Behind every successful man is a woman...and Father Christmas is no exception.
By Claire Moulds
While Santa might get all the credit for putting smiles on the faces of children around the world, I can absolutely guarantee that it is his wife who draws up a production schedule, marshalls the elves to make all the toys, oversees quality control and ensures that the right gifts are despatched to the right house.
And how do I know that? Because in homes up and down the country women are still the ones tasked with delivering Christmas…
Take a minute to think about it. Who makes plans for Christmas in your house and draws up lists? Who buys, writes and sends the cards? Who researches, tracks down and wraps all the presents? Who does battle with the frenzied hoards at not one but three different supermarkets to cater for everyone’s tastes? Who sources new decorations and puts them up? Who ensures your home is gleaming and that there is clean bedding and towels for all your guests?
Asda’s 2012 Christmas ad which portrayed a harassed mum doing all of the above struck a chord not just because it encapsulated exactly what the festive season is like for many women but because it also shone a light on the deeper issue of just how much the modern woman juggles on a daily basis.
Somehow women are brought up to believe that they, and they alone, are the responsible ones. The ones who take charge, plan, organise and chivvy to ensure the smooth running of life. I know many people would have inserted ‘the home’ at the end of that sentence but the truth is that women seem to now be responsible for every aspect of a family or couple’s existence and, frankly, it’s exhausting!
Tellingly, not only did a recent survey by Co-operative Food find that more than half of husbands would not want to swap roles with their other half – with most put off by the prospect of juggling career and family and having to run the home – but it also revealed that one third of those men surveyed admitted to having the ‘easy option in life’, with 43% claiming that they have ‘no idea’ how their partner multi-tasks so efficiently.
And there’s no denying that the famed ability to multi-task is tested to its absolute limit in the run up to Christmas. No wonder women start worrying about it months in advance. It doesn’t help that the situation has been exacerbated in recent years by retailers insisting on breaking out the tinsel before summer has even finished – Selfridges actually opened its Christmas department in August this year – which means we’re forced to think about the festive season ever earlier if we want to bag that ‘must have’ toy or perfect table centrepiece, before everything sells out.
Part of the problem is that many women can’t/won’t ask their menfolk to shoulder some of the burden, eqally it’s exacerbated by the twin issues of men not noticing that something needs doing in the first place and their apparent inability to plan ahead.
In my pre-Christmas frenzy last year my husband actually said ‘I don’t know why you’re getting yourself so wound up’ despite the fact we’d both got so many work and social commitments that it left only three days between mid-November and Christmas Eve to do everything. Of course, he hadn’t made that calculation because his diary isn’t bursting with work and ‘non-work’ jobs, nor did he have a list running through his head of everything that needed juggling in such a short time frame.
The real kicker in all of this, though, is that when everything comes to fruition and the house is beautifully decorated, everyone has been given the perfect gift and the food is delicious, our other halves will be more than happy to share the credit. However, if something goes wrong – a gift doesn’t suit, or the turkey is dry, or someone’s card doesn’t arrive in the post – all eyes will immediately fall on me: as the woman, the Christmas buck stops here. So, if I do delegate present shopping to my husband, and he makes a mess of it, it will be my fault.
This year my modest aim will once again be to finish all my chores by early afternoon on 24 December so I can watch my favourite Christmas movie in peace with a cup of tea and a mince pie before our guests arrive and chaos descends. In the five years I have hosted Christmas I have managed this only once and can normally be found in a frantic state racing around the kitchen, hoovering or last-minute present wrapping – so here’s hoping for a little Christmas miracle!