So You Survived The Holidays…

On loss, emotional labor, and Chinese food

The holidays have come and gone, and here we all are back at our desks… and somehow it’s 2019? How on earth did that happen? It feels like we are living in the future (and the future is a tad more dystopian than I’d hoped).

But here we all are. And we survived the holidays in one form or another. For some of you the holidays were your first as an engaged couple, for others of you it was your first newlywed holiday, or perhaps it was your first holiday with a baby. Or, if you’re me, it was your first holiday season without your dad. I know. Way to bring it all down.

The Holidays As A Member Of the #ClubOfLostDaughters

And bringing it all down (or just being brutally honest about where I was at) is something that I leaned into this holiday season. And it turns out, that’s really what helped me get through. “How are you doing?” someone I cared about would ask. And I’d skip the formalities and lay it on them straight. “My dad is dead, and it’s Christmas. So here we are.” Because the truth may not set you free, but it sure as shit is better than pretending everything is fine, and that your mom wasn’t grief texting you photos of your dad holding your infant daughter at 1:30 in the morning, and you didn’t spend part of Christmas Eve in the cemetery. (Because we also did that. The kids wanted to draw pictures for my dad and bring him a tree, and we did, and it was a good thing.)

Figuring Out Holiday Emotional Labor

The other big thing I learned this year was a bit more mundane, but still vitally important. This year I worked hard at figuring out how to better approach the emotional labor around the holidays. In December, I wrote about how while David and I tend to have a decent grip on balancing emotional labor, that balance of emotional—and frankly physical—labor really falls apart during the holiday season. He doesn’t like Christmas (fair, we’re Jewish), and I like things like pretty gift wrap, and that has netted out as “Meg does everything, David does what he is directly asked to do.”

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This Is How I’ve Learned To Deal With Emotional Labor

Some commenters suggested that the real solution to women drowning in the emotional and physical labor of the holidays is for everyone to do just do less. But I disagree (unless, of course, you want to do less, in which case you absolutely should). But my issues with this argument are two fold. First, because my family already does much less, and that has solved exactly none of the holidays. And second, because I refuse to live in a world where we give up on good shit (be that holiday dinners, holiday cards, or goddamn weddings), just because men claim to not care about them very much. (And, important side note: men seem to not care about these things very much right until they don’t happen at all.)

But I still needed a solution. And after a lot of discussion, I’ve decided to go with one of Maddie’s suggestions from her post on balancing emotional labor in her household—the whiteboard. Because the way I plan the holidays is through lists. Endless, endless lists. Lists of what needs to get done for our son’s birthday (which falls smack in the middle of Thanksgiving). Lists of what needs to get pre-planned before December rolls around. Lists of presents. Lists of meals. The lists go on and on. But the trouble is, I keep those lists nestled in my planner, right along with my work lists. Which means, as far as my husband is concerned, things just happen, I get overwhelmed and complain, and then at the end he picks up a task or two. Not ideal.

So next year, those holiday lists will live on whiteboards. Think of it as the domestic equivalent of showing my work. Then, he can pick up tasks and also understand exactly what goes into all these events, social obligations, and presents that seem to come together effortlessly (for him).

Plus Chinese Food And A Movie

I learned that, plus the joys of a Chinese food at Christmas. David has dreamed of the day when we could revert to his Jewish traditions for Christmas, and it turned out this year was the year. Nobody wanted to stare at my dad’s empty seat at our dining room table, or try to re-create the Christmas meal that he’d cooked since before I was born. And the one thing my dad loved more than anything was dumplings. So we took ourselves out to soup dumplings in his honor. (He secretly sort of hated Christmas, and I’m sure somewhere he was delighted.)

How were your holidays this year? What were your wins? What were your pain points? What did you learn this year, that you want to commit to the internet, so you can remember it for next year?

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