Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Lovely Little Guilt Trip

This year, I have not been able to stop feeling guilty about  Christmas presents.

Did I over spend? Nope.  I got some awesome deals, and was able to get what I wanted at prices I wanted to spend.

Am I doing some things to help those for whom Christmas can be a difficult season?  Yes. 

Have I focused our home on the true meaning of CHRISTmas?  YES.  We are enjoying celebrating advent with a Jesse Tree going through the Bible to see how it all builds towards Christ’s birth.   

So what do I have to feel guilty about?  I’ll try to put it into words.

I LOVE to give gifts.  I love to watch my children with joy on their faces as they see that they have gotten that much hoped for toy.  I enjoy giving them both toys and opportunities to do something as gifts.  This year, I have a huge pile of things that will delight them awaiting wrapping paper in my hiding spot.  Shawn is building the girls a Barbie house.  Which, to those of you who know him should read : He has another  project on the go, when it’s finished it will be huge and beautiful.  It won’t cost much, though since he can build it mostly out of pieces he has in the garage… which to those of you who know him is a whole other story!

In years past, I have restricted gifts to one for each child from us, one from “Santa”, the stocking, and one from the other siblings combined.  But you know what?  I hated that.  It put a lot of pressure on me to make sure that the gift was “the” thing they were hoping for.  If you’re only giving one, it had better be the biggest item of the wish list!  They still got piles of presents from grandparents, friends and other family members, and the pile looked huge enough! I usually ended up thinking “ Why should the grandparents get all the fun of being the ones who got the awesome toys?”.  I just felt this was the thing to do to keep Christmas from being too much about the presents, so I kept planning this way anyway. 

This year, I did not even attempt such a limit.  We have saved ahead, bought items over time and made room in the budget for several large and dreamed about items for each kid. I bought a lot of the items used, and we planned which things we could make ourselves. We even ended up with several for Bremen, who at just six months will have no idea what is going on!  We weren’t going to do much, but still, there has to be something to write in the baby book as the item he received from us for his first Christmas, and the kids would notice if Santa didn’t leave Bremen a gift and stocking.   Then they insisted they wanted to pick out something to give him too!  Now, we have many gifts for each of them.

But, as I looked at it, I wondered: Is this too much?  So many people have so little, or are not able to feel peace and joy at Christmas.  Why do I feel bad that I can give my children good gifts? 

As much as I want them to enjoy the surprise of all those gifts, I also don’t want them to think they need those things to be happy, at this or any time of year.  I don’t want them to be materialistic, always wanting more or bigger things.  I want them to happy with the simple things, enjoying what they do have.  I don’t want them to forget about the real reasons for all the traditions, but I still want to give them the gifts! Can I have it both ways?

Should I feel bad that we will celebrate an idyllic holiday complete with a turkey and piles of presents? Is giving them a pile of presents more about me wanting to be proud of what I’ve given them?  I don’t think so, but still I can’t help feeling that this year, they have way more than they need.

The mom side of me also had a panic attack when I realized I would have to find homes for all these things!!!

I want to be able to just relax and enjoy the fact that all my planning, hard work and bargain hunting have led us to a year that will delight them all.  But I keep stumbling over my own feeling that the amount of money, though it may not be large in some people’s opinions, really could have been spent more wisely.  That I could have done more for others instead. That my kids don’t need more things! And that maybe the truth is, in the end it would have been better to put the money on debt and pay it off faster, something that no doubt would have paid dividends much longer than the Littlest Pet Shop set out in the garage.  I just can’t help feeling that when it comes down to it, I have chosen the lesser thing.

How to I find balance between my desire to lavish my kiddos with gifts they are going to love and my feeling that it has all become too much?


  1. I loved this post!
    Some how I think we all (mothers) fall into that same trap. I started out too just limiting it to one present from me and one from santa and one from siblings but as you said, that is even harder. especially when the grandparents come in and spoil away.

    I too got some great deals this year, was careful with my money but still spoiled them and now I am second guessing it and feeling guilty, like you.

    I think it is all part of being a mother. I don't think we will ever find a good balance on this one. because although we may feel guilty now, we know that on christmas day, all that guilt will wash away as we see the joy in their faces.

    I know spoiling kids is not always great but my kids have turned that "where do I put all my toys now" thing around. Where do you put all the new ones. It seems like you just get finished figuring out where to put the ones from last year and now there are more.
    My kids have a lot of fun now deciding which ones they can donate to the shelter. and then they have room for new ones. They get some and so do other kids. They even go and buy special bins for the toys to go into before they get donated.

  2. I loved this post too. And I understand totally. This year, my struggle is somewhat opposite...I have NOT planned ahead, I do NOT have much bought yet, which puts me in a bad spot b/c the selection is going to be minimal; therefore, I will either have to settle for something that's not quite what I want, or spend a lot more money...and this year is especially tight money-wise, which makes is that much, last year "Santa" got the big boys their ipod touches (via airmiles, thankfully!), and it's really hard to 'top' that....ugh. And I'm trying so hard to focus on the real spirit of Christmas, but it's hard to get kids on board with "it's about being together, not the presents!" Ha ha!!! :) I think you're doing well, Melissa. Enjoy your kids and the special things you've got for them and done for them. :)


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