Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

December 14, 2009

Be my guest

This week, I am most excited to welcome a number of very special guest bloggers to Hot Cross Mum. It's kind of like a TV 'Christmas Special', but without the added feeling of having eaten and drunk too much. Each guest has written a post on the theme 'All I want for Christmas...' and all have offered a uniquely brilliant take on this annual dilemma.

My first guest, Jenna McCarthy is an internationally published writer and author of 'The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties', and 'Cheers to the New Mom/Dad!' Jenna's work has appeared in more than fifty magazines, on dozens of web sites and in several anthologies including the popular Chicken Soup series.

So, without further ado I give you, Jenna McCarthy (thunderous applause, hysterical cheers...)

All I Want For Christmas...
When I was asked to write this guest blog post, the first thing that popped into my mind was a Land Rover. (Er, I mean world peace! World peace, of course, was my first thought; then Land Rover.) But since I know a new car’s not in the budget, the only other thing I could think of was for my wonderful family to allow me to pee—uninterrupted and with the bathroom door closed—for a whole week. Or even a day. Fine, a couple of lousy hours. Alas, if past experience is any indication, I’m pretty sure I won’t be unwrapping peace-on-the-potty this Christmas either. The good news is, struggling to come up with my own gimme-list prompted a delightful discovery: I really don’t need a single bloody thing.

And yet, dozens of my nearest and dearest are quite possibly right this very minute forking over their credit cards for some sweater/stationary/Snuggie (please God, not another wearable blanket! That thing was supposed to be a joke, wasn’t it?)… for me. Because it’s the holiday season, damn it, and people exchange gifts. After all, nothing else says “you’re special to me” quite like a 40-pound fruitcake, right?

Well, not me. Not this year. I’m not trying to be heartless—just practical. In fact, I have decided I’m not even going to attempt to spit-shine the kids and force them to sit still long enough to get a decent photo for the holiday cards I’d spend hundreds of dollars on and which would wind up in landfills and fireplaces around the globe. No, this year, in lieu of cards and gifts, my inner circle will be receiving a nice “holiday letter” from me that will go a little (or a lot) like this:

Dear Family, Friends and Cherished Loved Ones,

I am writing today to apologize in advance for the fact that you will not be receiving a holiday gift from me this year. Please don’t take it personally; it’s not your fault, and I hope you know that you are extremely important to me. Unfortunately, I have exhausted all of my time and money on people I know and love far less than you.

First, there’s the time issue. You may not have realized this but I am extremely popular. I have eleven holiday parties to attend in the next two weeks alone, each of which necessitates a hostess gift and more often than not, a covered dish that serves fifty to one hundred people. (Isn’t the whole idea of a party to provide people with food? I can eat my own sausage balls at home without having to pay a babysitter or put on mascara. But I digress.) I will be enjoying these parties in between attending the kids’ respective school Holiday Extravaganzas, dirtying my windows with faux-snow (which I’m hoping will distract the children from the fact that they’re not getting a trampoline—again—this year), sweeping up a steady stream of broken ornaments, baking bottomless batches of reindeer cookies (slice-and-bake, but still), working overtime to compensate in advance for the three days I plan to take off work while the kids are out of school, running back to the drug store for yet another roll of Scotch tape and every single day cleaning up at least one pile of tinsel-filled cat puke.

So while I really care about you on a deep and profound level—and I certainly understand, theoretically at least, that my holiday energies should be directed toward my nearest and dearest—I just don’t have time to shop for a personalized token of my affection for you. (I know, you pick up gifts all year long and stash them away so you can avoid this mess. Naturally you wrapped and shipped the entire haul by Halloween, too. I want to be like you, really I do. But I’m not.)

Even if I did have a spare hour to hit Target or scour eBay, there’s the money part. I don’t have any. I’m not eating out of dumpsters or anything, but any disposable income I might have had has already been fully disposed of. I’ve written more checks this month than a politician does during an entire campaign and bought more useless trinkets than my grandma owned in her lifetime.

It may seem unfair, and it is: Unlike you, the recipients of these gifts do not love me unconditionally; in fact, I don’t even know some of their first names. Nevertheless, a combination of obligation and fear has rendered me penniless. There’s my kindly mail carrier (I get a lot of mail and the man has never once given me a dirty look, even as he limps up my front path buried behind a stack of Pottery Barn catalogs), the trash and recycling collectors (who if recognized promptly and sufficiently tend to overlook the overflowing post-holiday bins and cheerfully whisk the excess away), my hairdresser (the woman is booked six months in advance but somehow manages to squeeze me in when I have a root emergency; can you blame me if I’m not willing to jeopardize this relationship?), our arsenal of babysitters (they put up with our kids and we are pretty sure they don’t steal our stuff), the FedEx and UPS guys (both of whom have great legs, wear shorts all year long and bring treats for the dog), the gal who scrubs my toilet once a month (she scrubs my toilet!), the person of unknown age, sex and gender who faithfully launches our newspaper almost all the way to the front door in the darkest pre-dawn hours (I’ve grown fond of this luxury), my pedicurist (she bows before me, kneads my soles and wields extremely sharp tools; that one’s a no-brainer ), the kids’ teachers (because if they don’t deserve a little holiday cheer, I don’t know who does) and of course the gardener (who actually saves me from having to tip a manicurist as well as a pedicurist, so in a way he’s a wash). Thankfully, we walk the kids to school, or I understand the bus driver would be expecting a handout as well.

I do hope you understand, and if you’ve already bought a gift for me, feel free to return it, re-gift it, keep it for yourself or hang onto it until my birthday. Maybe your hairdresser might like it? Just a thought.


p.s. You might be happy to note that I no longer have time to work out, so there will be no personal trainer walking around with the iPod you were hoping to get from me.

Jenna currently is hard at work on her next project, a practical guide to living with and continuing to love the TV-addicted, listening-impaired, not-quite-handy man that you married. In her spare time, she wonders what she used to do with all of her spare time. Visit her online at

Pop in again tomorrow to see what my next guest, Tim Atkinson (aka 'The Dotterel') has to say on the matter.



  1. Great, great, great! cheered up my night.

  2. Just how I'm feeling - without the excuse of being too busy with holiday parties or broke because I've bought presents for all those great sounding people (a pedicurist?? no wonder you're broke....); I'm just broke. Well, not entirely, but just seriously unwilling to fork out large sums on a bunch of stuff that the recipient probably won't even like. That said, I'll probably end up doing just that...

    Happy Christmas!

  3. I agree, I agree... But I love presents. Waah. I know environmentally most gifts don't really pass muster. Many of the things I'm given, and I'm sure that I give, aren't that great. But it is so lovely to unwrap loads of stuff and feel loved. Sigh! How about giving edible pressies (no, not suggesting you actually make them). Or practical presents. Sigh again...!

  4. I think it goes for a lot of us out there! Really enjoyed your guest post today.

    CJ xx


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