This time of year is crunch time for mums, as our list of unpaid, unofficial duties gets longer – send Christmas cards, make New Year plans, try to head off rampant family politics about whether one granny spent five minutes longer with the kids on Boxing Day than the other. My stress started a little early this year (moving house, work issues, terrible twos) so I’ve been able to test out some ways of handling stress on your behalf and while I obviously don’t have any constructive suggestions, I can reveal that it’s not a great idea to deal with it by…
1. Shouting “I'M SORRY” in a very unapologetic tone at the woman who glared at you for bumping into her with a buggy
Yes, it's her fault for walking with the speed and consistency of an inebriated tortoise when you had places to be, but you're setting a bad example for your kid by lying. Also if anyone you knew saw you it might be a bit shaming to be seen rucking in the street with a stranger.
2. Blaming your mother
I used to think it was a great idea to make everything my own mum’s fault until I realised I had a daughter now who could one day do this to me, and decided that actually, parents are just doing their best and everyone has to take responsibility for themselves.
3. Baking mince pies “for the family” and then eating them all
Regular readers will know that I often take refuge in baked goods. And that I’m consistently half a stone overweight, which becomes another thing to stress about as my face/neck, bum/thighs, calves/ankles start to merge into each other.
I had a bit of a bad night with the baby, so I started with a 6am Nespresso and then topped up with a 12-cup cafetiere that I microwaved back to drinkable warmth throughout the morning and a latte when I went out and I don’t understand why my vision’s going blurry and I can’t concentrate on anything for more than two seconds and my anxiety’s through the roof and what time is gin o’clock because I’m in serious need of some kind of downer?
5. Hating on chuggers
I already feel guilty enough about all the things I’m not doing properly for my family without some out-of-work actor knocking on the door twice a week to make me feel guilty about all the things I’m not doing for people I don’t even know in unthinkable situations around the world. But glaring that “It’s not a good time, sorry” will make you feel like a heartless bitch for the rest of the day, so be mature and hide when the doorbell goes instead.
6. Giving in to pestering
In high pressure situations such as urgent Black Friday shopping, you may show your child a chink of weakness. This happened to me recently when my toddler was doing her usual tour of the hand-height junk foods, and asked for crisps for the millionth time. "OK," I said, thinking, just this once. I need to get the shopping done. But was it just once? No. Her entire life is now about getting crisps and if I say no there is screaming. Never give in!
Is 33 too old to start smoking? I sometimes wish I'd taken it up sooner, for a crutch I could turn to when the 75th request for gift ideas arrives - but no cigarette has yet been invented that looks cool hanging out of the corner of your mouth while you push a pram round the park (I'm looking at you, vaper mums.)
8. Hating on call centre employees
After a 25-minute labyrinth of jarring pop music and “your call is important to us, you are at queue position 9”, it’s tempting to tell the person who eventually picks up the phone to help you track down your missing order that if you ever have to listen to another record by REM or the Lighthouse Family you’re going to board the next flight to Mumbai and take an axe to their computer system. But if that person “accidentally” hangs up, you’ll have to start again.
9. Hating on your life partner
Obviously it’s all my husband’s fault for contributing nothing to the
war Christmas effort, but I’m not in a position to find a better one if he notices that I haven’t said anything nice to him since 2013 and leaves. So lately I’ve been trying actually asking him for help. It even works about 20-25% of the time.
10. Making passive-aggression a way of life
For the past few months I’ve been walking around in a rage just waiting to get annoyed with every waiter, bus driver or Christmas shopper who enters my line of sight. Turns out, my death stare doesn’t actually cause these people to drop dead, it just makes me seem like a strung-out lunatic.