Why Women Dread the Holidays

Who do you think makes Christmas and Hanukkah special?

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Halloween is over, which means it’s a rapid slide into the holidays — Thanksgiving to Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa leading into New Year’s.

Instead of considering the last two months of the year the most wonderful time of the year, many people consider it the most stressful time of the year. Especially women.It starts with Thanksgiving, our vision of which seems to immediately turn to Norman Rockwell’s iconic illustration, “Freedom from Want,” with loved ones gathered around the table and Mom in an apron presenting the turkey she’s no doubt slaved over all day as well as everything else.

While there are many men who love to cook and who take over the Thanksgiving Day preparations and cooking, the bulk of it is still done by women. As studies have shown, and as women know from experience, while Thanksgiving Day is considered a day of rest for men, in most households it’s a “day of both ritual and physical labor for women.”

It doesn’t get much better come December, especially if you have kids. There are cards to buy and send (or ecards), gifts to be bought and wrapped (and gift wrap, bows and ribbons to be bought), cookies to bake and gingerbread houses to decorate (if that’s been part of the family tradition), trees and houses to be decorated, meals to be planned, tickets to purchase to see “The Nutcracker,” visits to Santa planned … it’s a long list.

And a lot of what happens behind the scenes to make the holidays go as best they can — and granted, they often don’t go all that great — falls on the shoulders of women.

Why? Well, it’s an unhappy blend of expectations; the way creating a magical holiday has been presented to us, thanks to marketing and media, and our own desire to make the holidays “special.”

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, except a lot of it is gendered. Honestly, what men’s magazine helps guys discover “13 Stylish Holiday and Christmas Decorating Ideas”? That doesn’t mean men don’t feel pressured to get their wife, girlfriend or S.O. something meaningful and unique — it’s just much of the holiday “magic” that occurs in a marriage with kids happens because of Mom.

It’s exhausting, and you don’t even have to bake cookies or make homemade gifts to feel that way. It’s just part of the many ways women typically are expected to handle what’s been called the emotional caretaking of the family, which often goes unnoticed or undervalued — and sometimes even resented — creating a “his” and “hers” marriage.

So if you’re looking for a reason why more women are rejecting marriage or why they overwhelmingly want out of a marriage, this is example No. 1.

Which is why I love what Brigid Schulte of the Washington Post did in her own family a few years ago when she noticed she was feeling overwhelmed by making the holiday “magical.” She decided to share the responsibilities:

(M)y husband, Tom, and I sat around the dinner table with our two kids in early December and had our own honest conversation. What kind of Christmas did we want to have? What was most important to each of us? We ended up with a much shorter list. We divided it up fairly. For the first time in more than 20 years, Tom and I came up with a budget and split the Christmas shopping and wrapping 50–50. We’re all planning the meals.

Wait — sharing responsibilities? This is not rocket science! Having honest conversations about it, however, can be hard. And that’s because women often don’t talk about it — sorry, but we need to own that.

This is not a dig at men. It’s also not dissing women who love and willingly choose to decorate, plan and create magic for their family whatever the reason or season. It’s also acknowledging that a good number of women don’t allow the men in their lives to participate because they assume he won’t “do it right” — which can mean he won’t do it “my way,” which can also mean — because many of us still have gendered expectations — she may be judged for his holiday decorating/gift purchasing choices. Sorry but once again, we need to own that.

There’s no reason this season should be any less joyful and restful for everyone. All we — men and women — have to do is make it happen.

Want to individualize your marriage? Learn how by ordering The New I Do on Amazon, and, while you’re at it, follow TNID on Twitter and Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com.

Written by

Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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