Holiday Dread: Being The Mom

You have to make ALL the cookies.

Image: Terry Johnston

Did you know, when you are The Mom, YOU have to make the cookies? ALL of them?

Did you know, when you are The Mom, no one else will fill your stocking for you, so if you want a stuffed stocking you have to fill it yourself and then pretend to be surprised by what you find in it? Like, even if all you want is socks, and you don’t mind knowing in advance that it’s going to be socks but might enjoy at least being slightly surprised by what kind of socks? Nope. Sorry. Remember: you are The Mom!

Did you know, when you are The Mom, the pleasure you might take in wrapping presents whimsically or with some small attention to beauty has a high statistical probability of turning into a sort of grim duty?

Did you know that when you are The Mom, lots of people “help” you chop the things and do the errands, but also, when it really comes down to it, you’re totally alone up there in the command center of your brain, which is basically always functioning at like Scarlett-Johansson-in-Lucy levels, complicated scheduling and prioritizing algorithms and diagrams scrolling quickly upward behind your eyes at all times?

Did you know that when you are The Mom, no one buys you a special new pair of Christmas jammies?

Did you know, when you are The Mom, you have to be the traditions that only truly bear fruit for your family after years of repetition, and that if you don’t insist on the traditions, the rest of your family will be like “eh, whatever, we can eat whatever for dinner” or “we’ll just have a bowl of cereal while opening the presents” not realizing that THAT WAY DARKNESS LIES? And that also, the point of your labors over these traditions is to erase yourself? To concoct the fantasy that the special delicacies are the tradition — warm, scented memories of that one particular cake that always appears — when really it is you who is the tradition (except you are not allowed to point that out unless you want to make everyone hate you more than they already hate/love you for being The Mom)?

Did you know that when you are The Dad, you do have to deal with the wrapping paper? But that’s sort of it?

Did you know that the heteronormative nuclear family is really kind of a disastrous organizing principle?

Did you know that when you are The Mom, it suddenly becomes clear that the Christmases you grew up reading about in Little Women or Little House on the Prairie or Little Whatever are complete lies? Nobody ever actually sacrifices anything of their own to get the Marmee something!

Did you know that when you are The Mom, if you’re lucky, a day will come where you won’t be in charge of everything at the holidays, and you’ll wake up in the morning with little to do except go show up somewhere else, and you’ll hear the clocks ticking in the quiet and feel rested and lonely, and that these will be two feelings you no longer, really, know how to feel?

Holiday Dread is The Awl’s series dedicated to the season of joy and other emotions. Previously:

Holiday Dread: Introspection