Christmas Cards, and Other Things I Feel Bad About

Or: Stuff I should probably be doing, but don’t Read more

christmas guilt

Every year, I think to myself: I should really do Christmas cards this year.

I said it the first year after I graduated from grad school. (“I’m an adult now. I should do Christmas cards.”) I said it the first year I lived in Philly. (“I’ve started a new life here. I should do cards.”) The first year I was married. (“Now I’m really an adult.”) After our first kid. After our first our first house.

Reader, you see where this is going. I have never done a single card. Not one. Not even the Shutterfly or Snapfish ones that basically create themselves from your Instagram pics, or whatever. I don’t really even have a good reason, other than the fact that I am busy and there is laundry to be done and deadlines to be met and children to be minded and Real Housewives to be watched. But we all know that’s a non-excuse because I’m certainly no busier than any other soul in this world. People with more kids and more responsibilities and more TV channels than I manage to send them out every year. Some of my friends actually make their own. (Make them!)

The truth is, I would genuinely like to be a person who sends cards to the people I love. Every year, I fool myself into thinking I really AM that person. Beginning sometime in November, I start imagining myself writing a really charming, voicey holiday letter, full of warmth and wit — the kind we get in droves every season from people who obviously have more self-discipline and planning skills than I have. I tell myself that I could simply find my address book (the one that hasn’t been updated in 10 years?!) and spend a night or two addressing envelopes — hey, maybe I’ll even enclose a photo of our little family. That doesn’t seem so hard. Right? It seems downright cozy! Festive! I can put on a Hallmark holiday movie while I write addresses! All of this, I envision every year. And then I go on with my normal, cardless life.

The truth is, the person I envision myself to be and the growing list of “Things I Should Be Doing But Simply Cannot Seem To Make It Happen” are at odds with each other. Christmas cards are far from the only guilt-inducing item in that file — a file that has grown drastically since I became a parent, I might add. That file includes (but is not limited to):
Flossing my four-year-old’s teeth. I mean. I brush them twice a day (he “helps”), which already feels like something I should get a medal for. Flossing a small, wiggly child’s baby teeth more than thrice a year? Nope.
-Baby books. Sometimes I type notes to myself on a Google doc of things to one day remember to write in a baby book. I have the feeling that those notes — much like the trillions of photos that live on my phone, waiting, always waiting to be printed — will be the “baby book.” This makes me feel like a terrible mother whose children will have no memories to look back on besides messy boxes filled with preschool craft projects and hospital bracelets from when they were born. And so “fill out baby book!” has been on my to-do list for roughly 3 years now.
Dusting the ceiling fans, baseboards or anything out of easy arm’s reach. Please don’t look too closely at anything if you ever come over to my house.
–Polishing silver. What little silver I have — the candlestick holders; my grandmother’s bracelet — looks like its been buried in the backyard for about 9 years. Sometimes when my mom comes to visit, she polishes for me, even though I am 38 years old.
–Making my own tomato sauce. Yes, I know it’s so easy. Yes, I know how much sugar and other crap is in that jarred stuff. I feel guilty about this every time I serve my son pasta, which is often.
Mixing vinegar with essential oils so my house doesn’t smell like we’re dyeing Easter eggs every time I clean. “Get essential oils at Whole Foods” has been on my to-do list almost as long as the note about baby books. At this point, it’s purely aspirational. Frankly, the house is just lucky that it’s getting wiped down at all.
–Washing pillows, flipping mattresses, cleaning mattress pads. We’re supposed to do this every six months, three months and one month, respectively. HAHAHAHA.

I could go on here, but I’m not trying to self-flagellate. Like every other mom in the world, I do manage to do lot of stuff — important stuff — on any given day, including keeping two small children bathed (mostly) and clothed (usually) and fed (sometimes with jarred tomato sauce). Sometimes I feel like Superwoman. Other times, though, if I’m being honest, it embarrasses me that the me I want to be, the me I think I could/should be — the best me — doesn’t line up with reality. And that’s especially true when it comes to something as public as, yes, Christmas cards. Which — let’s be honest — are at least partly about showing people your best you through that warm, witty letter, through that charming family photograph.

This is part of parenting, I guess: Coming to grips with the ego-hit of not being able to even pretend to be more together than you are. And speaking of that: We have a newborn this year. It really would be a good year to touch base with people and send cards. Possibly with a photo of the kids. Maybe I’ll start on that tomorrow …