As she spoke, I must confess I felt a pang of jealousy and at the same time my heart started to race. The first was because I wished I had started my cleaning too and second came when I thought of all the work I have to do.
Yes I am talking about Christmas cleaning, though I will never understand why we women put ourselves through so much physical, emotional and psychological stress during this very jolly, merry season.
“I just like to feel the cleanness and look my handiwork when I survey the decorated house and it makes me feel proud and like Christmas!” another friend said, when I asked her why she does so much at Christmas time.
I know the feeling because, I can’t lie, I do feel really nice on Christmas morning when I get up and the fairy lights are still blinking, it is still a little dark and the décor looks off the charts (at least in my eyes). But then later in the day as I toil in the kitchen and my poor body starts to protest from all the pressure I placed on it over the past weeks I forget all about that ‘nice’ feeling.
The season is fast approaching and I am already becoming a little depressed when I think of the volume of work I have to do. And I know there are many other women who feel the same way. Just as I know there are a few out who are delightfully looking forward to all the hustle and bustle. Hats off to them.
“When you have children you just have to do it,” a friend said. I keep hearing this all the time and I have to agree to a certain extent as my seven-year-old has already asked if the Christmas tree is going to be up on December 1.
But is it really only women with small children who make all the fuss? The answer to that is no as I have seen many women who don’t have children or whose children are grown up fuss over Christmas as much as those who have little children.
It is not the fuss I don’t understand, it is why most of us wait until it is close to Christmas to get things done.
“Where is the joy if your house does not look and feel new on Christmas day?” a friend asked.
But another told me that she plans to have everything done by December 14, when her vacation starts. “I don’t plan on spending my vacation working, that is almost one week before Christmas and I just want to relax,” she added. I could not agree more.
Like me, these are working women, some even work longer hours than their husbands but yet are expected to take up the bulk of the responsibility of making it a merry time for the entire family.
I read somewhere that women become very stressed around the time when they should be the merriest, some are even forced to visit psychologists for help. But yet year after year, we continue to put ourselves through the same grind which for many in the Caribbean, certainly in Guyana, begins with the complete cleaning of the house. Bucket, water, soap powder (in some cases a stronger detergent), brush and cloths become our best friends for the days we spend cleaning our homes from top to bottom.
It might seem a trivial issue, but it really is not. Women should not have to feel pressured to do all, and again I say all, of the work during a time when the entire family is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, an indeed joyous occasion.
“Look if we don’t do it who will do it? And tell me will you really feel happy when you get up Christmas morning and your house not decorated and the smell of pepper pot not there? We would feel depressed so we might as well work we self out and feel nice after,” was how one woman put it when I raised the issue of all the work women do during the festive season.
Of course I would indeed feel depressed if the house does not have a sense of Christmas during the festive season, not to mention the reactions of the children and even my husband.
But I cannot agree that the alternative is to work ourselves to the bones, how is that enjoying Christmas? We must be able to strike a balance so as to ensure that we don’t feel completely frazzled during and after the holidays.
Maybe we could take my friend’s suggestion and have it all done a while before Christmas. But then some of us would not feel satisfied as one woman told me she does not want the house to be “stale” by Christmas day. It is that newly-decorated feel of our homes on Christmas morning that many women look forward to. I like it myself because it brings back some of the happier moments of my childhood. I would wake up in the morning and the house would look completely transformed, even though I would have participated in the cleanup exercise.
I don’t want to rob my children of this experience, but I also don’t want to be stressed out and tired during the holidays. And as the years go by I find my body can no longer go for those long hours without complaining. If we want to keep our sanity and not feel tired and broken during the holidays then the balance must be struck.
So as the Christmas carols are being played and the stores are enticing you with all their new arrivals, tell yourself: ‘This year, I am going to take it nice and slow and not kill myself.’
Start early and vow to finish early. Do not leave everything for the last minute, you know you will crash. There is nothing wrong if the curtains, decorations and tree are up early, it simply means you will have a longer time to enjoy them before you have to take them down again. If you are a diehard Christmas morning ‘newness’ kind of lady then rearrange the house on Christmas Eve night and maybe keep back a few of the decorations and lights and add them at that time.
Furthermore, don’t leave all of the food preparation for Christmas day, you will have no rest. There is nothing wrong if the pepper pot and black cake are made days in advance, in fact they will taste better. And if you have to put it under lock and key to ensure it lasts until Christmas day (I have seen it done) then so be it; everyone would be happy.
It is early days yet, so there is still time to implement some of my suggestions or come up with some of your own. But sisters let us ensure that this Christmas is not as stressful as the previous ones. I know we still want to have good time as it is a woman’s thing to make the family happy at Christmas time; that’s just the way it is. But let’s ensure that we make ourselves happy as well.
Here’s to a frazzle-free Christmas, ladies!