Parent Pressure at Christmas

The pressure on parents at Christmas is at an all time high. Since we were children expectations have shot through the roof and if you are not scouring Pinterest every night for Elf on the Shelf ideas, the feeling you are letting your children down is hard to manage alongside the traditional stresses of managing family and budgets.

Let’s break some of them down:

– Elf on the Shelf is a relatively new phenomenon. It is advertised as a ‘tradition’ which has pulled a large proportion of us in to feeling obliged to play along. The short version is that every night you move the darling Elf into a new fun tableau. Trying to do this and be vaguely humorous at 11pm for 24 nights in a row is a stress none of us need. On the nights you forget to move it the look of disappointment on your child’s face as you frantically come up with an excuse as to why the Elf is still swinging from the chandelier is more than enough to put you off making it a ‘Christmas tradition’.

– Managing family expectations. Now this isn’t a new one, but during a recent conversation with some Mum friends we had a realisation. A lot of us don’t end up doing what we would actually like to at Christmas because extended family expect to spend Christmas with us. But really we would like to just sit in front of the tv with our partners and children in our pjs all day. We don’t do this because we don’t want to disappoint other people, but what about what we want?

– As a child we used to feel lucky if our advent calendars had chocolate and not just a festive picture. Now there is a massive market for calendars that have toys for every day of December. They retail at around 8x the price of a chocolate calendar. And if you get swept up in the novelty of them it gets hard to go back to a chocolate calendar the following year.

– For parents that work and have children at school Christmas becomes a logistical nightmare and a masters in scheduling is useful. Christmas fairs, Nativities, Christmas family craft sessions, parents Christmas school lunches, the list is endless. And although all of these events are wonderful it is impossible for most to get annual leave for all of them at such a busy time of year.


– Christmas Eve boxes now seem to be the norm. Not only do you have to curate presents for Christmas Day but there is an expectation to supply your offspring with a box filled with DVDs, PJs and hot chocolate mix in a novelty Reindeer cone the day before. Isn’t a few gifts on Christmas Day enough?!

When we look back at our own childhoods, what are the things we remember? How many presents were under the tree? Not for me. I remember sitting with my family by the tree, watching films in the evening and feeling content from being surrounded by people I love. Don’t succumb to the pressure of the commercialised Christmas that has become the norm, go back to the roots of Christmas and enjoy an 80s style Christmas where a chocolate advent calendar was the height of luxury.


By Louise Lennon