the Shelf and Pinterest, there are increasingly new ways -- and new pressures -- to make each Christmas the "Best Christmas Ever."
Predictably, the real world results often fall short of those expectations. A project that Pinterest assures will be "quick and easy" is often neither, leaving mothers frazzled, children covered in glue and a meltdown from both mother and child mere moments away.
In the hustle and bustle of the season, some local mothers are trying to find ways to de-stress and unwind.
For Ashlee Bryan, avoiding the stress of the season means avoiding certain stores.
Bryan, a mother of a six-year-old girl, tried to do all of her Christmas shopping early so she could avoid the crowds of last minute shoppers.
"I would rather have my eyeballs scratched out than to drive down Highway 45 or go to Walmart again before Christmas," she said, laughing.
While she enjoys the holiday season, Bryan said her favorite day is the day after Christmas. That is when she and her husband can snuggle on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch their daughter play with gifts from Santa.
"The stress is gone," she said. "The rush is over and the kids get to enjoy their treasure while the parents enjoy the satisfaction we worked so hard to achieve."
For Brandi Kain, this holiday season has been a bit harder to navigate than in years past. Seven months pregnant with her third child, Kain has had to deal with shopping for not only her children and husband, but a large extended family as well. Often, those shopping trips include her young toddler in tow. To make the holiday easier and more efficient, Kain said she uses lists to organize her gift buying.
"I am a list girl, so shopping isn't a big deal for me," she said. "I make a list of everyone and then I start buying in the summer for them. I also do a lot of gift cards."
Like Bryan, Kain said she two avoids the big box stores.
"I am too impatient and too hormonal to deal with grown women fighting over a toy. I try to avoid Walmart the last two weeks of December but that never happens."
Just add Elf
Kain added that this is the first year her family has had an Elf on the Shelf.
"This is the first year I decided I would get serious with Elf on the Shelf," Kain said. "I kept putting it off though and our elf didn't come until Dec.14."
"Thank goodness it didn't come until then because I was running out of ideas for the little thing four days in," she joked.
Traditionally, the Elf on the Shelf would sit on the shelf and then go back to the North Pole in the middle of the night to report the child's activity to Santa. In the morning, he would be in a new spot and then children had to find him. In recent years, and thanks to Pinterest, elves across the country have become mischievous, from wrapping the Christmas Tree in toilet paper to fishing for goldfish crackers in the bathroom sink.
The Kains' elf, Twinkle, has zip-lined across their kitchen on wire and written spelling words on the mirror in marker. While the idea of elf on the shelf may be fun for children, it can add a level of stress to some mothers.
"Trying to remember to move the elf stressing me out more than Christmas shopping," Kain confessed.
Even Kain's five-year-old seems to be getting tired of Twinkle, saying to the elf one morning after he had been especially naughty, "OK, Twinkle, you can't write on anything else or she's not going to let you come back. We can only write on paper. And besides, I don't want to clean up your messy stuff."
Kain said that between the shopping and the crafting, taking time for herself each night is the best way for her to unwind.
"I read each night after my kids go to bed," she said.
Jo Spears is a native of Columbus who now lives in Sanford, N.C. Spears, her husband and their two boys made the 10-hour drive from North Carolina to Mississippi to spend time with her family in Columbus.
Even so, Spears said the month of December is no more stressful than any other month.
"The stresses of the holidays are just like every other day," she said. "Juggling shopping, baking and Santa stories is the same as juggling baseball, homework and housework."
However, in order to achieve the magic of the season, Spears said certain everyday chores take a back seat.
"Laundry and vacuuming can wait," she said. "As moms, we make time for what is important to us, just as our moms did for us. Seeing the excitement on their faces is all worth it."
Marianne Wright agreed with Spears that the magic of the season is what's important, but she stressed that mothers need to take time for themselves. As a grandmother, Wright said the stress continues even when children grow up and have children of their own.
"It doesn't stop when the mommy becomes the Mimi," she said. "There's still baking, wrapping, planning, shopping, either hosting a big family Christmas at home or traveling across several states to see loved ones."
Wright added that the key to keeping her sanity during the holidays is the love of her family.
"No matter what age, whether children are still small and at home or grown with their own families, love is what keeps any person sane,'' she said. "Without love, all the preparations would just be stress, spending and crazy running."
Wright said that she has learned that as mothers, women have to take time for themselves to just sit and enjoy the moment.
"It helps to just stop. Stop for lunch with your husband, a glass of wine with a friend, a prayer for those less fortunate."
Ultimately, it is love that defeats the stress, she said.
"Love,'' she said. "It makes the world go round.''
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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