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Last year, a 'perfect' Christmas almost broke me. This year, I'm lowering the bar.

Like many people, right now I should be far away from Sydney re-uniting with my parents and siblings, whom I haven’t seen since December last year. I should have spent the day driving from Sydney to the Gold Coast, having bundled four kids, two dogs and too many bikes into the car at 3am for the long drive north. 

Instead, like many people in Sydney, and around the world, we are stuck at home anxiously waiting to see what twists and turn COVID will take next. It truly sucks.

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And yet as I sit and feel sorry for myself I am determined that Christmas this year will be different. Not because we won’t be surrounded by family on the sunny Gold Coast, but because this Christmas, for possibly the first time since having kids, I am NOT aiming for perfection. I am sure I am not alone in this, but for the last 13 Christmases, I have wanted my children and family to have the best Christmas memories I could create, regardless of the cost to me.

I’m sure you know what this looks like...

  • Shopping at 11pm with a list longer than my arm (for presents no one would remember by Boxing Day).
  • An hour round trip to Kmart when the three-year-old decided he didn’t want train Lego but plane Lego (ok, in truth, I delegated this job to the husband).
  • Steaming the pudding in October so it was just ‘right’ for Christmas Day (even though I hate pudding).
  • Redecorating the tree once the kids had gone to bed to make it more balanced (oh yes I did).
  • Coming up with funny scenes for the elves to create EVERY night (and often waking at 3am in a cold sweat when I forgot).
  • Carefully and lovingly hand-making gifts for the teachers, neighbours and friends (ok and even strangers).

Do I need to go on…

But in 2020 (when let’s face it all bets are off) I made a conscious decision to lower the bar (thanks Mia). I could blame COVID, but instead I have Christmas 2019 to thank. 12 months ago, having done all the above (and no doubt more), I found myself a week before Christmas with a cold. 

Angela and her two kids. Image: Supplied.

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I told myself I was fine and soldiered on, like all good mothers aiming for the perfect Christmas. I continued to shop, cook, bake, wrap and entertain, often doubled over with pain after eating and feeling increasingly unwell as Christmas approached. On Christmas Day I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. 

I sat and watched the kids unwrap their presents before retreating to the safety of my doona while the kids and husband went to the in-laws for lunch. It was a long, lonely day stuck at home with a box of tissues and Netflix. What should have been a perfect Christmas was anything but.

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In November this year, as the end of the school year approached, I promised myself that for Christmas 2020 ‘good enough’ had to be ‘good enough’. So with a matter of days to December 25  what has changed?

  • I haven’t touched the Christmas tree. I don’t need to. The kids love that the decorations are right where they threw them.
  • The elves often don’t move. Or they move during the day. I blame them for their lacklustre attitude.
  • I made the Christmas pudding a day before our in-laws’ Christmas lunch. I burnt the fruit, I set off the fire alarm. But I didn’t start again, I just cut off the burnt bits. Hopefully, I don’t get asked to make it again.
  • The kids made their own teachers’ presents and wrote their own cards.
  • I bought honey from the local beekeeper for my friends.
  • Any requests for last minute change of Santa presents have been denied.

The Christmas tree. Image: Supplied.

And at the same time…

  • I am going to bed by 10pm and not staying up all night worried about what I have forgotten.
  • I am exercising rather than running around like a mad woman.
  • I am watching Christmas movies with the kids, not shooing them away while I bake.
  • I am beating the kids at table tennis and Xbox (ok maybe not Xbox) because a kid's got to learn to lose.
  • I am prioritising my own health over my desire to create perfect Christmas memories.

How does it feel? I am not going to lie, it feels wrong, really wrong. 

But making myself so sick that I couldn’t spend Christmas Day with the kids, that’s not the memory I was after. And the only person that can change that, and lower the bar, is me. Because in a year when a pandemic sweeps the globe and Christmas is in chaos for everyone I want to be well enough to make memories with the kids, even if it's different memories to what we’d planned.  

So elves, if you didn’t realise it yet, you are officially on your own. And my Christmas memories, well, they are going to have to be perfectly imperfect instead.

Angela Eves is a mum to four crazy humans and two even crazier golden retrievers. Requires coffee to function. Believes everything is better when coloured, from hair to walls, and anything in between.  

Feature image: Supplied.