If you are anything like me, then you are constantly asking yourself if you’re a good caregiver. Am I seeing my mom enough? Am I staying long enough when I do go see her? Should I be doing this? Should I be doing that? Am I doing enough? Could I be doing more? These questions are constantly running through my head. I’m always questioning myself and wondering whether or not I’m doing enough. I drive myself crazy. Last Christmas was no exception.
I put so much pressure on myself last Christmas to try to make everything perfect for everyone. In November, I began helping my mom paint Christmas tree ornaments to give out to family members. Once that was done, I began helping her paint a birdhouse to give to my dad as a gift. After Thanksgiving, I went down into their basement and dug out all kinds of Christmas decorations that I remembered from when I was growing up. I helped my mom help me decorate the entire house. We even decorated their full-size Christmas tree, which was still set up in the living room from the previous Christmas. (Insert face palm here.) Then, I went Christmas shopping for everyone’s gifts. Not only did I buy gifts for each of my parents from me, but I also bought them each a few gifts from each other. I spent hours upon hours wrapping all of these gifts. I filled out the gift tags to say, “From: Jerie, To: Jack” and “From: Jack, To: Jerie.” I picked out clothes for each of them to stay warm over the winter and other things I thought they might enjoy. I did everything I could possibly think of and it still didn’t feel like enough.
Aside from all of that, I planned and organized our annual Christmas Eve party at my parents’ house. My mom and dad had always hosted Christmas Eve at their house and I wanted to try to keep the tradition going. I knew that it would most likely be the last time we would be able to host anything at my parents’ house, so I wanted it to be perfect. The house was decorated, the presents were nestled under the tree, and the food was ordered. The day before the party, my aunt and uncle came over to help me clean the house and set up for the party. My mom was having a really bad day and kept yelling at all of us to be quiet. How the hell were we going to host the party at her house the next night? It was too late to move everything to someone else’s house and if we did move it, I knew that my mom and dad wouldn’t be able to come. I remember breaking down crying and damn near hyperventilating in front of everyone that day because I was just done. I had to call and uninvite several people in order to try to make the party work. It was a mess!
The Christmas Eve party ended up going off without a hitch and everyone had a great time. My mom was in a great mood and seemed happy to be surrounded by her loved ones. Everyone sang Christmas songs with her and we laughed all night long. It was un-freakin-believable. I couldn’t have asked for a better night. Even though it all turned out well in the end, the only thing I got for Christmas that year was a mini nervous breakdown. Everyone was lucky that they didn’t have to come visit me in a mental institution on Christmas Eve. And that damn birdhouse, the one that I painstakingly helped my mom paint and decorate to give to my dad? Yeah, it’s still sitting in the gift bag that I wrapped it in when I put it under the tree last year. No joke. You can come over to my parents’ house and check.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Bad Moms,” then you’ve probably heard about this year’s sequel, “A Bad Moms Christmas.” I haven’t seen it yet, but based on the previews, a group of mom friends basically go bat-shit crazy trying to make Christmas perfect for everyone every year, so they decide to just be “bad moms” this year. In the trailer, one of the moms says, “Moms don’t en-joy, they give joy.” I could say the same about caregivers. Caregivers don’t en-joy, they give joy. They stress themselves out trying to make everything perfect for everyone and even if everyone has a perfect Christmas, the caregivers are just left trying to find the right balance of meds to make it to the new year. Well, I for one am done!
This year, let’s be bad caregivers! We won’t decorate every square inch of our houses and then do the same to our parents’ houses. We won’t put up a big Christmas tree in our parents’ living room, when a small tabletop tree would suffice. We won’t start hand-making gifts for everyone before it’s even Thanksgiving. We won’t go Christmas shopping for our spouses, our kids, our parents, our in-laws, our dogs, and then go buy more gifts for them to give each other. We won’t buy 10 fresh, new rolls of wrapping paper, when we have scraps left over from several Christmases past. In fact, we won’t even give a shit what kind of wrapping paper we use, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, or birthday wrapping paper. And, we certainly won’t plan the world’s most perfect Christmas Eve party to be held at our parents’ house simply for the sake of keeping the tradition alive for one more year. We won’t drive ourselves crazy trying to make everything feel normal. There is a new normal now. One that cannot be ignored.
We will be bad caregivers this Christmas! We will hang the stockings eventually and set up a tabletop Christmas tree whenever the hell we get around to it. We will get gift cards for everyone or nothing at all so that we don’t have to spend hours upon hours wrapping presents. If we do have to wrap anything, we will do a terrible job because it’s just going to get ripped to shreds on Christmas morning anyway. We will avoid lines in shopping malls and shipping costs for online purchases. We will buy store-bought sprinkle cookies and cheap wine to bring to whatever poor sucker decides to take over hosting the world’s most perfect Christmas Eve party this year. Or, we will just simply stay home in our sweats eating store-bought sprinkle cookies and drinking cheap wine by ourselves. We’ll be popping bottles and pills well into the new year.
We will also listen to as much or as little Christmas music as we want. We will watch those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies from now until well after the holidays have passed because they make us feel good. We will look at other people’s Christmas lights and read other people’s Christmas cards, since we don’t have the time or energy to do our own. We will dig into those advent calendars a little early and eat all of the chocolate. No one will ever know! We won’t do all of that extra stuff that our loved ones will never even know we did. They find joy in the simplest things, like sitting and holding their hand. Our only job this Christmas is to make our loved ones smile. We can make them smile by just singing a Christmas song with them. Don’t waste your time and money buying your loved one a bunch of presents when just your presence is enough. Take time to enjoy quiet moments with your loved one and don’t worry about all of that extra stuff.
This Christmas, let’s be bad caregivers! Let’s put our own sanity before everyone else’s happiness. Let’s put tradition on the backburner this year and focus on simplicity instead. Let’s worry less about presents and more about presence. Let’s find a way to give joy, but also to en-joy. We deserve it!