Going to a meal without my partner means being sat at the kids table

Last weekend was a big birthday for my Dad and rather than have a party he chose dinner with his kids and grandkids. Thing is, when you’re a father to 5, most of us have partners and many of us have produced children, things tend to get expensive and there needs to be rules. The rule was set that only grandchildren aged 16 and over could attend to keep the numbers down to a mere 20 something.

That was the same weekend that we had my step-daughter and no babysitter. As she’s only recently turned 12, she didn’t make the cut so my partner stayed home with her and I went on my own. That’s not as sad as it sounds as I had all my siblings and their partners, along with a couple of Dad’s friends to keep me company. All good. When we got there we saw that there was a table plan and as we went to find our seats I saw I was firmly in the kids section, parked next to my nephew and nieces.  I guess my twin and I are Dad’s youngest kids but at age 37 it was a struggle to spend the meal sat next to a 16 year old who clearly doesn’t view me as the ‘cool auntie’ I was hoping for. I spent the first 2 courses jealously looking over to my siblings who were all sat in the ‘grown up’ section then, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, went to chat with my sister and brother in law.

At times I quite like a kids table (as long as I’m not on it). When we do get around to celebrating Christmas with the family I have planned a kids table for the boys, namely so they don’t get nagged by the adults and we all have a bit more room around the big table. Let’s just hope there’s enough space and I don’t get stuck at the kids table for a second time in as many weeks.

Leave kids to decorate and the house will be well lit

Before I had kids I never really bothered with Christmas. I lived on my own, sometimes with lodgers. Occasionally I would have a token Christmas tree (twice in 10 years), once I strung fairy lights around the curtain pole until I realised I couldn’t draw the curtains for the month they were up and once, courtesy of my mother buying me some fashionable silver twigs, I did the twig and fairy light thing. That’s it.

Having children makes my meagre efforts from before look a bit scrooge like so I’ve upped the effort over the years to include a real tree and a multitude of fairy lights. This is the second Christmas we’ll be spending with my step-daughter who is amazing at all things interior (seriously, a friend commented the other day that it’s the nicest she’s ever seen my house look) but still child like in her enthusiasm for Christmas lights and decorations. The upshot is you definitely know that it’s Christmas in our house with not 1, but 2 Christmas trees, so many lights I wouldn’t be surprised if the satellite station can see our house glowing out in space and many Christmas ornaments scattered around all over the place. Not sure where everything has come from but I’m loving the festive atmosphere in the house, just don’t let me be the one to have to take it all down and pack it away in January.

5 minutes extra sleep means death to the advent calendar

The earliest person up in the house tends to wake everyone else. This isn’t one of those ‘cute’ family things, it’s the consequences of living in a small house with thin walls. My partner’s been on early shifts more than usual meaning that the whole house is up while it’s still dark out and me being a bit of a night owl means I haven’t adjusted my bedtime to allow for the earlier starts.

After my partner headed off to work the other morning I listened to hear the boys were (come to think of it – suspiciously) quiet and I took the opportunity to go back to sleep for 5 minutes. Literally 5 minutes (this is all it takes with young children) later my 5 year old came bursting into my room holding his advent calendar aloft and proudly announced that there were only 2 doors left. This was on the 10th December. Brilliant.

He does get the concept of advent calendars and the one a day method but given that he’s growing up in a technical era where anything he wants can be demanded via voice instruction to Alexa (note to self, unlink Amazon account), waiting is an alien concept.

Shortly after this miraculous achievement showing me that I really need to keep advent calendars pinned to the ceiling as there is no shelf high enough where he won’t reach them, he threw the most almighty tantrum at going to school time. Not helped by the fact that his body was full of 12 little squares of sugar. The usual…. your Headteacher will come and get you and then she’ll be really mad and ‘Mummy will go to prison’ didn’t work and in a bid to get him and his brother to school before the gate shut we settled on him having a spoon of Nutella before bolting out the door and squeezing through the school gates before they close.

Did I think having children would mean having to share my (not-so-secret) habit and ownership of eating Nutella out the jar? Nope, I thought that one was mine and mine only. Oh well, I guess sharing is caring. Something the little one could do with learning too.

Adulthood means getting to do Christmas your way

This opinion may make me a bit unpopular but Christmas has never been my favourite time of year. I don’t really know why. Maybe because it’s in the midst of winter, maybe just all the fuss and enforced visiting and time with family. Either way, it’s a holiday I could do without.

Having a blended family adds yet more complications to what’s already a complicated time of year. Being from a blended family myself, there never seems quite enough time to visit everyone and get everything done. Also, being self-employed, the enforced stopping work doesn’t work brilliantly either. For the second year running when organising Christmas we have to take into account my mum’s side of the family, my dad’s side, my kids, my step-daughter and their other parents wishes. Feeling stressed? My best friend taught me to view it as a jigsaw puzzle, working out how to slot everything into place. This helps.

What also helped was figuring out that Christmas means a bigger deal to our kids other parents than it does to us. Armed with this information I chose to do Christmas differently this year. Every year there’s a Christmas lunch for the Homeless, Elderly & Vulnerable at my church and my partner and I thought this would be the year we volunteer to help with it. I sent an email to my Minister saying we’re good at cooking and serving and happy to help in anyway we can. I wasn’t quite expecting the email back saying ‘I want you to lead it’ but here we are. Whilst slightly daunted by organising an event catering for up to 80 people, it’s also exhilarating to be able to do something different at Christmas and be a part of the larger community, rather than just my family on the day.

As a double bonus we are picking up the kids in the evening and getting to do Christmas with them then. Bring it on. I’m ready!

Being self employed means no Christmas party

Most of the time self employed life is great. If you like financial insecurity, working all hours and everyone thinking you’re available to them all day every day because you work from home. The plus side is that I’m (almost) always available when the kids need me to go to their school stuff or they’re ill and need to come home and I can get all my appointments done during the day and just make up the hours in the evening.

Something I hadn’t thought about when I set up on my own was that if I wanted an office Christmas party I would have to organise it myself. And I’d be the only one there. I never really thought of this before this week when I noticed my Facebook and IG feeds filling up with photos and videos of my friends Christmas parties. A couple of friends were pretty nonchalant about whether they were going to go to their company knees up or not. It made me think ‘wow, a night out, fully funded and organised by someone else, I’m there!’ Typically my partner’s Christmas do is for staff only, no partners.

Not drinking this year (4 months into one year, no beer and smashing it!) helps with the feelings of being left out from Christmas celebrations but still, I’ve just finished an amazing website, am looking forward to the next one I’m starting and have lots to celebrate from this year. Whinging to my partner has clearly worked as he’s booked the day off next week and we’re going to spend the whole day together in lieu of a Christmas party. It’s very handy that the benefit of working for yourself is being able to block out a day to do lovely things even if it does mean I have to organise my own Christmas party.