Written by Etienne Broomfield Published on 17th December 2021

Or, shall we say, "12 days of ChristMESS."

Day one: 

Christmas Eve. We’re leaving for Grandma’s tonight. Our house is overflowing with Amazon boxes full of presents I have yet to wrap. Will take hours, only to be ripped open by the children in three seconds. 

Bags? Ain't packed. Trip over diaper bag flung in the vague direction of the bin in the bathroom. Curse partner under breath (apparently not quietly enough to go undetected). Bickering ensues. Toddler now crying. Lunch needs cooking. Wash needs unloading. Baby needs feeding soon. Feel overwhelmed. Dash to toilet declaring urgent bowel movement just so I can have some peace.  

Christmas is notoriously the most stressful time of year for parents. As if raising little humans wasn’t hard enough, there’s now the weight of the world’s most magical season on your shoulders. It’s the time of giving and receiving, so why do so many mamas feel like all they do is give, give, give? If this diary entry sounds familiar, we’ve got a few things to remind you of:

  • You’re important too

  • Your partner has two hands

You're a mama, and that doesn't make you their maid/housekeeper/PA. There’s no excuse for you to bear the mental load alone. If your partner is enjoying their free time at the expense of yours, that’s just not fair. Women are conditioned to plant themselves at the bottom of the pile, but we have no time for motherhood martyrdom. We care about you, mama. 

So, get your partner involved. And no, we don’t mean you should dish out orders like a festive drill sergeant— it’s not about being a house manager delegating to her underling. Have your partner sit with you as you both assess the tasks at hand and divide and conquer. 

And if he refuses? 

I guess his bag doesn’t make it to Grandma’s. And I oop. ?‍♀️

Day two:

Christmas morning. Woken up at crack of dawn by toddler. House full of relatives I want nothing to do with. I have awoken with a crick in the neck from the airbed. Give baby morning feed. Relocate to kitchen to begin prepping veg with my mother. Is 8AM too early for wine? Manage to get 10 mins to throw myself in shower. 

Finish cooking and start dishing up. Baby wants feeding just as I sit down. Am ushered into next room to feed where I’d be ‘more comfortable’. Come back to cold dinner. Everyone filtering away from the table before I’ve finished. Help clean up. Baby needs another feed. Finally settle baby down and have a chance to relax— then family all want to go for a walk. 

Declare urgent bowel movement and just so I can hide in the bathroom for a bit. 

Mamas, if you’ve spent all morning peeling carrots and only managed to snatch a modicum of time for a little self-care, it’s time for you to be prioritized. Put the food back in the oven on low heat and ask people to wait. Or, if everyone’s frothing at the mouth for their Christmas lunch, have your partner keep you company in the other room—you know, so you feel less like a disgraced wet nurse and more like an actual, valued member of the family. Heck, have him feed you your lunch. You guys are in this together. ?

Day three: 

Boxing day. Another very early start with kids. Kick partner out of bed to feed toddler while I breastfeed baby. Request coffee upon return from feeding. Father-in-law waltzes in with a DECAF coffee, informing me that the caffeine is not good for the baby. I fantastize briefly about tipping it over his head.

More relatives arrive for the day. Many requests to hold baby— cousin plucks baby out of my arms and asks for a bottle so she can feed her. Am gobsmacked. 

Stupidly oblige because don’t want to make a scene. 

Everyone has an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t consume when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Regardless, if you have made the decision to have something, that’s your business. Christmas is your time too, so if all you need is a steaming hot cup o' joe to give you the strength to cope, you do you, mama.

Also, there’s something about babies that makes some people lose all sight of personal boundaries and common decorum. It can really catch you off guard and often you’ll end up giving in to pushy or assertive relatives in order to avoid making a scene. 

But, always remember mama, your baby— your rules. Hype yourself up and politely (or not) remind them that you’ve got this covered. 

Day four: 

Wake up with swollen boobs. Baby feeds but doesn’t want second boob. Damn. Now am so lopsided, a light breeze would knock me over. Try to encourage baby to feed a bit more but no luck. Settle down in the living room with baby cooing happily in rocker and pump relieving enormous ready-to-pop boob. 

Mother-in-law enters and says, “You know it’s easier to just put them to your breast to feed?”

It’s crazy how readily family offers up their advice without really knowing your situation. And sometimes it really doesn’t feel worth the effort to explain yourself. When people offer their unsolicited advice, you can use a neutral but pointed retort that we love here at Elvie: "Thank you, but is what works for us."

Day five: 

Family wants to go for a walk midday. I say I’ll stay in with littles because it’s nap time. Am coaxed into coming. Predictably, toddler has overtired meltdown 10 mins in. Regret not being more assertive about the schedule. Partner and I leave walk early, with baby and screaming toddler.

Amid all the excitement of the holiday season, it can be tempting to sacrifice your schedule in favor of something more adventurous— but you know your child best. Plus, your little one needs you to be strong and speak up for their welfare. So, if you’re feeling a little uneasy and you’re being pressured by family, gently remind them that you have a schedule that works for you and you intend to stick to it. 

Day six: 

Local friends message to ask if I’m hitting the town tonight. Remind them I am a parent now. Feel left out. Cue FOMO. 

Sleep deprivation, sobriety, schedules— parenting does come with restrictions and it can feel especially alienating around the holidays. Some mamas might don their dancing shoes regardless and have family look after their little ones, but other mamas have further constraints (like breastfeeding) that keep them at home with a nice dose of FOMO. But, you know what they say: "The days are long but the years are short." 

It won’t be like this forever, mama. 

Day seven: 

Everyone in the house is hungover. I saw in the New Year four times last night with a screaming baby. Many complaints about being tired. Welcome to my world.

It’s really hard to hear people complain about being tired when you’re up all night with a baby. It’s unreasonable, sure, but still valid. After all, a night of drinking and merriment does not warrant the sympathy that a night of changing twilight nappy blowouts and endless feeds with sore, chapped nipples. Feel free to shamelessly remind any complainers that this is your every day, minus the fun in the first place. Maybe you’ll be treated with a little more reverence now people know what it’s like to function on 4 broken hours of sleep. 

Day eight: 

F*ck me, how long do we have left here?

Day nine: 

Mentioned at breakfast that I needed to do a few loads of laundry (every sweater I brought with me is saturated with breastmilk). Partner and father-in-law decided that would be a good time for them to go play golf. Mother-in-law offers to look after kids. Partner makes a comment about how I’m getting some 'me time’ today' Seethe. 

Repeat after us: Chores. Without. Kids. Is. Not. A. Break. Do you know what would be nice in this example? If parents-in-law looked after the kids while mom and dad split the jobs and then relaxed together afterward. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re busy and your partner is relaxing, pull them up on it. You’re a team. 

Day ten: 

Thanks to the awkward to-and-fro yesterday with the laundry and mother-in-law babysitting, we couldn’t keep to our schedule because, well, MIL didn’t want to. As a result I now have mastitis and feel like death warmed up. Feverish chills, angry, hot boob. Have ducked out of all activities and taken myself to bed. Except cannot sleep because partner is doing nothing to stop toddler coming into the room. Plus have to feed baby every few hours or so. FML. 

Mastitis is very common over the holidays as many mamas find they deviate from their schedules, and this can consequently cause blockages in your milk ducts. To avoid a bout of Christmastitis this year, prioritize your feeds. Charades can undergo an intermission, Christmas dinner can have more than one chef and you can pause Love, Actually. Don’t feel bashful making your (and your baby’s) needs known. 

Day 11:

Bags already packed and passive-aggressively planted next to the front door.

Day 12: 

Tires screeching on the driveway as we flee this (not-so) fresh hell. 

Until next year, ChristMESS...

So, while Christmas is a Holly Jolly time for many, our 12 Days of Christmess is a glimpse into the realities of being a mama among the mistletoe. 

But, it doesn’t have to be this way, people. It’s time to banish motherhood martyrdom. It's a patriarchal structure designed to manipulate women into embracing their oppression—and it ends now. So, this Christmas, stop putting yourself last. Let the bells ring out for an equal share of the mental load. It all starts with you, mama.