I went for a hike early this morning and on the way up one of the steeper hills I was going quite slowly, so slowly that I was able to eavesdrop on a conversation between two women who had stopped to chat. ”Do you think if I frost the cupcakes today, they’ll hold until Thursday?” one of them asked the other. The other one laughed, “Ugh,” she said, “I signed up to bring four different kinds of Christmas cookies. Four! I’m not sure what I was thinking.”
This time of year there are even more demands on our time. And because women often bear the brunt of the decorating, the Christmas card ordering, the shopping, the meal planning, in addition to all the normal weekly stuff, women feel the crunch even more. If you’re a mom, it’s likely even worse. There are endless holiday parties at school, plays, sing-a-longs, Menorah projects, gingerbread house projects…the list is endless. It’s like we somehow make what is supposed to be a festive and happy time with family into a monumental chore. The women I passed on my hike had done what I have done a million times before – overextended themselves, and were now lamenting all the baking they had to get done. The woman who had agreed to make four kinds of Christmas cookies for (presumably a school party) probably would have been just fine making one. But like many of us do, she thought, Oh it’s fine, I can do it!
A few days ago, I got an email asking me to make cupcakes for a Girl Scout party. They needed to be homemade, not store bought. The party is to happen on the same day as my son’s surgery (minor, but still.) It wasn’t a big request, a batch of cupcakes isn’t particularly time consuming, but I also knew that I didn’t want to have to worry about cupcake making when I was sitting in the hospital waiting for him to get out of surgery. A couple of years ago, I would have made it happen. I would have stayed up late and made those cupcakes; I would have made it happen. But this time, I wrote back the organizer and asked if I might be assigned something else instead – dropping off plates or something I could buy quickly. ”Of course,” she replied.
One of the lessons I’ve learned in the past couple years is how to say no. How to take on what I am capable of and not try and attempt supermom status. Some years the birthday cakes will get made from scratch, some years I’ll stop at Costco. Some years I may have the bandwidth to undertake a snow globe project (complete with self-inflicted hot glue gun burns) and some years, the most I can manage is dropping off paper plates for the class party.
You don’t have to do it all. Especially this time of year. Don’t load yourself down with things that aren’t that critical anyway. Do what you can, but give yourself permission to pick up a side dish for a holiday party you’re attending, from a deli. Buy the cookie dough instead of making it from scratch if you have to. But don’t end up frazzled and angry and tired because you’re up at 2:00 am frosting cupcakes for a class party. It’s noble to want to help out, but not at the expense of your sanity.