Anna Mathur: ‘Why I stopped sending Christmas cards and started cutting other festive corners’

woman and child at Christmas

by Anna Mathur |

Psychotherapist, mum-of-three and founder of The MotherMind Way, Anna Mathur tells us why she stopped sending Christmas cards and reveals her top five ways to relieve mum guilt this Christmas.

A few Christmasses ago, I was at that uncomfortable stage of pregnancy where the end can’t come soon enough. The Christmas cards began to drop through the letterbox, from friends and relatives diligently ticking my name off the list. But instead of being excited about adding them to the string hanging across the kitchen wall, I felt a horrible feeling of overwhelm. Yet another thing to add to my never-ending festive to-do list. One grey afternoon, I recalled the tip I so often gave the mums I worked with, those struggling with the juggle. I encourage them to cut corners, address people-pleasing and delegate in order to recoup energy and resources.  I glanced over my list to see what I could strike off. And, in a moment of rebellion, I scribbled out ‘buy, write and send cards’.

The feeling of utter liberation was quickly chased away by fear! Will people think I don’t care? Will they think me lazy or rude when their kind card gesture isn’t returned this year? Will I be able to deal with the guilt when the postman delivers another little batch of cards? Let me just say, I didn’t lose any friends, and the benefit of recouping the time and energy far outweighed the fear of someone being upset with me (which as far as I’m aware, was unfounded!).

Two years later, I still don’t send them. The guilt has died down as I’ve let myself off the hook and been dropped off people’s card lists (I can imagine they sigh in relief, rather than confusion!). Not only this, but that one act of seeming rebellion has had me challenging many other things. I have especially challenged those things that were fuelled by old tradition that no longer served us, or the things that feed the familiar mum guilt which feels so magnified over the Christmas period as the pressure to make wonderful memories mounts.

Think of all those things we do in the name of Christmas, for no other reason than because we feel we should. Traditions only continue to deserve a place in our festivities if they are still serving us. Homemade gravy? Just because generations of women have slaved over a hot stove on Christmas day, doesn’t mean I need to. I’m taking as much heat out of the hosting as possible, giving me more time to actually spend time with those I love who I’m fortunate to be able to spend time with. Because if we’ve learnt anything this past 18 months, it’s that the only thing that is certain, is that nothing is certain! I want to be IN some of the memories, rather than in the kitchen facilitating them for everyone else.

Five ways to say goodbye to mum guilt this Christmas

  1. Let people know what changes you are making. When I stopped sending cards, I put a message on social media to say we were donating to a homeless charity instead of cards this year. And then I sent a quick text to any card senders, to say thank you, and that we’re not doing cards anymore. Adjusting people’s expectations meant less confusion for them, and guilt for me.

  2. When the guilt rises, remind yourself of what you have gained in cutting the corner or the tradition. It might be financial, or the gain of some precious time you can spend resting or enjoying the company of those you love.

  3. Challenge the ‘should’s. When you find yourself saying or thinking ‘I should do that’. Just pose the question, ‘do I?’. Perhaps you do, perhaps you don’t. But so often we do things because it’s the way we’ve always done it without contemplating whether there’s in alternative!

  4. Ask yourself what is most important to you? This is such a good question to ask when we are swept up in the organising and the doing. Often when we contemplate what is really important to us, it’s being with those we love rather than creating the perfect meal or experience. And if we look back to our childhood, what is it that we remember most? It’s not the taste of the gravy or that the floor wasn’t littered with paper, but the laughter and the joy of the relationships. Yes, things need to be done, but where can you seek presence over perfection?

  5. Take the opportunities for rest that arise! There is no guilt in rest, as not only is it a basic and important human need, it enables us to recover from the festive challenges (awkward family dynamics anyone?), and refuel ourselves for the next Christmas curveballs that arise. Whether it’s sitting down and flicking through that magazine gathering dust or heading for an early night, rest enables you to enjoy and embrace the joyful moments that little bit more.

Go to themothermindway.com, an online platform supporting mum's emotional wellbeing for Anna's video guide on How to Have a Merry Imperfect Christmas, £10.

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