parent opinion

'It's just another bloody thing for parents to do.' This year, I'm refusing to do Elf on the Shelf.

'Tis the season of parental overwhelm.

There are group present apps coming at us from all directions, too many people to catch up with, endless end-of-year events, and kids who are overstimulated and overtired. 

There are babies who miss naps who are being passed around to relatives, toddler tantrums, photos with Santa, and the dreaded Elf on the Shelf.

Watch: Things Mums never say at Christmas. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE Christmas. My favourite movie by far (ironically) is Elf. I love planning and giving gifts. I love summer in Australia, where my kids look their happiest and healthiest. 

But I also know the drag of this season. Of kids who are beyond shattered, and parents who are stretched thin.

As a mum of four boys, I feel this every year, but like many parents, I just don’t know what to drop from my endless to-do list.

One of the aspects of this season that I just don’t get is the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. 

The Elf on the Shelf was first created in 2005, but it got big in Australia around 2012. 

Here's how it works. Parents purchase an elf toy and book, and then every single night in December, they hide the elf somewhere new for the kids to find the next morning. 

The idea is that the elf flies to the North Pole overnight to report on who’s been nice or naughty to Santa and then returns to a new spot to keep watch the next day. 

Yep, this little elf is a spy for the big guy.  

Image: Tess Donohue Photography.

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Parents everywhere either begrudgingly or excitedly agree to this. Maybe because everyone is doing it, or maybe because it sounds like fun... at first. 

Once you are in, you are committed for the month, so it means you need to keep thinking of new places and creative things for the elf to do each day.

If this all sounds like hard work, I agree. 

I am a mum of four boys. We had an Elf on the Shelf when my eldest kids were four and two.

I paid top dollar for this must-have item. And to be honest with you, for a few nights, it was fun. 

Then, I forgot to move the bloody thing, and I had to explain why he "forgot to move".

Another few nights in, It began to scare one of my boys because it was "watching" him and we had to make the elf turn away.

Then, we had a near nuclear style meltdown when a friend came over and "touched" our elf (something any elf lover knows is a no-no as it takes away the elf’s magic). 

Image: Tess Donohue Photography.

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Finally, one night while my husband was away for work, I decided that the little elf was looking at me funny. Chucky flashbacks, anyone?

In short, he didn’t last a full season in our house before I sold him on eBay.

The bottom line is the Elf on the Shelf is just another bloody thing for parents to do. So, we don't do it anymore.

Year after year, I watch other parents do the elf in their household and I feel utterly perplexed by it. To be honest, I just can’t figure out how other parents are managing it!

Honestly, it's already enough buying and hiding presents for four kids from Santa ready for Christmas morning that are all wrapped in paper that no one has seen.

The thought of moving that elf every single night on top of everything else seems like an extra task I just can’t take on, and it seems I am not alone. 

We are a generation of parents who are already overworked and overstretched. We spend more quality time with our kids than any previous generation and yet we also do more actual work hours. On top of that, we are racing around getting our kids to more extracurricular activities than any generation before us.

Listen to This Glorious Mess, a twice-weekly look at parenting as it truly is: confusing, exhausting, inspiring, funny, and full of surprises. Post continues below.

In short, we are busy. Really busy. And this elf? I think he is just another thing to do that keeps parents perpetually spinning plates and juggling balls and not connecting in a real sense with what our own needs are. 

The best thing we can give our kids at this time of year is being parents who are able to take some time to care for themselves, to rest, and to do 'less'.

So, if the elf brings fun and joy to your family, I'm happy for you. But for us, we will sit this one out. That creepy little guy is all yours. 

Genevieve Muir is an obstetric social worker, parent educator and mum to four boys with a passion for helping parents in the first five years of parenting. Gen works in a busy maternity hospital in Sydney, and also works privately with families though online programs, parenting groups, and one-on-one sessions. You can find her on Instagram  @connectedparentingau or on her website.

Feature Image: Tess Donohue Photography.

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