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Everything Has Gotten Too Damn Loud

Loribeth had a post about Elf on a Shelf that I featured in the Roundup, lamenting how intense celebrating Christmas has gotten lately.  She writes, “But these days, it seems the pressure to do more, buy more, give more gifts — on top of all the other pressures of modern life and parenting – just keep ratcheting upward.”  And while I’ve definitely noticed it with Christmas and I don’t even celebrate the holiday (starting with Christmas decorations up in October, continuing with the onslaught of Christmas programming and commercials going through January, and blowing this non-Christian’s mind with the idea that $224 is a small amount to spend on Christmas gifts for a single person), it feels as if it’s true with everything.

Meals are no longer food to enjoy in the moment or sustain our bodies.  They are photographic evidence of the deliciousness that went in our mouths (extra points if it looks amazing and complicated).  Don’t even bother cooking or ordering something that may taste great but doesn’t photograph well.  Decorations are no longer decorations; they are a statement of how much time we are willing to caress our hot glue gunsHalloween costumes are over the top, Valentines go beyond the little paper card, and birthday cakes for three-year-olds are taking on the proportions, cost, and complications of wedding cakes.

I can rarely find simple recipes on food blogs anymore.  Instead I find posts with 25 images, each artfully taken, photoshopped, and cropped to walk you through how to chop up tomatoes for bruschetta.  Fine, the image tutorials help if you’re making something unusual and complicated such as… let’s say… turducken.  But scrolling through image after image of putting together a salad just because images are pretty and pinnable and we feel as if there must be pictures to keep up with the blogging Joneses?  That goes over my gratuitous/warranted line.

Here’s the thing: it’s all pretty to look at, but the volume has gotten way too loud.  It’s like when you go to hear your favourite band play, and at first you’re enjoying yourself.  But after a few songs, you realize that the volume is up so high that it isn’t fun anymore.  It hurts your ears to listen to your favourite band, and even though you’ve been looking forward to the concert for weeks, you’d sort of rather be curled up in bed than having your ears assaulted.

I think what Loribeth is seeing with Christmas is an offshoot of what we’ve been seeing all year due to social media.  You’re not just outdoing yourself or your neighbours for the holidays.  You’re now feeling the pressure from Pinterest and blogs and your Facebook feed.  You’re hearing tons of interesting ideas and want to try them out yourself (and that’s a good thing), but it’s also a feeling that you’re not doing “enough” for the holidays if you’re not doing it all (which is a bad thing).

After all, if that person can manage a nativity scene made out of Rice Krispies treats that she artfully carved alongside her beaming children with a hotly buttered knife, what does it say about how much you love your child if you don’t attempt to make a little, baby Rice Krispies Jesus on a bed of crumbled Chex?  Don’t you love Christmas enough to attempt cereal craft projects?

The same goes for the machine that is generating all this holiday angst: social media itself.  How many people have felt that their blog isn’t “good enough” when they hear opportunities others get or their traffic or see their pretty blog design?  How many people have felt that they must be doing something wrong if someone starts a Twitter account and instantly has 1000 followers while your three-year-old account still only has 67?

I certainly have gotten the sense that I’m not doing my friendships correctly when I see everyone else having fun on Facebook, and I do think about how I’m contributing to other people’s feelings when I post my own grinning face while out for the evening.

I’m not suggesting that we throw out the baby with the bathwater and get rid of social media, or even that people stop posting their pistachio flower tutorials and clever gender reveal cakes.  But I do think it helps to bring it into perspective when we think about how a bigness has taken over.  That too many people are trying to strive for quality and quantity at the same time, which is possible to achieve, but always at a cost.  I’m not willing to give up Facebook, even though it makes me feel like shit half the time when I see what I’ve either been left out of or missed.  Because there is always that other half of the time when I feel close to people far away, figuratively part of more people’s worlds than I ever could conceivably be without social media.

But I do need to complain about the volume just as I would if I were at that concert. (And yes, I am that patron at the movie theater who asks the projectionist to turn down the sound when the special effects are making my bones shake from the noise.)  On the off-chance that someone will turn it down a notch or at least commiserate to let me know I’m not the only person who thinks that everything has gotten too damn loud.

41 comments

1 Pepper { 12.10.13 at 7:38 am }

Yes, yes, yes. This. Exactly. We have gone through this both years with my daughter’s birthday – what we do is a small, homemade cake, a few decorations, family and one family of friends. She has a great time and I think it is totally appropriate; yet I wonder, as she gets older and we continue to get invited to bigger, flashier parties where all of the parents’ friends and family are invited in addition to those of the birthday child, will it be enough?

And Christmas. My MIL has a cookie exchange party. (Side note – this is not something I would enjoy in general which contributes some of my grumpiness.) She specifies on the invitation that they cookies must be homemade – no mixes, no break n bakes, etc – and they must be baked in a oven, no no-bakes allowed. Really? You’ve made something that is intended to be fun and given it intense directions.

And this year there is an ornament exchange, awards for different categories of cookies and let’s not forget the highly competitive difficult games. This, to me, is what is wrong with “the volume” (not her party in general, but what it symbolizes).

I want to celebrate with my family, not feel judged because I just don’t care to decorate 4 dozen sugar cookies (which, by the way, would lose because they are so freaking boring and “overdone.).

2 Delenn { 12.10.13 at 8:49 am }

I thought it was just that I was getting older! Yes, this is so true!

Being someone who actually likes the holidays, I have found myself loathing them lately–and now I think I have realized why.

BTW, I spend about $20-$30/per person for gifts, except for my kids, who are closer to $150-$200 ea.–cuz they are kids and I feel they don’t really have relatives close by, etc. (I have a spreadsheet with gifts and $$ totals, etc. going back to 2006–and I always stay pretty much on budget)

I have made sure to always keep the tone low, especially since my husband doesn’t celebrate X-Mas and especially since I don’t want to overload my children (or me!)

I find the time great if I just try to ignore the noise and focus on what I love–the music, decorations, etc. are nice–but the main focus for me is family and traditions!

3 loribeth { 12.10.13 at 8:50 am }

Yep. :p I am no Grinch — but as I wrote in my blog post, I am tired & I am just trying to keep up with doing what I feel I need to do at this time of year — get the tree up (check), get my cards done, get everyone on my list a reasonably decent present ($224 per person??! Seriously??!), go to a couple of holiday events (i.e., the office party), admire the Christmas decorations, and then get home to see my family.

And yet here in the office, people keep bringing in homemade treats. Which makes me feel guilty and like I should bring in some homemade treats too, except I don’t have the time or inclination to do any baking at the moment. One person near me decorated their cubicle — & I’m talking flashing lights, reams of tinsel and snowflakes — & now everyone is doing it. Our office Christmas party is on Friday, which is fine… but now my team has decided we ALSO need to have a Christmas night out at the bar next week. AND all wear Christmas themed sweaters. (Fortunately I have a suitable one lurking at the back of my closet.) I tried to argue for a lunch instead, but got outvoted by my (mostly much younger, downtown-living, don’t have to haul their butts home for almost an hour on the train later) coworkers.

I love Christmas. But the pressure to keep up with the Joneses and do more than I really want to or feel capable of doing is not something I need at this time of year. :p

I could go on & on, but I think I will stop at that. Thanks again for the shoutout, Mel!

4 a { 12.10.13 at 8:50 am }

I have a sort of inborn resistance to keeping up with the Joneses – I guess it’s my slightly contrary nature. I was helping out with some Christmas thing at my daughter’s school yesterday, and one of the ladies had to leave because she was going to be filmed for a TV segment on Christmas decorating. Of course, this led to a discussion on Christmas decorating, and she said “I used to put up 5 trees, but I’ve cut back to 3.” My laughing response was “I can barely bring myself to put up one!”

I enjoy other people’s ideas, and I enjoy seeing the results of their work. If it looks like too much effort, that’s as far as it goes. I will not beat myself up for my unwillingness to spend time and energy on things I don’t really enjoy that much anyway. I’d much rather spend my time buying presents (I think I’ve spend that $224 total – for my daughter, my husband, my MIL, and myself. Not counting the family from the battered women’s shelter or other donations), baking cookies (homemade and tasty, but not particularly pretty), and crocheting hats (6 so far – I figure I’d better make them for as long as my daughter is willing to wear them).

5 chickenpig { 12.10.13 at 9:05 am }

Everything is too much. My kids had a school project using recyclables, just for an example. NJ wanted to make a ceiling fan that would actually spin (naturally) and DJ looked at the packing material I had and said “That looks just like a minecraft building, I’m just going to cut out windows and paint it and stuff”. I helped with the spray painting, super gluing, and exacto knife cutting on request, but that’s all I did. Two days ago at parent teacher conferences they had the projects out on display, and HOLY CRAP there is NO way third graders did these projects. Over the top loud doesn’t begin to describe the pressure these days.

I had to laugh at a’s comment. When we first moved into town I had the town clerk tell me “If I lived in your house I would have a tree in every room!” (everyone in our town and 3 towns around has been in my house, apparently) and when I put candles in the windows two years ago I had visitors come to the door saying how much they appreciated my decorating efforts (hint hint). WTF? Now I feel guilty because all the cheap candles no longer work and I don’t feel like dropping $100 bucks plus for new ones. Pressure pressure pressure!

6 ANDMom { 12.10.13 at 9:08 am }

I feel like there is that noise – if you listen to it. Maybe we should, as a society, ratchet it down a little. Or maybe, as individuals, we should just reach out and turn our personal volume down.

I LIKE to make fun food treats for my kids for holidays. I enjoy it, I take pictures of it to remember it, sometimes I share those pictures. Do I think someone’s a bad mom for not? No more than I am for having a lame-o elf that does nothing more than sit on the mantles, or hang from a picture frame. I can enjoy the pictures that others post of their impish little elves playing tricks .. while not feeling bad or pressured to do it myself. I can look at people’s posed formal Christmas cards – and enjoy the candidness of the picture I took myself for ours.

I’ve been called a “good mom” for going a little over the top (though, cheaply and homemade) for birthdays – but my worth as a mom (or person) isn’t in that I do specifically that. My worth is in using my strengths to bring joy to people in a way that I enjoy. By playing to *my* strengths, I don’t feel stressed about not doing it all, because what I do, I do well, with joy, and with love. It’s enough, and so I can shut out what everyone else is doing and just focus on us.

Out there might be loud, but in here? It’s just right.

7 nicoleandmaggie { 12.10.13 at 9:10 am }

We have a similar (but somewhat different) post going up tomorrow. :)

I think we can control our own actions and reactions to such bounty. We can appreciate our artistic friends without feeling intimidated by them. We can be self-confident in our own utility functions and budget constraints and not envy what other people are doing when it comes to Christmas cheer and Pinterest. We can let go and do things that are important to us and not buy into the patriarchal idea that we’re destroying our kids if we don’t do Elf on the Shelf (we being mom, of course) or whatever.

8 Annie { 12.10.13 at 9:15 am }

This made me laugh out loud:

“what does it say about how much you love your child if you don’t attempt to make a little, baby Rice Krispies Jesus on a bed of crumbled Chex? Don’t you love Christmas enough to attempt cereal craft projects?”

Ha! Thank you for that :)

9 KeAnne { 12.10.13 at 9:26 am }

Love this and I agree. One of my posts after Thanksgiving was about how we tried to get a head start on decorating and found ourselves foiled by our electronics. Until last Sunday, our tree looked decapitated while we tried to find time to fix the top lights. None of my exterior lights match despite all being multi-color. Apparently I FAIL at Christmas decorating.

I think the volume at the holidays exacerbates something I feel all year in social media. I’m not crafty. I don’t sew. I don’t knit. I don’t crochet. I like to cook and while it will taste good, it won’t appear to be restaurant quality in presentation. My holiday cards will be self-designed and printed at Walgreens, and I’m almost embarrassed to send them to my friends who are far craftier than I am and much better photographers. I’m horrible at wrapping gifts and have no eye for decorating. I’m lucky if my iPhone pictures aren’t blurry. Do I fit in this social space any longer?

It doesn’t matter. I’m still going to do things my way and hopefully they will be appreciated for being genuine if not aesthetically amazing.

10 Nicole { 12.10.13 at 9:32 am }

What about the made up war on Christmas that has some all fired up. From where I sit Christmas has declared war on fall. Maybe they will find ways to get us to buy hundreds of dollars in presents for other holidays. What about a 4th of July tree? I firmly believe the only reason Christmas is so overblown is because companies see $$$$$ in it. I refuse to submit to the elf on the shelf crap. I have enough trouble remembering to floss let alone move a stupid doll.

As for the (I assume) brooklyn hipster mom who wasted $500 on her kid. Sometimes more is just more. I find the more my kids get the less they appreciate what they have.

11 Lollipop Goldstein { 12.10.13 at 10:13 am }

I definitely think we can control our actions and reactions; after all, I don’t celebrate Christmas nor participate in any Christmas activities down to not going to the Nutcracker. But unless we aren’t connected to society, I think it’s very difficult to not feel anything. Humans want to belong to the group. If we feel out of sorts in the group, we’re going to cognitive dissonance.

12 nicoleandmaggie { 12.10.13 at 10:26 am }

Perhaps, then, a better focus of trying to change society is not to change the people who enjoy putting up Pinterest photos of salad-making, which are seriously not a big deal and can only harm you if you let them, and get at the Patriarchy more directly. There is nothing inherently wrong with people taking crafting to extremes.

There is something wrong when someone overtly implies that you’re not a good mother or you’re destroying your children if you don’t do the crafty things. Just posting this stuff on Facebook isn’t the problem. Writing articles about how you are killing yourself but it’s good for the children (see Laura Vanderkam’s recent post on SAHP, for example), when really it doesn’t make a lick of difference for the children (or worse, when you directly say that moms who don’t do X are hurting the children: see comments section of any blog post on parenting), that’s a problem.

Condemning women who craft or who make money from crafty-blogs, that is just helping the patriarchy out. Let crafters craft and let them show their work as art on the internet and let them make money off it a la Martha Stewart (or The Pioneer Woman or The Barefoot Countess). That’s not my job, and I’m fine with that. (Though I admit, if DH ever gets around to making those browned butter nutella stuffed sea-salt chocolate chip cookies that are going around the Pinternet, I may gain some weight.)

http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/ponderings-on-perfection/

13 Elizabeth { 12.10.13 at 10:27 am }

Bingo. The cost.

14 Lollipop Goldstein { 12.10.13 at 10:36 am }

Nicoleandmaggie — definitely agree, which is why I wrote: “I’m not suggesting that we throw out the baby with the bathwater and get rid of social media, or even that people stop posting their pistachio flower tutorials and clever gender reveal cakes.” I think those things are great if that’s the person’s passion. Martha Stewart obviously loves decorating. More power to her.

I think where it becomes a problem is when the message is not “this makes me happy and I want to show it to you” and it becomes “this is what everyone should be doing because it’s so easy and fun.”

15 Melanie { 12.10.13 at 10:48 am }

I completely agree. Especially on the elf on the shelf and other things that seem to be just opportunities to post a Pinterest worthy picture. It seems 90% of parents I know have the elves now. Some were actually guilted in to it since they received it as a gift and the kids knew about their friends elves so now they are begrudgingly moving that thing around every night. People need to ask before giving a gift like that! We do the traditions that we remember from childhood for our kids. The ones we enjoyed. And that is plenty enough to get done. I do not need to add anything new. The more you pile on, the less special each thing becomes. We decided to pick and choose a few things to do each year and that’s it. Too much and it’s just noise to the kids.

I feel the same about gifts. That article was outrageous! The money spent on each child is going to be different for every family depending on their income and budget, etc. so it wasn’t so much the money spent. that bothered me. (Although I would never ever spend that much! We spend $50 or so for each kid) what bugged me is the, we but a few big gifts, then sticking stuffers, then fill in with a couple $15-20 gifts. And the thought that 3 presents wasn’t enough. What? Are your kids even going to remember all 10 things you bought them? What are tint aching them? Santa brings one big gift unwrapped for each kid. By “big” I mean something they will think is really cool, not necessarily expensive. This year my kids Santa gifts cost $20-30. (Octonauts octopod and a tool bench) they will be set up, out of the box and ready to play. Then we wrap one or two small things from us for each kid. That’s it!

Another thing I’ve noticed lately are kids/family/pregnancy photos on FB. I am constantly seeing creative baby’s 7 week old Pinterest worthy photos. They do make me feel like I should be documenting our lives better, in a more creative way. I know it shouldn’t. I should just appreciate my friends’ creative photography. But I do feel a twinge of “why didn’t I think of that when I was pregnant?” We are snowed in today and a fellow preschool mom posted these cool snowflake waffles she made for breakfast. My kids got their usual dry cereal and juice. Again I felt a little bit “less than” even though I know I shouldn’t.

The one thing in guilty of is the elaborate birthday cakes for my toddler/preschoolers birthdays. I make then myself and they are a bit over the top. I do love a theme and start planning the cake weeks in advance. I really enjoy it though. I spend the day before the parties making the cake and I get a kick out of giving them a really cool homemade cake every year. That’s all I do though, the rest if the party is dollar store decorations, balloons and I have everybody else bring a dish. I just do the cake. What you said about not doing quality AND quantity makes sense. Other parents but grocery store cakes but have really cool activities at their parties. To each their own.

I think we all need to pick and choose the few things that we enjoy doing for our kids and that’s going to be different for each parent. And appreciate what the other does without feeling guilty. Easier said than done.

16 Melanie { 12.10.13 at 10:53 am }

I apologize for the typos above. I was trying to type it quickly while figuring out his to make snowflake sandwiches for lunch. ;)

17 Melanie { 12.10.13 at 10:57 am }

*how. Ugh, sorry.

And I totally was going to make those Nutella sea salt cookies today til I saw we were out of Nutella. Those look amazing. I will deal with all the annoying Pinterest photos just to get a gem like that every once in awhile!

18 Katie { 12.10.13 at 12:17 pm }

I cannot agree enough! I keep waiting for us to “peak”. How loud can get before the rest of the world notices and revolts? I thought a lot about this with black Friday shopping and the stores opening on the day of Thanksgiving. At some point, soon, it will no longer be about who will open their doors first because the stores will never be closed in the first place. It used to be that “super-mom” meant working and child-raising, but now the Pinterest era has added on a whole new, disturbing level to what is expected.

19 nicoleandmaggie { 12.10.13 at 12:25 pm }

Out of curiosity… is anybody actually saying someone’s a bad mom for not being crafty? Is this something in Real Simple magazine or something?

It seems to me the only people I see who equate craftiness with motherhood quality are the people saying they’re bad moms because they’re not crafty. They should stop that. You know, for the rest of us who are affected by culture. (But then, I also don’t read women’s magazines, so I might be missing a meme.)

20 Catwoman73 { 12.10.13 at 12:50 pm }

Yes! This post reminds me of this past June, when I was planning my daughter’s fourth birthday party. She wanted a mermaid party, so I turned to Pinterest for ideas for decorations, cake, etc. I ended up spending an entire week slaving away in my kitchen to make the perfect party. For a four year old who probably would have been happy with a store-bought cake and a few balloons with mermaids on them. The party was lovely, but it was way too much. Lesson learned- I made a promise to myself to keep the volume down from now on.

21 Melanie { 12.10.13 at 1:14 pm }

Nicoleandmaggie, I’ve never seen or read anyone directly say someone is a bad mother for not doing lots of creative crafts for/with their kids. Maybe others have and can reference that for you. What I have seen is a lot of praise and comments such as “you’re such a great Mom. Your kids are so lucky!” On crafty project posts. And comments like, “I didn’t want to use those lame store bought decorations” or “people, please stop using those disgusting box cakes” that make you wonder if your parties are lame, if people think your cake is disgusting.

It seems, years ago, when Martha Stewart was first popular. She and women like her were the exception. The super crafty. And most moms were doing low key things with their kids. Now, at least, in my social circles, the majority is doing super crafty, over the top parties and holiday celebrations.

22 Alexicographer { 12.10.13 at 1:18 pm }

@ Pepper I’m not 100 sure they count as “cookies,” but my SIL makes some really tasty snacks by taking little square pretzels, spreading them on a cookie sheet, putting a Rollo candy on top of each, and putting them in the oven @ 300 or so just long enough to melt the Rollo a bit, then presses a nut into the top of each Rollo to flatten it. The combination salt, chocolate, caramel, and nut is DELISH, and she swears they are easy-peasy (I am intending to try making them but haven’t yet). Maybe those would suffice, for your “cookies?”

23 Melanie { 12.10.13 at 1:32 pm }

My mom is guilty of such comments. At my sons birthday she kept telling him how lucky he was to have a mom like me that would make him such a great cake. And “your mommy must really love you” to make that for you. I know she was just trying to praise me, her daughter, and to try to get him to appreciate my hard work. But it was in earshot of family members that I know do store bought cakes for their kids. It doesn’t mean they love their kids less! And I don’t want them to feel that way. They do lots of other things that I don’t. The fact that I spent all day making that cake is not a sign of my love for my son. It’s a sign I like to decorate cakes. I wish she and others wouldn’t make comments like that.

24 Turia { 12.10.13 at 1:47 pm }

I completely agree.

I really noticed a difference this year with the whole Black Friday thing- first of all it was creeping into the whole previous week (with pre-sales, and special offers, etc.). And secondly- I’m in Canada! Black Friday is completely meaningless to us except as mindless consumerism.

I feel like there is more and more pressure to Buy! More! Stuff! Now! I notice it being in an online birth club- you see what the other Mums are doing/spending. It takes conscious thought to pull back from the herd.

I looked EVERYWHERE this year for an advent calendar that just had little boxes with pictures behind each day. No chocolate. No Lego figurines. Just a simple countdown.

I couldn’t find one.

I found a gazillion options on Pinterest to make awesome advent calendars where I could include daily fun activities, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to set up a whole series of “must-do” obligations for me- the holidays have enough of these already. I just wanted something simple so E. could get a real sense of how long it was until Christmas. We settled for crossing off the days with a red marker on our calendar in the kitchen.

The volume is up WAY too loud.

25 Alexicographer { 12.10.13 at 1:59 pm }

@NicoleandMaggie my sense is that yes, there is plenty of (usually indirect) shaming of moms (never dads) who aren’t crafty or otherwise aren’t keeping up with the Joneses. I’ve been digging around a bit in response to your question and what I’m seeing is “Want to be cool?” (or have the kids think you are cool) language (directed from an “other,” either an expert or another mom, to a mom), lots of language about how “it only looks difficult,” but not as encouragement, rather, framed in a way that imples, “The other moms will think you are so talented/devoted!” (Stuff like, “Don’t worry, we won’t let anyone know how easy this is!” or “We won’t tell anyone you didn’t slave over this birthday cake!”). And an excess of superlatives; if “the coolest mom!” does that craft, then by extension I must not be the coolest mom, since I don’t. So, yes, I think this is out there, and sure, we can (and should) let it roll off our backs, but should also criticize it when we see it.

26 Alexicographer { 12.10.13 at 2:04 pm }

@Turia I was similarly stumped but found what I wanted on ebay, e.g. http://www.ebay.com/itm/HURRY-Bethlehem-Nativity-German-Advent-Countdown-Calendar-Christmas-Star-Manger-/141135760100?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20dc58cae4 . Turns out the Germans (judging from the ebay advertising) are still keeping these simple.

27 loribeth { 12.10.13 at 2:32 pm }

LOL, I see a few people have mentioned Martha Stewart. I was going to continue my comment with a rant about Martha — because I really do think that a lot of this stuff began with her — but decided to end it where I did. I distinctly remember when she first became really famous, back in the early 1990s and started her magazine & her TV show (which only came on once a week at first). I was alternately fascinated & envious of all the lovely things she would make — and yelling at the TV set, “MARTHA!! Who the hell has TIME??!” And that was 20 years ago…! How much less time do we have these days??

@Turia, I have an advent calendar that I got about 20 years ago (when we first started thinking about having a family) from Mastermind. It’s felt, with a Christmas tree with 24 little brass ball thingies on it (the correct word escapes me at the moment)… and below it, 24 numbered pockets, each with a little felt toy or Christmas item inside (an angel, a cat, a star, a horn, etc.). Each toy has a loop on it and each day I pull a new toy out of the pocket & hang it on the tree. I love it. Someone who’s good at sewing & crafting could no doubt make one fairly easily. (They also had felt & velcro menorah calendars along the same lines — you added a new candle every day!)

28 Geochick { 12.10.13 at 2:37 pm }

I’m not crafty. I don’t have the elf. I cook and bake a little, but nothing to go gaga over. I can’t figure out Pinterest. After what turned out to be a super busy weekend trying to make sugar cookies for a holiday party, attending said holiday party, getting in a couple workouts, bringing X to his first tap/ballet class (oh yeah, I am doing it!), going to the adoption agency to be on a panel for a training class, having an honest to goodness date night with DH, and wrapping presents, I came to the conclusion that my standard operating energy level = lazy. And I like it that way! All weekend it felt like a massive checklist of to-do’s, and I was exhausted, just craving some downtime to sit in front of a tv and catch up on the Good Wife. It didn’t happen. Watching tv on my laptop while wrapping gifts totally doeesn’t count as downtime!

I thought I might want to start reading more parenting blog/magazines, but after this discussion, I’m steering clear. Last thing I need is to read about all this fabulous crap that I a) will never do, and b) my kid wont’ miss whatever said fabuluous crap is.

29 Lori Lavender Luz { 12.10.13 at 3:39 pm }

*chuckle*

Sorry. The word “turducken” does it to me every time.

I’m glad you voiced this. I feel it more in terms of complexity — just gimme the dang recipe already — than volume, but yes, the bigness and the desire to, to up the ante? push the envelope? The bigness is overwhelming.

30 Shelby { 12.10.13 at 5:20 pm }

As usual, brilliant. You are speaking my mind and heart. Thank you! It is all too easy to start feeling like a loser because of what social media puts on display (the least of which is Pinterest) and I will be the first to admit that I need to step back and quite possibly have a Pintervention held for me (especially after my 4-year-old’s birthday party). I enjoy a lot of it, but too often it feels like what is expected of a woman nowadays (which is twisted). And quite frankly, I’m sort of ashamed because I see through it and I know better and yet I still allow those expectations to become my own, which in turn may influence others (negatively, as far as I’m concerned). Can I show my kid I love him without handmade banners, personalized food signs, and themed appetizers? Yes! I just need to remind myself of this!

Is it too loud? You damn right it is. My ears are bleeding! Thanks for adding a voice to the craziness.

31 Karen (formerly Serenity) { 12.10.13 at 6:29 pm }

OMG. Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

And the irony of all this social media connectedness is that we feel more alone than ever. All the noise has drowned out our connectedness. It’s all just noise.

Thank you for putting into words what has been bothering me for nearly a year now.

xoxo

32 kateanon { 12.10.13 at 7:12 pm }

Oh I am feeling this this year. People laugh when I tell them I don’t spend hundreds on christmas presents. I decided this year to cut back on the loud things that make me feel pressured and to enjoy the things that make me happy. I can’t handle overblown and perfected ideas of how I should celebrate. Magazine perfect decorations and cookies that take days to decorate aren’t going to make me happy. I like the kudos they come with, but the holiday doesn’t always need to be better and bigger and louder than the year before.

33 Jen { 12.10.13 at 9:36 pm }

Wow, I’m exhausted after visualising all of that!
If I could, I’d take husband and two dogs and go camping in the middle of nowhere, where there is no Christmas and very little phone coverage and just have a simple break from the world.
Having said that, I would probably still take a camera and photograph the awesome camp cookery, and probably annoy the bejesus out of husband for wanting to get a photo of the food before we eat it… guilty as charged (but it still has to taste great!!)
Happy (relaxing) holidays x

34 Leah { 12.10.13 at 9:45 pm }

EXACTLY! Damn, you are so on the money with this!! P.S. – I miss you!

35 Ellen K. { 12.11.13 at 8:18 am }

I’m not at all crafty, and I find baking very stressful. It’s all too exacting. So I just have to tune out that part of the holiday season. For the past few years, my holiday baking has been pretzel buttons (pretzel rings or squares, Hershey’s Kisses slightly softened, press an M&M into it) and poppyseed bread. Last year we all got the flu and I didn’t do any baking at all. This year I ask my mom to send her own sugar cookies for the girls to decorate. I’m buying — gasp! — the 2 dozen cookies to send to school for the preschool Christmas concert. The other day I thought, for some reason, it would be fun to make a gingerbread house from a kit after the girls’ 5-year checkup and chickenpox booster. Some of the pieces were crumbled inside the box. Thank God my engineer DH was home. He very much enjoyed assembling this with super-focused I. while N. and I lost attention.

The authors of “Minimalist Parenting” and Parent Hacks website have a pretty good holiday email series about cutting through the crap (my paraphrase) to find what is really important to you. This year I’ve once again lost my holiday card mojo after spending hours obsessing about online designs, only to feel “meh” when the cards arrive and to put off buying stamps because of all the other holiday spending. Now it feels like an obligation. So maybe I won’t even do cards next year except for elderly relatives who aren’t on Facebook.

As much as I try, I’ve never been able to get our holiday budget under $1400, and we’re not buying gifts for everyone (we don’t buy for our siblings, we do gift exchanges among older cousins, etc.). But DH and I each have 4 nieces and nephews. DH never does any of the shopping and Christmas is his least favorite holiday, and I have to admit that I resent being taxed with all the work of shopping and extremely careful budgeting and setting aside money throughout the year, only to have him freak out every Dec. 26. This year we’ve spent about $220 on each girl, but they are big gifts — including American Girl dolls — and there won’t be tons of presents to open under the tree like when I was a kid. BUT… this is a huge “but”… there is no extra money coming in at Christmas, in form of a huge-ass holiday bonus, like my dad and brother receive at Big Green Tractor Co.

And I have to wonder how many extended families are still operating on an outdated model of holiday bonuses — Grandpa always got a bonus, so the holidays were lavish, and kids or grandkids grew used to that or feel that subtle but very real pressure. My very generous parents totally disapprove of my “few but select” gifts philosophy for the girls. Friends have said their parents are equally critical of restraint. My mom also disapproves of my decision to cut 30 first cousins from the holiday card list in order to bring it down to a mere 60. “What’s an extra $30 in stamps and cards?” she said. Well, $30 actually IS significant when December is more red than green!

36 Pepper { 12.11.13 at 9:32 am }

I think where it becomes a problem is when the message is not “this makes me happy and I want to show it to you” and it becomes “this is what everyone should be doing because it’s so easy and fun.”

Love this. And this is my line. I do crafty stuff once in a while and I bake a lot. I love to share my triumphs because I am not naturally good at either. But I only share for myself, not to make anyone else feel bad. And when I get too involved in something too hard, that’s the question I ask myself – am I doing this for fun or for someone else??

37 Battynurse { 12.11.13 at 8:35 pm }

I totally relate to the love hate thing with FB. The parts that make you feel bad and the ones that make you feel good. I get caught up in both. I also agree that things are too loud. Sometimes the stuff that shows up on my Pinterest feed makes me nuts and I have to start deleting categories. Then I’m guessing all my Harry Potter pins drive others nuts.

38 loribeth { 12.12.13 at 10:33 am }

Had to come back & add that this morning on FB, a mommy friend was posting about being up at 2 a.m. to put a turkey in the oven and bake desserts. For her 8-year-old daughter’s Christmas lunch at (Catholic) school. She will also be helping with setup & serving before heading off to her evening shift at work. I mean, seriously — a turkey dinner for elementary schoolkids??! Whatever happened to pizza & hot dogs?

Oh yes — and my coworkers, who are decorating cubicles and organizing a night out next week, to which we are supposed to wear Christmas-themed sweaters? Have also decided we should do a Secret Santa exchange. Every day for the next week. They decided this yesterday, and we are starting today. Really, do I need one more person to think about & buy stuff for (even if it’s supposed to be small stuff)??

I’m not a Grinch. Really. But…! :p

39 It Is What It Is { 12.12.13 at 4:50 pm }

I see this generated a lot of comments, but since I am SO behind in reading and commenting, I’m not sure what the overall reaction has been because I don’t have time to read all the comments.

I will agree that there is an over-the-topness that accompanies many life events these days (or seemingly does if we are to believe what we see posted to FB or whatever) but I also feel that it’s up to us to turn off or down the noise. We only succumb to the pressure if we allow ourselves to.

I strive for balance and moderation in all things, which includes decorating our home for Christmas (which I do for the beauty of the season), Christmas gifting, and party planning. In all my years of hosting, I have learned that THE most important element to ANY gathering are the guests.

Baby G’s 1st birthday is in two weeks. Did I recently attend another 1 yr olds birthday party that had a face painter AND a petting zoo? Why, yes I did. Do I feel compelled to compete? No way. Yes, I want everyone to have a good time, but just being together to celebrate his milestone birthday has to be enough. I am going to make the food, order cupcakes, and plan a craft/game for the older kids. It’s unlikely that I will even do a favor or goodie bag (unless I do a book) since Christmas will have just have happened.

I post pictures of dishes I make to FB, NOT to have people covet my culinary skills but to say hey this was a good dish, easy to prepare and yummy in case you’d like to make it, too. Sharing is caring :)

40 JB { 12.13.13 at 9:56 am }

Just commented on this post on my blog today :) Couldn’t agree more! http://bickerstaffblog.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-retraction-of-sorts.html

Thanks for this post.

41 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 01.02.14 at 3:19 am }

Somehow missed commenting on this the first time I read it (following back from River Run Dry for a second round and had to read it again because, yes. Yes.)

This feeling is hard to escape and I think we all struggle daily against it (it’s not just me, right?). Could you post something like this, say, once a month to remind us to all just chill out? That’d be cool. :)

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