For all the joy and magic of this festive season, there’s no doubt that Christmas brings with it a good deal of extra work and things to do. There are the parties and visits to and from friends and family… Then there’s all that present planning and buying, wrapping and giving… There’s all that extra food shopping and cooking and baking… And on top of all that, there’s also a considerable seasonal serving of extra housework.
Now, before I get all Ebenezer on you, let me just stress that I am a huge fan of Christmas. I absolutely love it. I think I enjoy it even more now than I did when I was a child. Having two small children of my own definitely adds to the magic and sense of excitement and wonder, but even in the quiet moments of planning and organising, the Christmas season always makes me smile.
This is in spite of the extra work, though, rather than because of it.
So, in my attempt to get maximum enjoyment from the festivities with minimum amounts of stress and frantic frenzies, I have a few ideas for a Calmer Christmas Karma. These are lessons I’ve learnt about what makes for a happier time for all concerned – not least, myself. (And why not, Christmas is for grown-ups, too!)
Any regular readers will no doubt be aware that I have a natural aversion to housework. This is not to say I don’t do it – I want to live in a pleasant and comforting home, so needs must etc… But generally speaking it’s not top of my list of things I want to do.
So you probably won’t be too surprised to discover that when I do eventually shift my gears into housework mode, I race about at a frenzied pace, trying to get the jobs done and dusted (literally) as quickly as possible.
Now there is nothing wrong with working quickly, if that’s how you work happiest. Also, there may be times when a brisk pace is essential (ie impending guests are looming). Quite often, though, I have no need to rush the housework, other than my in-built urge to get it over with. And I have also noticed that these domestic frenzies don’t leave me feeling satisfied and competent, instead they actually they wind me up. They make me anxious and tense. So not only do I begrudge the work as I’m tearing through it, but when it’s over, I feel slightly glum or more than a little snappish. Hardly domestic bliss.
Looking after a home and family is physically demanding work. Without health, energy and emotional calm, it can be an uphill struggle. So it makes sense to prioritise your well-being, make it non-negotiable. Looking after No1 needs to be Job #1.
However, the life of a House Slave is a busy one and there may be times when what should, in theory, be top of your To Do list, can drift and slide to the nether regions of your Things That Get Neglected list.
So what to do?
In Housework Blues, I describe the many wonderful benefits of The Housework-out, (ie using housework as a form of exercise). Yet I’m not the first to suggest this idea. In fact, if you search for ‘housework’ on Amazon, one of the top results is the Housework Workout DVD*.
It’s a well-documented theory that the physical, aerobic nature of housework can reap rewards for your figure, especially when you carry out the work with an intention to trim/tone and you tweak your movements for maximum benefit. (For some quick tips on this check out this article from the NHS.)
Perhaps less well-known, however, are the invisible, ‘knock-on’ benefits that also occur when housework is your exercise of choice. So, if the prospect of thinner thighs is not quite enough to motivate you mop-wards, consider the following favourable, yet often unrecognised advantages of The Housework-out…
It’s not often you’ll see the word feminist linked with the topic of housework. Surely, feminists don’t do housework..?
Oh, but we do!
A belief in equality is all well and good, but it won’t do the dishes or make the beds. And until the theory of equality reaches the domestic workload (don’t hold your breath…) guess who gets the bulk of the housework? Feminist or not – if you are The Lady of the House, chances are it’s down to you to keep it clean and tidy.
So, what can we do? Spend all our time fighting the regime? Berate our menfolk for their enviable ability to dodge domestic pressure? Possibly. But in the meantime, the dust is gathering.
And you’ve just tidied it!
There are few greater tests of love than keeping your temper when family members unravel your hard work – before your very eyes. Now that’s tough. But then that’s life, full of challenges.
Of course, being human, some days we won’t manage to keep a lid on our simmering fury. However, if we can manage our anger on just a few of these testing occasions, so much the better for all within earshot – not least ourselves. And as the wise Lemony Snicket puts it,
“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.”
So learning to diffuse our vexation is useful because, let’s face it – this particular problem isn’t likely to be a one-off. If your family are anything like mine, they will view a tidy room or clean surface as an irresistible magnet for clothes, toys, papers and other such debris. So until we discover how to retrain them successfully, we need an antidote to the temptation to explode.