Women doctors are experts at time management. We do our most rigorous training during our prime family-building years, so we have to be able to prioritize tasks and accomplish a great deal in small aliquots of time. I know that when I was starting out in my career, the question of balancing life and work was of critical importance. And now, that my kids are older, I find myself mentoring young physicians who are still asking the same questions. These questions can’t be answered quickly, and this is why I started this blog.
A young professional woman with a family will find herself especially tested during the holidays. Before Martha (BM), working mothers still had pressures to care for family and work, but now we are expected to do all this in a perfect home with 30 kinds of home-baked cookies, multiple themed Christmas trees, hand-made gifts, and wrapping art. If we don’t, we failed to provide the “Best Christmas Ever” for our children, who will then become truant jerks and maybe not even attend medical school.
Here’s the secret. Don’t try to do it all at once. With little kids, if you do something twice, it’s a tradition. Therefore, if you happen to skip one year, you can still pick up the tradition the following year and they will recall you doing that particular thing every year. Also remember, you have 80 Christmases to get through. Not all of them will be the “Best Christmas Ever”. And don’t you want to enjoy them, rather than just “survive” them? You need to be selective about how you celebrate and I’ll be writing more this month about some of my tools for this, but for now, here are some examples.
If you send cards every three years, it’s enough.
You can get away with only baking one kind of cookie. The kids get bored with it anyway.
You only need one tree. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And if you have kids or dogs under 4, you’re only going to decorate the top half.
You don’t have to put out all your decorations every year. Your home will look more elegant with fewer well-chosen items, some greens, and less clutter. You also don’t have to decorate every room, although my kids each have a miniature Christmas tree that they put in their rooms. And I’m talking about the little ones that are 12″ high and pre-decorated.
Don’t worry about beautiful wrappings. They are getting ripped off in a frenzy that’s so fast you will be lucky if the right kid opens the right gift. Artistic wrappings are for retired women and empty nesters. Don’t believe me? Read any issue of any shelter magazine. The best homes are always owned by people in their 60’s or gay couples with no kids.
If you want to get out of traveling, just say your kids have the flu. No one wants to get that. They can also have the flu every Christmas, which is a lovely thing, especially if it’s not true.
It’s not fair that the burden of making Yuletide bright falls on women. But think back to your own mother in the golden “BM” days. If she worked outside the home, did she really do that much? What do you remember from your childhood Christmases? “Perfect table settings?” I couldn’t tell you how the presents were wrapped, but I remember being tucked into bed on Christmas Eve and hearing sleigh bells outside as my father walked around the house in North Dakota wind chill. I don’t recall what color lights we had outside, but I remember the Christmas concerts at the college, both as a child in the audience and later as a singer in the choir. I remember candlelight services on Christmas Eve and how magical it was when the church went dark, except for the tiny red eternal flame, and how candles lit from that flame eventually passed from hand to hand until the entire church was lit by candles while we sang Silent Night. Do you want your family to remember magic, or frazzle?