When you start planning Christmas with the kids, you imagine piles of matching gifts under a twinkling tree, visits to Santa in his grotto and joyful hours masterminding the escapades of a cheeky little Elf. You forget the blood, sweat and tears that goes on behind the scenes to make sure each year is more magical than the last. Yes, Christmas with the kids is a wonderful time, but just sometimes we remember what December was like before they came along with more than a touch of nostalgia…
Before kids: You carefully selected matching decorations from John Lewis. You had a colour scheme. Your baubles were fragile, beautiful, and the envy of your friends.
Now: The tree is the biggest headache of the festive period. Babies pull it over. Toddlers smash baubles. Older kids cover it in decorations made from loo roll and pipe cleaners. Only the top half of the tree is decorated, and those fancy glass baubles stay in the box. Next year, perhaps you’ll just buy a felt one…
Before kids: You got your own advent calendar, and ate the chocolate all by yourself. Sometimes you forgot, had two to eat in one day, and felt disproportionately pleased with yourself.
Now: You spend most of December explaining to the kids that they only get ONE SODDING CHOCOLATE a day… You consider recording yourself saying it so you can just press play, but you start to find the repetition meditative. Advent is also home to the Pinterest-fuelled hell that is Elf on the Shelf, which you’d never even heard of before becoming a parent, and think back to that innocent time with a tear in your eye, vowing that Elfie will stay in the bloody attic next year.
Before kids: In many countries, Christmas Eve is when families get together to share a meal and exchange gifts. Not here. Christmas Eve is for one thing, and one thing only: going to the pub. A tradition you upheld with religious fervour for many years.
Now: The 24th is an exhausting whirlwind of Christmas Eve boxes, leaving treats for Santa and Rudolph, and trying to put hyperactive kids to bed. And it’s staying up until the wee hours of the morning wrapping gifts that will be ripped open without a glance or a thanks and fighting with your other half over who gets to drink Santa’s brandy (and who has to bite the carrot).
Before kids: Remember when you used to spend time carefully choosing gifts? When each person took their turn to carefully peel open their presents on Christmas morning? You shopped local, and strolled around pop-up markets with a glass of mulled wine in your hand and joy in your heart.
Now: The list for Santa starts early and is used as a bargaining tool for the entire month. Amazon Prime is your best friend. You mistakenly take the kids to a Christmas market, get the buggy stuck in the crowds, wrestle artisan jewellery from your toddler’s fist, and burn your mouth downing mulled cider as quickly as possible before one of the kids knocks it out of your hand. Still, you manage to get a good picture for Facebook.
Before kids: Christmas used to mean days off work and oodles of time to relax, drink, eat and…sleep! Late nights and lie-ins would dominate the festive period, and you could spend hours in bed watching Christmas telly.
Now: If anything, you get LESS sleep than the rest of the year because the kids are so excited, and usually full of sugar, that they can’t sleep.
Before kids: Christmas came with its own drinks – mulled wine, Bailey’s, brandy, ginger wine – and you made sure you tried every single one before December was out. You might even have had a go at making your own egg nogg if you were feeling fancy.
Now: OK so you may still drink as much (or more, depending on how many times you’ve had to listen to Mr Tumble’s Christmas album), but you regret it so much more the following day…
Before kids: You were the master of the remote control, free to watch Love Actually, the Doctor Who special, or Die Hard as many times as you wanted. Your family gathered around the telly in respectful silence for the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day.
Now: Yes, you’re as excited as the next parent that We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is premiering on Christmas Eve, and you’ll be duly hitting record, but it would be nice to watch something that was more than a PG every now and then. There’s zero chance of any Queen time, so you’ll just Sky Plus the speech but never get around to watching it because you realise that, without the backdrop of Christmas day, it’s actually pretty dull…
If you want to hit up the Christmas markets without the kids, spend some time watching box sets with your other half, or have time to make your own eggnog, book a babysitter and go Christmas crazy.
Our gift to you: no booking fee on sitters for the whole of December.