Updated: Jan 5
Lost: Christmas Spirit, If Found Please Call Juleen
Happy Mom Monday, everyone. I hope everyone’s holidays were wonderful. Today I want to talk about an issue that is common amongst mothers during the holidays. Since becoming a mom, I have been in a perpetual cycle of anxiety, exhaustion, and joy, endlessly wondering if I was parenting correctly. I pray I do not scar my children for life. I could not help but wonder if my mother ever felt the same. Was she, like me, trying to put on a brave face for her children?
Furthermore, I wondered if she ever closed her bedroom door, pulled the covers over her head, and screamed her frustration into her pillows. Did she feel ashamed when she had to manage the holidays on a seemingly impossible budget? When she had to tell me that she could not afford whatever frivolous tchotchke I was begging her for that week, did it hurt her? Is the ubiquitous feeling of inadequacy and imposter syndrome robbing us of our ability to enjoy motherhood?
I am sure many of you have felt this. Maybe you could not put a name to it. Perhaps you were ashamed that you were feeling this way. Let me be the first to stand up and admit that I felt inadequate and embarrassed this holiday season, and I did not ask for help. Because of my pride and my preconceived notions, I suffered from depression and Imposter Syndrome in silence. My situation was not even uncommon. Like many other people, I had been struck hard by the pandemic. I worried about what my children’s holidays were going to look like. Instead of opening up about it, I worked day and night up until the week of Christmas. I did not want to give up, but I did not want to be so consumed with work that I ruined Christmas for my children.
I honestly had low expectations of the holidays this year because I figured the pandemic would do what it usually does and suck the fun out of everything. The holidays were very slow for my business the Mom is Always Write Media Inc. writing Agency. With my wallet on the injured list and no prospects of seeing family outside of my household, I could feel depression beginning to creep up. I desperately wanted to decorate our home with all the Christmas fixings. It did not look like it would happen as our landlord had to do some work in the kitchen just one week before Christmas, so all of our belongings were in boxes in the middle of the living room. Sufficed to say, while the lights were all aglow up and down the street, my home looked like we were still moving into it. It felt like the Christmas spirit just skipped over our house as if the grinch had taken up residence there. I really wanted to crawl into my bed and wake up when 2021 arrived and pretend that 2020 never happened.
Getting out of bed and facing my children with their Christmas lists and their questions about Santa coming was a daily struggle. I could not buy them everything on their list. I am pretty sure there was another Xbox on one of those lists. We did not even have a Christmas tree up. While I was budgeting everything from food to gas usage, my children’s classmates would get these fantastic extravagant presents from Santa and their parents. I always say it’s not a competition, and you are doing fine, but that week of Christmas, I was not doing fine. I felt sad and overwhelmed. Even worse, I was too proud to ask for help or share with my fiancé how I was feeling. Mostly I felt ashamed that I could not give my children this amazing lavish Christmas that they deserved. I put on a brave face day after day, going through the motions while dying inwardly. They have had a tough year and have had to compromise everything from how they socialize to getting an education. I wanted so bad for this one thing to remain the same. I kept wondering, is this the one year where my best is not good enough? I constantly had to remind myself that budget mom does not equal bad mom. It was not surprising that as I struggled to keep the blues at bay, my mother rallied my family three days before Christmas, effectively saving Christmas.
Compliments to the Chef and the Mom that Drags Her to the Grocery Store
I am the eldest child. My siblings are my day ones. As children, we were always together. As adults, not so much. In the present, I do not get to see my siblings often, but I feel joy knowing that they are out in the world living their best life. No matter what we go through, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the times where I can really just feel the warmth of their presence. To let the whole family, know how much I love them, I take the time to carefully plan out the menu, create a prep schedule, and present them with a unique dish that warms their bellies and their hearts. I do research on every single spice, taste every ingredient, and see how well they blend together. I love to find ingredients that do not seem like they would go together and create the most delicious dish. I like to use ingredients that, like my family, are unique and divergent, but when they are masterfully blended together perfection. The food is my love letter to my family, carefully crafted to nourish them and satisfy their appetites for great food and togetherness. With no one coming and the Christmas decorations noticeably missing from the house, I did not bother with the menu or the prep schedule.
I knew my mother would be asking me about Christmas dinner eventually, and I was not looking forward to it. I received that dreaded text from my mother about three days before Christmas. She wanted to go to the store and get what we need for Christmas dinner. I made every excuse in the book because I did not want to admit that I did not have the money for the dishes I wanted to cook. My mother insisted that I accompany her and my fiancé to the grocery store. My first reaction was, “Can’t we just Instacart? Have you seen this place? There are boxes everywhere. Where are we supposed to eat?” Despite my protests, she would not take no for an answer, so off we went.
Energy Neither Created nor Destroyed
As we walked through the grocery store, my mother asked me what I thought of one dish or another. I just could not get excited about anything. We settled on a roast chicken and a roasted turkey breast from Honey Baked Ham. (Before this moment, the idea of the main dish being anything but my original recipe and even worse, purchased, was absolutely sacrilege.) We worked to gather the ingredients for my favorite sides and desserts. No matter how despondent I was, my mother was excited. She spoke animatedly about my siblings being COVID free and being able to join us. (Do not come for me. There were not more than ten people) I started to get excited. Her energy and happiness were contagious. She was not letting my Bah Humbug ruin her holidays, and she was swaying me to get into the Christmas mood too. As each ingredient went into the shopping basket, the more excited I became. I found myself chattering about everything from the children to the food. It was starting to look a lot like Christmas.
I Don’t Give a Duck…or Maybe I do.
I spoke about experimenting with some fruit pie recipes. I also shared that I had been trying some fruit reductions for poultry sauces. I was worried about the preparation. I usually order the ingredients at least five to seven days before the holiday in question. Then I prep and mix the ingredients. Every day had a different food-related task. However, this year I would be prepping every dish in two days. Still, after feeling the thrill of Christmas coming together, I could not wait to get home and get started. We made our way to the front of the store to pay for our items, and in the freezer was this one lonely looking duck. The rest of the freezer was empty except for some frozen Cornish hens. The other patrons had picked it clean the way carrion birds pick at a carcass. There it was, like a beacon of Christmas cheer, a duck. I grabbed it immediately. I was elated. I could not believe we serendipitously stumbled upon what looked like the only duck in the entire city. I had created just the recipe for duck not even a month ago. We checked out, and I was pumped to get started.
Drunk on Wine and Feeling Fine
While we were at the grocery store, my sons had begun the arduous process of unpacking the boxes and putting away the cooking paraphernalia per my mother’s instructions. I went from feeling abysmally depressed to not being able to contain my joy. I got to work on my cooking preparation. As I worked, I watched our living room go from being filled with boxes to actually being able to see the floor AND the coffee table. The couch covers went over the couches, and the Christmas tree went up. My children laughed and had a fantastic time decorating the tree. I found some lovely last-minute presents for them, but because I wrap gifts like a blind Tyrannosaurus Rex with a broken arm, I had to wait to put them under the tree. (Don’t act like you’ve never put presents in a gift bag because you didn’t feel like wrapping them. In my case, the spirit was willing, but the present wrapping skills were weak. Santa gives gift bags in my house, don’t judge me.) I was up until three in the morning on Christmas Day, but it was worth it. The duck was in the oven, the sides were all set, and my siblings arrived with wine and good cheer by 5:30 PM. I imbibed and talked for hours about pie. (Sorry, Roxanne, I don’t really drink, so that one glass of Merlot had me feeling nice.) As the evening wrapped up, I thought I had half of the money I usually did. Still, because of my mother, it was twice as memorable. My mother swooped in like wonder woman and saved Christmas! It just goes to show that no matter how old I get, my mother will always be my number one supporter, whether I ask for help or not. I felt more joy and love during this one budget Christmas than when I had a ton of money to drop on my children, but I was alone in New Haven. I guess the takeaway is, do not let Imposter Syndrome get the best of you. With or without money, you are enough. You are not a fraud. You are an excellent mom, and as always, YOU are doing FINE.
My actual mom