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Everything Moms Do For the Holidays

Is It Really a Mom's Job to "Give Joy" and Not Actually Enjoy?

If you've seen Bad Moms 2 or even the trailer for the movie, this line probably stuck with you: "Moms don't enjoy, they give joy. That's how being a mom works." Main character Amy (Mila Kunis), a harried mother of two, is talking to her own mother, Ruth (Christine Baranski), about why her house isn't perfectly decorated for Christmas. "I just wanted to enjoy the holidays this year," she says . . . and is immediately shut down. A calm and easy holiday season? Not happening, mama.

I have to say, as much as I want to enjoy the holidays with my family without all the craziness of shopping, cooking, wrapping, entertaining, and running from one event to the next, deep down, I kind of agree with grandma that "giving joy" should be my main focus, as a mom of young children.

My own mother and grandmother made my childhood Christmases magical, filling the house with delicious food and thoughtful gifts, taking me to the Nutcracker and on decadent shopping trips in big cities, where we'd check out the gorgeous Christmas windows at the department stores, then collapse in a hotel room at the end of the day, put our pajamas on, and show off all of our fun purchases (this was before online shopping).

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I cherish those memories of my childhood; they made me fall in love with the holiday season. Of course, I want to give my own children the same experience.

But the truth is, accomplishing that is a sh*t ton of work. I've already been shopping for those perfect, hard-to-find presents for more than a month. I've scheduled every week between Thanksgiving and Christmas with family parties, Christmas concerts, holiday light shows, and shopping excursions. I've made sure my kids will have the exact same number of presents (at a comparable cost) to open on Christmas Day, and I've purchased fancy paper just for Santa gifts, so they won't catch on that it's mom doing the wrapping.

And while all of that is gratifying in a "mama's gotta do what she's gotta do" and "Damn, I'm good at multi-tasking" kind of way, does it bring me a lot of joy? Only the most stressful version of that emotion.

Still, I'm not sure the answer is giving up our Christmas tree or getting drunk in the mall food court instead of battling the shopping crowds, a la Bad Moms. I think it's to focus on the things that we know will bring our kids holiday joy, while not killing ourselves over the things that they won't truly appreciate (like that yard-sized visual display of The Twelve Days of Christmas grandma orders up in the film). And, of course, if you can sneak in a bit of mom joy in there, too, all the better.

For me, that means that on Dec. 23, my family and I will head to the beach, where we'll spend Christmas and New Year's. Although getting there with two kids and all the Christmas-morning necessities (stockings, Santa presents, etc.) is stressful, by the time we arrive in the same beachfront condo we've stayed in for years, I'll feel like my Christmas work is done and I can sit back and simply savor the days before Christmas with my family. Nothing's more joyful than that.

Image Source: StockSnap / Kari Shea
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