Why do women feel under pressure at christmas, and why do women crave perfection at home.
Women are more stressed at Christmas, as they work so much harder, but it’s a battle of the sexes as men are typically pretty clueless when it comes to Christmas, their shopping lists more than often cover drinks and nibbles, leaving the onus is on the wife or mother to make everything perfect. Christmas doesn’t just happen, no matter how many magical movies you watch or letters you write to Santa, the reality is that someone must do the legwork to bring it all together and traditionally it’s mum, or the family matriarch, so today lets talk about why women feel under pressure at christmas.
Christmas is often referred to as the most wonderful time of year and for many people that is true. It is a time to celebrate with friends and family. It is a time to give and receive gifts and over indulge in excellent food before sitting down to enjoy Christmas television, but a lot of women don’t enjoy Christmas because they’re so busy making it fabulous for everyone else. Through nothing other than habit and lack of awareness, Christmas is very gender-driven as women believe that the success of Christmas lies in their hands, as everyone just expects women to get on with it.
Let’s face it, the family are excited, saying “they can’t wait for Christmas” as if it just magically happens. For most of the family, it’s the holidays, it’s time off school and work, time to eat, drink and be merry, but for wife or mum, it’s not a happy happy holiday, it’s double the workload, and mum can’t relax because there’s so much to do.
Christmas puts women under so much pressure, far more so than for men, who sit next to the perfectly decorated tree watching all the carefully wrapped presents being handed out, having no idea what’s inside. Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman sated that “if it weren’t for women Christmas wouldn’t exist and if the planning, organising, decorating, shopping, and wrapping aren’t enough, how man of you wake up every day thinking of how you’ll create yet another set of antics for that Elf on the shelf.
I love Christmas, but the idyllic depiction of family Christmas is almost rammed down our throats in the movies and on social media, as people share images of their beautifully decorated homes, but let’s be honest, the traditional image of Christmas is, incredibly unrealistic. The movies show picture postcard homes decorated by set designers, with ornate garlands festooned down the staircase, and completely symmetrical giant trees, colour coordinated to perfection. Very few people share the childrens home made decorations brought out year after year, the outdated mix and match baubles and the wonky tree that we need to look at from every angle to hide those bare patches.
So do women put too much pressure on themselves to have everything perfect? This past week I have defrosted 2 freezers, cleaned the fridge, pulled out all the furniture, and I know that on Christmas eve I’ll be nagging the family to make sure the laundry basket is empty, all ironed clothes are put away, clean bedding all round, and I’ll be frantically vacuuming the carpets ready for Christmas day. But why do I, and many others feel the need to have everything just right for that one day?
We all live in very different homes with different lifestyles, from the organised minimalist to the chaotic hoarders, there is no right or wrong, it’s all about whatever environment makes us feel at home. But whatever our physical space, change to our own individual norm, does affects our mood, and in turn, our behaviour. Clutter and mess stop us from focussing, it’s like a mental roadblock, I know that if I’m feeling particularly unproductive, simply clearing and cleaning my desk get’s me back on track. So if clutter makes focusing on tasks more difficult, adding a large tree and all the additional Christmas decorations doesn’t only fill our already fully furnished rooms with additional things to deal with, it also takes up part of our mental capacity.
I’m not saying that men don’t do the housework or help with the cleaning up, my husband is fantastic, but whilst planning this video, and also cleaning all the crumbs out of the cutlery draw, I asked my husband for his views on my need to get the house in order for Christmas, and in his own words, he admitted that he will naturally do the practical tasks, like empty the dishwasher, load the washing machine and anything that you’d class as regular jobs, but what he doesn’t do is anything that he doesn’t see, either as he’s not aware of it or he doesn’t think it’s important.
It’s all those jobs like cleaning the toaster, de fluffing the filter in the tumble dryer, defrosting the freezer or my pet hate is that no one else ever cleans the filter that catches all the hair in the shower. These are the jobs that I could spend a full day doing, and when he and the kids get home, the house wouldn’t look any different to when they left that morning.
The key part of this for me lay in the comment that he simply doesn’t see these jobs, whereas I have this radar where I only need to wash my hands to notice that the taps need cleaning. And there you have it, I see mess, dirt and clutter, and it’s just another thing that needs to be done. I’m not at all obsessive about cleaning, it’s all just regular maintenance tidy and clean up suff, I can happily sit down and watch tv at night, but in the back of my head I know that the laundry is piling up, the washing machine needs emptying or the bathrooms need cleaning.
And then as everyone takes themselves off to bed, I go round switching lights off, locking doors, closing curtains switching on the dishwasher, wiping down the kitchen worktop, the list is endless, but doing it helps me sleep, knowing that … all jobs are done, and that’s the thing, it helps ME sleep, whether they are done or not, has no impact on anyone else in the house.
In my mind, it’s no different to anybody working long hours in an office, and having that feeling of of finally clearing the email inbox, replying to all our customers, returning all missed calls and generally just signing off all jobs, enabling them to shut down the computer and focus on relaxing and having a good time without that nagging unfinished task in the back of their minds. There is something psychologically satisfying in working to get everything done and walking away with no unfinished business.
Well I think its a similar feeling for the women, Christmas day is stressful enough, it’s a huge day for so many, and we want it to be perfect, we want to enjoy it without all those nagging little jobs robbing us of having a guilt free, day off, with our family.
Planning Christmas day is similar to planning any special event, at the end of the day we want it to be perfect, but the person who does most planning and organising, is usually the only person to ever really see’s how much work has gone into it. Let’s take me defrosting the freezer. Recently the door wasn’t closed properly so it began to ice up. I need to re stock it for Christmas so, on the kids last day of school, when the house was empty, I defrosted it, which made me feel better.
So what’s my point, well, not only did no one else notice the ice building up, no one noticed the now ice free freezer. I know if I’d asked for help any of them would have gladly done it for me, but we do all these jobs as we see them, and even though it’s extra workload, it helps us to relax on Christmas day knowing they have all been done, in other words, de cluttering our minds of all the jobs that have been stacking up helps us to join in both physically, and mentally.
The average UK woman will spend 23 hours doing additional cleaning just for Christmas Day, with 30% of women stating that preparing the house was the most stressful part of Christmas after finance, and just before queuing for christmas shopping. And it doesn’t end there, more than a quarter of women spend over 15 hours finding the perfect gifts so it’s not at all surprising that 70% of women rate December as the most stressful month of the year. But what is quite interesting is that nearly half the women admitted that they put pressure on themselves to make the most perfect Christmas for their family. There are no prizes for the percent tree or dinner, we do it because it helps us to enjoy the day. I know that I put in all this effort as seeing the family have the best Christmas make it all so worthwhile.
I don’t usually discuss planning of my video topics with the family, but for this topic I did, and I am so pleased that I did. After several discussions with my husband on my need to have everything done so that I can enjoy the big day, I have my office upstairs at home, so I came up here to put my content together, and when I went back downstairs, he’d cleaned out the kitchen cupboards, tidied, mopped the wood floors, dusted, vacuumed and it looked immaculate. Last night the 4 of us sat down and watched a Christmas movie together with giggles and real quality family time. I’m not sure why Father Christmas gets all the glory, when it’s mum who does all the work, so if you have someone in your life who might just need to be made that little bit more aware, I hope this helps you too.