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November 02, 2006
CHRISTMAS IS A CAPITALIST CONSPIRACY AGAINST WORKING MOMS
OK. That’s a radical sentiment. But I say it only half in jest. Regardless of what you celebrate or how far overboard you go with the gifts, there’s not much joy at this time of year for already harried working parents. If you’re anything like me, just getting to the grocery store is a victory.
I shouldn’t complain. Our plight today is nowhere near as bad as that of working parents from previous generations. Online retailing has been an enormous help to clandestine Santas—working or not: Quite frankly, without Amazon.com, there would be a whole lot less under the tree in our house.
Still, when the leaves turn brown, a feeling of dread comes over me – not just because of the cold, dark months to come, but because of the whole holiday run-around. Every year, I try anew to impose some sanity on our approach to Christmas. Around this time of year, I draw-up a list of all the people I want or need to buy gifts for—and, this being New York, everyone from my mother to the guy who works at the lot where we park our car is on it. I pencil-in gift ideas as they occur to me, so as not to be rushed into last-minute decisions (the parking lot attendant is easy: cash). Then, in early December, my credit card gets a workout.
The problem: While I’ve done a great job organizing my list, I often fail to coordinate with others—my husband, my parents, my siblings. So while each of us buys what seems like a reasonable amount, the total can easily get out of hand. The other problem: I hate shopping and would love to dramatically reduce the time, effort, and money I expend. Not that I don’t love to give gifts. What to do? How to cut back without seeming cheap and Scrooge-like? There may be no ideal solution, but I'm hoping to explore some thoughts in the blogs ahead.
One promising development: My two sisters have decided we ought to do a "secret Santa." The problem: It's hard to figure out how to make it work in an equitable fashion. I have three kids. One sister has two. The other has one. My brother, meanwhile, is single. We can each pick one adult's name out a hat. But then, what do we do about the kids? If we each buy each of them one gift, those with fewer or no kids will have to buy more than those with the most kids (ie: me).
And should we put a dollar limit on our secret Santa gift buying? After all, if each of us buys for just one adult, we may be tempted to spend significantly more than we would have otherwise. Any suggestions you have would be most welcome.
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I don't know what to do about it Anne, but your headline alone made my day. I hate Halloween, I hate Christmas, I hate all the extra expectations loaded onto parents of today. I can't wait for January.
Posted by: Anne at November 2, 2006 07:20 PM
I hear you. Without catalogs and web sites, my wife and I would never get it all done. However, a couple of things we have done to ease the rush: 1) we get a babysitter for one Saturday every year in early December where we go out shopping together for the kids, grab the supplies we need for decorating and cookies and what not, then we have a nice lunch, a nice drink at happy hour and then home to the kids. We get time together, but we also are coordinated and productive. 2) We have cut the amount we spend on each person on the list and amortized with either something the kids have made (a small frame, magnet, painting, etc.) or a framed picture of the girls. 3) Focus on the traditions and memories and not just the gift giving. We've made an effort to have little rituals and special things as a family that become even more important than the toys. Good luck to you!
Posted by: Michael at November 2, 2006 10:07 PM
Christams is tough. For both my husbands family (1st time this year) and my family, the adults each get one name. That means I get one and my husband gets one. I organize who gets who and usually I generate random numbers in excel and each person gets the person with the next highest number, person at the top buys for the bottom. I impose some restrictions - you don't buy for the person you bought for last year, you don't buy for your own spouse, you don't receive from the spouse of the person you buy for (because, let's be honest, most of the buying is done by one of the spouses). This can lead to several iterations before I come up with a proper arrangement. We do impose a dollar range - though people can deviate they mostly stay within it.
With the kids, everyone buys for them. My siblings have no kids so they do buy more gifts for outside their family than I do - but I buy multiple gifts for my kids so I still end up spending more. You might argue that because I have more kids in my family I have less to spend outside my family.
And when my siblings buy for my kids, they spend based on their own budgets. One sibling spends $10-$15 per kid, one $20-$30 per kid and one $40+. So they each budget based on what they can afford.
What I find really difficult is coming up with a list of gift suggestions for my family that are items my children will want, that they will actually use a month or two later, and that will not just make my house even more cluttered and messy. Plus packing up all the kids and toys and travelling to other's houses- - that can be stressful as well.
Posted by: kate at November 3, 2006 09:53 AM
Perhaps this is oversimplifying this, but the kids in all our extended family each dreaw a name of one of their cousins. So, the parents only have to buy the amount of gifts for the coordinating number of children they have. Your siblings children will always have to have your children though and not each others unless more cousins are added. It works well in our family where one sibling has many more children than the others. Good Luck!
Posted by: Holly at November 7, 2006 09:59 AM