Guilt and expectation

Expectation can suck. Christmas expectations suck you dry. I’ll be honest with you, if my kids were small right now, I wonder what I’d be making of the elf on the shelf. Because it’s easy for me to look on now as a bystander and say: what the fuck? But what if my kids were the exact age for whom the elf exists? I do wonder what would be going through my head. Would I be smugly watching my friends who participated in this seemingly all consuming Christmas expectation while I didn’t, and offering sympathy as they cried into their coffee cup at soft play that they can’t face another night of it? Would I be liking their photos on Instagram of yet another elf lying in a pool of flour angels, whilst thinking to myself: thank Christ that isn’t me every night? Or would I be doing the whole fecking elf thing, because my kids had held me ransom through guilt? I know how persuasive a 4 year old’s wails of, “but mummy, if the elf doesn’t come to our house then Christmas won’t happen!” can be, when you’re bloody knackered, it’s the nearly the end of term, you’re drowning in nits and norovirus and your gin supplies need topping up before the rellies descend.

Guilt and expectation are part of the trimmings of Christmas. When I had 4 kids under 6, I hosted Christmas Day for 17 members of my family. My ex mother in law set the expectation rate rocketing, when she declared in November that she was making 4 different types of stuffing. I mean, holy crap, where the hell do you go from there? I bought the Good Housekeeping magazine and followed their 4 week guide: ‘a countdown to Christmas’, they called it…a countdown to a breakdown more like. It didn’t start well when the first entry was: get out your Christmas pudding that you made last year and top it up with rum. Epic fail and I hadn’t even started! It went on: week 4 make the cake, week 3 decide on your table decorations – you need to decorate the table? Isn’t shed loads of food piled high on it enough? Week 2 panic that you aren’t going to live up to the stuffing, week 1 the kids get ill, Christmas Eve you get ill. Christmas Day… you honestly don’t give a shit by Christmas Day. 

On reflection, I don’t think I would have had an elf on a shelf. I think that living up to the expectation of the mother in law’s stuffing was more than enough to deal with, matched only by the guilt of forgetting to cook it.

40 thoughts on “Guilt and expectation”

  1. I have a four year old and we don’t do elf on a shelf. She hasn’t mentioned it and I don’t think she knows what it is. I tell myself that when my youngest is old enough, maybe I’ll do it, but in all honesty, I don’t think I can be bothered. There’s enough to do already. Christmas is meant to be about spending time with loved ones, but how can you do that if you’re exhausted and worrying about the stuffing? I’m just grateful we’re going to the in-laws for Xmas day so that MIL can worry about the table decoration (oh yes, she does it) and we can just rock up late with a bottle of Baileys. And I wonder why my husband calls me the Christmas grinch. #coolmumclub

  2. Haha I’m one of those mothers that caved in to the elf. I enjoyed it the first year but as the years go on there is only so much you can do with a elf.
    I leave the spectacular Christmas dinner to my mum whilst sitting back and watching her slowly drive herself crazy!!! I think we should all take the pressure off ourselves and enjoy the family time….If only!

  3. my kids dont know about elf on the shelf, but ive managed to convince my three year old that elves are hiding everywhere ready to report back to Santa. Slightly disturbing i suppose. The expectation to have the perfect xmas as styled by Marks and Spencer et al is huge. hard to shake off, but we all can only do what we can and hope it works!

    1. You’ve used the most important bit of the elf idea and cut out the hard work – excellent. It’s so important to cut out unnecessary hard work wherever possible – paper plates all the way for my family this year 🙂

  4. I would have had an elf on the shelf. I would have succumbed then I’d have drank too much wine one night and probably helped Elf escape (i.e. binned it) as I would have had enough! What on paper looks like a lovely idea is just one more bloody stress to add to everything. No thanks! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime

  5. I don’t get the whole elf on a shelf thing. I mean why would you want to make more mess for yourself. I keep seeing pics like “Oh no, look what the naughty elvs did” next to a picture with cereal chucked all over the kitchen floor. like, you’ve now got to clean all that crap up. Why would you do that to yourself? Also isn’t it just teaching your kids that’s it’s hilarious to chuck cereal all over the kitchen floor? I know my two kids would definitely copy those naughty little elvs and I’d only have myself to blame. Naughty little Elvs aren’t welcome to for a holiday at this house. I already have two of my own.


  6. I have realised over the last few days that many Mums (and to be fair maybe some Dads) are pretty close to the edge in December. There is just SO much to do, so little time and so little help. So many of my friends are having mini breakdowns and I’m feeling the burn too.
    There is one sensible thing I have done though – as a Mum of a 4 year old, I have stuck a massive two fingers up (theoretically of course) to any suggestions of elves, shelves or any other ridiculous notion. I grew up just fine with the concept Santas always watching, so that’ll do me just fine! What a misery guts 😉
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

    1. No – you are NOT a misery guts! You are a bloody sensible mum, who knows her limits! I can remember a Christmas when all mine were tiny. Husband (ex) said he finished work at 12 on Christmas Eve. Great, I thought, I’ll have help by 1pm. I literally counted every, single second of every, single minute, until he rocked up at 4. I know how your friends are feeling right now…fuck the elf.

  7. I have no plans to ever do elf on the shelf. I find the thing a bit creepy looking. Surely an advent calendar is enough? First it was Christmas Eve boxes (or something along those lines that involved special pyjamas). Now it’s that blummin’ elf that’s everywhere. I only hope my daughter doesn’t start on some campaign for one…

    You deserve a medal for having even contemplated feeding 17 people with 4 children under 6. Your super star! #CoolMumClub

    1. Ah, bless you – no one said that at the time. What the fuck is a ‘Christmas Eve box’? This is new to me too. Why are parents of young kids piling on the expectations? Is Pinterest to blame? Social media? Seriously, this has to stop, before all our under 35’s are alcoholics or on Prozac…

  8. Four types of stuffing, oh my goodness. I would say that is three too many there. I know what you mean about the pressure of Christmas. You lump a load of relatives together, most of whom never see each other the rest of the year, for good reason and expect everyone to get on. No wonder divorce rates are always highest in January. As for the Elf I refuse to go there #FridayFrolics

  9. I’m glad that my daughter has never mentioned the elf. I think we all try so hard to make things magical around this time that we end up setting expectation levels way higher than we can ever reasonably attain #fridayfrolics

  10. 4 types is a bit over the top. We have 2, but my MIL makes the sausagemeat, and I usually do Paxo! Anything for an easy life I think.

    Elf on the Shelf – scary and even more time suck on my time. I can’t be bothered with that #ablogginggoodtime

  11. Another smasher of a post. My Mum used to go in for the different types of stuffing thing (not 4 though I have to say!) but it all got sooooo stressful that I am very much a ‘keep it simple’ type of gal now! We can definitely be weighted down by expectation. I have a confession….. we have an elf……….. but he is still in the cupboard that he was stuffed in on Xmas Eve last year and I really don’t want to get him out again – no one has asked about him and it’s just something we can definitely do without!!! #ablogginggoodtime xx

    1. You have an Elf in your closet…that could be a metaphor! There he should remain to keep your sanity in tact! Thank you for your fab comments x

  12. I’m never doing Elf on The Shelf – I do not have 25 ideas in my brain! We have the advent calender and the write your letter to Santa and send it up the chimney tradition and thats it. Christmas is freaking enough don’t add 24 days of extra elf pressure to it! Was the stuffing awesome? Bet no one gave a crap #stayclassymama

  13. You are a hero for doing Christmas dinner with 4 under 6! We did it when I was pregnant with my 3rd with a two yr old and one year old. NEVER AGAIN. I couldn’t cope with 2 types of potato let alone 4 types of stuffing. It’s so hard to not get sucked into the expectations and all the hype…I have an elf and the kids do love it but he’s boring because who has time for it! I really enjoyed this post #thelist

    1. Thank you so much for your comments of solidarity. What were we both thinking? What were the rest of the family thinking by agreeing to it?!

  14. There’s no elf here and I am very smug about it. Seriously I have enough to do! The expectations at this time of year are ridiculous. I’m all for keeping traditions simple. My kids love taking a detour on the way home from the grandparents to look at all the Christmas lights in the build up to Christmas. We may even do a spot of carol singing in the car whilst we do it. Merry Christmas. Thanks for linking up to #FridayFrolics. Hope you’ll be linking again in 2017

    1. A smug non-elfer – love it 🙂 Thank you for hosting such a supportive linky. Have a lovely Christmas and see you in the new year x

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