Cold mince pies for breakfast. Babycham for elevenses… I’m in hog heaven!
Festive panic has set in. Despite the bonus of being at home in the run-up to Christmas for the first time in ten years (because I’m on maternity leave), it’s chaos here.
How this has happened I don’t know because I started the planning early. Perhaps it’s proof that whether you are a stay-at-home mum or working mum, Christmas tests you to your last reserves of organisational skill and patience.
The ‘traditional family Christmas’ to-do list is too long for two parents to tick off. Frankly, I’m beginning to think it’s something only Kirstie Allsopp is capable of.
Lorraine says despite the bonus of being at home in the run-up to Christmas, for the first time in years festive panic has set in
I’m already at the point where you eat two cold mince pies for breakfast and contemplate a Babycham for elevenses. Today, I resemble Animal from the Muppets and my social skills, so nicely nurtured during maternity leave when you have time to be polite to strangers, have suddenly deteriorated to Gordon Ramsay levels.
I found this out when I went Christmas shopping with baby Mabel strapped to my front like a protective shield. We set off enthusiastically to get the bits I couldn’t buy online, but by the time the fifth set of tourists had stopped to chat at the top of a busy escalator my enthusiasm had turned to fury.
‘Move it people!’ I bellowed. ‘Time is against me, and this baby needs a nappy change.’ Six-month-old Mabel loved it. For her it was like a trip to Alton Towers; all whizzing up and down and dashing about. But by the time I got home I had biceps like Fatima Whitbread.
Christmas is the sixth most stressful event in our lives after traumas such as divorce, moving house and changing jobs, a recent survey has found
Later that day, it was the first of our three seasonal concerts. Mr Candy was late and we sped to the assembly hall to drop off the elder two to sing. Then we had to clamber over more organised people who’d arrived on time to reach three seats in a row. (I wonder how early you have to get there to sit in the front row, or if something of a more Mafiosa-style takes place to bag those precious seats).
The five-year-old mumbled: ‘Please God, not the recorders!’ and baby Mabel let out a burp Homer Simpson would have been proud of — which even prompted applause. So she did it again. When we got home (and I finally had time to clear up the huge bag of Cornflakes that had exploded across the kitchen at breakfast), the wrapping of the postal gifts began and the children put themselves to bed.
Later, we heard a loud crashing noise over the baby monitor and one of them muttered: ‘Uh-oh, I think I need to go to A&E again.’ Luckily, the bruise was not visible for the seasonal assembly the next day.
Peculiarly, I feel more worried about Christmas as an at-home mum than I did as an office mum. This is because I haven’t got the excuse of work preventing me from achieving the fantasy that is the best Christmas ever. So I have to get it right, right
It’s a self-imposed pressure but I’m not alone in this festive madness. I witness it among many of the mums at the school gates, secretly competing as we ask: ‘Have you done x, y, z yet’
Even though I’d sorted various Christmas chores in November, the festive race was disrupted by the dreaded winter cough, which swept through the family, taking us out like ninepins. Precious time was lost. And just when I was so close to ticking off nearly everything on the list, the peripheral to-dos brought me down, the smallprint of Christmas.
Buying teachers’ cards (or contributing to the ones being created by more artistic mums) and secret Santa presents; helping the children design Christmas cards for those school packs they send out; filling in the numerous forms for school activities next year; rooting through the bottomless pit that is the last week of term lost property basket like an old tramp (looking for the new gloves, hats and scarves bought at the beginning of term).
One day, I got so confused that I left the five-year-old’s school backpack on the Tube in one of our demonic dashes to collect his siblings. (Amazingly, it was handed in.)
‘You know what you need to help out’ Gracie-in-the-middle, aged seven, told me one evening. ‘An intern.’ She’s right. That’s what pre-Christmas mums need: work experience helpers, in training for their own parenting years ahead. ‘Don’t get one like mine though,’ she added mysteriously. ‘It’s rubbish at wrapping and it keeps pooping itself.’ It took me a while to work out she was referring to baby Mabel.
Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine