A client said to me last week, “I’m losing it. The six-figure income I’ve come to take for granted as an established entrepreneur isn’t happening this year; the economy’s rocky and clients aren’t spending. My husband is pretty certain that he’s about to be fired from his job. We have two kids under 3. Our childcare expense is huge. We barely made our mortgage payment this month. Buying presents for Christmas? Are you kidding me? Help! I’m 40 and feeling like a loser mom and a loser professional.”
If this scenario sounds familiar, feel free to borrow freely from the advice I gave her:
First, stop judging yourself. You’re in good company -- so many folks are struggling now.
Next, devise a short-term plan to get through the socially constructed “holiday” season mania. Just say no. Your babies won’t know the difference between a pile of the season’s “must have” booty versus a stack of beautifully illustrated books that Mom and Dad will read to them over and over again. Set your budget for what you can afford. $75? $100? $150? Then buy gifts that keep on giving -- clay, finger paints, storybooks.
Go to one store only. Boycott malls where the pressure to conform is intense. Visit a teacher’s store. Enjoy browsing for affordable, educational finds. Giant crayons and paper? Sidewalk chalk? Remember the joy of receiving that fresh 64-pack of Crayolas? Sweet classics for your baby with pages made for small hands? Ask the cashier about holiday discounts. Comparison shop online; use free shipping offers.
Set your own holiday tradition. Shrink the present pile litmus test for gauging your worth as parents. Take your kids to museums during the holidays. Light winter solstice candles. Talk about different cultural and religious traditions. Create your own tradition that your family can revisit yearly. View this as your chance to model what the holidays ought to mean -- a loving, relaxed family that has time to hang out together vs. commercialism and greed.
Holidays (or should that be “holidaze"?) have the potential to wreck our parental self-esteem -- unless we take control by making and following our own rules and sensibilities. We have to be mindful enough to refuse to judge ourselves when we don’t live up to the impossible standards of being perfect parents who are always on top of everything. Perfection is an unattainable goal. And our kids live through it.
Like you, I know what it feels like to feel like a loser mom. Here’s one tiny example of what I’ve fielded over the years.
I was a single mom working multiple jobs and finishing my doctorate. One morning, my young son said, with a broken-hearted look, “Mom. The Tooth Fairy didn’t come”.