“Honey, do you know why Christmas is so magical?” My son and I are rolling out sugar cookie dough and cutting out shapes in advance of an annual cookie decorating night we host with friends in our neighborhood.
“Because of Santa?” he replies, sneaking a bite of raw dough.
“Nope. It’s because moms work hard to make it happen.”
I remember that feeling of magic as a kid: the anticipation of spending time with family, our favorite foods, and opening gifts filled me with more excitement than my tiny body could bear. As I moved into my teen and college years, I felt sad because I no longer believed in Santa and had started to clue into the tensions of the adults around me. The holidays seemed like a bummer.
Now, as a mom, I get to relive the wonder through my kids’ eyes. And I also realize why the holidays were so magical once upon a time—because my parents did everything in their power to make them that way. But that level of dedication comes at a cost, especially for me (and many other moms).
Over the past three years, my husband and I have been on a path to creating a more equitable relationship in our home when it comes to domestic tasks. But the holidays have always been more of a strain for me. He’s a teacher, often with similar holiday breaks to our kids. As a work-from-home mom with a flexible schedule, the holidays require me to bend my schedule until it almost breaks, and it heaps extra responsibilities onto my plate.
I walk a tightrope between enjoying holiday baking, shopping, decorating—and being exhausted from the additional work. I want to create magic for my kids and family, but I often resent that a holiday “break” is a break for everyone but me. And I feel like I’m not allowed to say this out loud because it makes me sound like some kind of Grinch.
A few years ago, I started taking a hard look at all of my domestic tasks and began to let go of the ones that no one was asking me to do and that no one else cared about. Folding laundry before putting it back in drawers? Gone. Dusting the baseboards? No more. Arranging a family photo shoot, ordering Christmas cards, organizing the addresses, and sending them out? Nope. I was sad to let this one go, but enough is enough. My house may be less “perfect,” but I am more at peace.
For years I pushed myself to the point of burnout trying to do it all with work, kids, and my home. In 2020 during the lockdown, our entire life was rearranged, and my husband and I were finally able to get to the root of the equity conversations in our home. Since then, I’ve had an easier time making domestic labor visible and pointing out when I’m pushing past my capacity.
I’m aware that I might come off as ungrateful or not fun. Mostly, I want my family to know that my time is valuable. That I’m choosing to spend my time creating magic and memories for them. That it does feel worth it, but it’s also still exhausting.
These days, my kids are old enough to be involved in some of the holiday preparations. Just last week, my twin 5-year-olds helped me measure, pour, and mix while creating an apple pie for Thanksgiving. Making food, buying gifts, and spending special time are all acts of love. I want to see them for what they are and I want to teach all of my kids—two boys and a girl—that it is worth spending our precious time to show love to others. The absolutely wild magic of it all is that we have each other, and that’s worth celebrating no matter the season.