Honest Motherhood: The palaver of gift-giving

A recent column for Wokingham Today. :

By the time this column comes out I will have all of my Christmas affairs in order and feel both relieved yet exhausted at the palaver that is gift-giving. At the time of writing, like every other mother, I have a to-do list the length of my baby’s arm. Chocolates for teachers; done, presents for partner’s closest friends’ babies; ordered, presents still to collect from a handful of different stores because I am trying to be good and not order so much on Amazon this year; countless. I felt very self-righteous, standing in line in WHSmiths, ready to collect the books I’d ordered for Dad. It was far faffier than Amazon, but it felt good and right, therefore it was worth it. Moral high ground; tick. 
Like many, with gift-giving, it’s my partner I struggle with the most. It’s the fear of being out-done, and the guilt and frustration when I inevitably am. We haven’t been together for very long, but in the Christmases and Birthdays we have celebrated so far, we have both gone to ridiculous effort. It has been like a tennis match of who can shower the other person with more personalised and well thought-through love and affection. Paintings, customised artwork, mix-CDs, Birthday surprises involving nearly all my closest friends and family. (I was never going to beat that one). This was lovely at first, but the more I acknowledged my ever-growing to-do list, the more I realised something had to give.  
“I CAN’T KEEP UP, IT’S TOO MUCH.” I declared one evening. 
“I agree” he said, with a glimmer in his eye. 
“NO I am serious, we can’t keep doing this. I do not have time to paint anything for you this year. Nor do you have time to make me a Mix CD?!
“We buy one big and one small present, write loving cards, and have a magical Christmas, that is all. No surprises and no sneaky stocking full of extra presents hidden away like last year.”
 Recent conversations suggest that he will not be playing ball. I am on the fence as to whether to stick to my word (in which case the man gets his overpriced jeans and a toolkit) or get my watercolours out. 

With the weirdness of 2020, despite the fact it rolls around every year and I knew to expect it, Christmas has seemed to spring out of nowhere. It seems strange that with all the uncertainties and horrors of Covid, we still get to celebrate something as joyful and lovely as Christmas. I suppose that’s what it’s all about; despite the dark clouds, finding joy where there is joy to be found, within reason and safely of course. I will always look back on 2020 as the year my son was born. A truly awful year, met with one of the most amazing things that can ever happen to a person. I was incredibly lucky with the timing of Leo’s arrival. Joel was allowed into both scans and lockdown was lifted in time for us to have just the right amount of visitors after the birth. August was by far our favourite month of the year. The four of us spent a large proportion of it sat in our living room, wearing very little clothing, the fan on full blast, watching Netflix as I nursed Leo. We’d get up only to grab more food, use the toilet, change his nappy or answer the door. It was the best. It goes without saying the last 12 months have made us all more grateful for what used to be the little things. A family visit indoors, a meal out with a group of seven people from seven different households, a supermarket visit where everyone can see everyone else’s entire faces. It’s sad that it took a global pandemic for us all to remember what really matters and that nothing should be taken for granted. But we’re only human. 
I look forward to 2021 with several large doses of hope, faith, and my usual sprinkling of naive lofty enthusiasm. Here’s to a happier, healthier 2021.