I'm full of regret over too many lost Christmases spent cooking and not playing
PUBLISHED: 17:28 19 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:35 19 December 2018
Will you be spending Christmas Day with your head in the oven fussing over the turkey or playing with the children? Rachel Moore wishes she'd done more of the latter in her years as a mum
Working mothers have taken the hump about the BBC’s Christmas mini-film, accusing the BBC of guilt-tripping them.
In the film, a forlorn-looking teenage son texts his mother as she’s rushing out of the door to work asking if he will be going to the Christmas Fair with him that evening.
Frazzled, hassled with a head full of lists finding time to meet him was another ‘thing to do’ in her ever-stretching list of things to do. He looks depressed, she looks fit to drop.
And it’s Christmas.
But, you know, for once, the BBC is right. It has a point – along, of course, with being in my good books for shooting the piece at one of my favourite locations, Cromer Pier, and putting Norfolk’s gem on the national map.
Time for each other is what few of us make.
At Christmas, the pressure to be the perfect everything to everyone hits fever pitch. Sorry guys, this does tend to be a female thing because, for some reason, it’s pressure we put on ourselves comparing ourselves to other apparently perfect women making us view ourselves as inadequate (thanks Instagram) because we don’t live in immaculately decorated homes, with exquisite Nordic festive touches and home-baked stolen for apple cheeks scrubbed children in fair isle sweaters.
This year is the 22nd Christmas since I became a mother. I have been Christmas host for 21 of them, sadly through the era of the ascent of the celebrity cook.
The “are you doing Nigella, Delia, Jamie Christmas” question crippled those of us daft, insecure and suggestible enough to believe that dumping a turkey outside in a bucket of bring with juniper berries – juniper berries! – and creating foul gingerbread stuffing for novelty because Nigella did would create the perfect Christmas that our grateful guests would remember us forever for.
You know what? It never did and today, looking back at those Christmas Days spent with my head in the oven from 8am to 2pm and then in the dishwasher after dusk had fallen, I can say what a shameful waste of time it was.
All those Christmases in the kitchen and not getting down and dirty on the floor building Lego, putting together a Playmobil pirate ship or Thunderbird Two, I can, hand on heart, say I am full of regret.
Any pride in preparing everything for our festive feast from scratch means nothing today, but missing out on playing with my sons at Christmas does.
Who was I trying to impress with my Sunday supplement dream? My parents, my ex-mother-in-law, the four and six-year-old who had scoffed too much from their selection boxes to give a stuffed fig about a brined turkey or the effort mummy had gone into browning her pancetta to perfection to go with their sprouts and the chestnuts she’d wasted hours on Christmas Eve tearing around supermarkets at the crack of dawn trying to track down.
And, as much as I adore braised red cabbage with apple and cinnamon a la Delia, no one else gave a hoot. But it was on my table so I must be a great mum, hey?
My sadness is that, I offered to do the Christmas entertaining, often Christmas day and Boxing Day when relatives and rampaging small boys ‘visited.’
I wanted to love this because that’s what great mums do, don’t they? I would have loved it if I hadn’t made it so hard for myself or if I’d asked for a bit of help, but I insisted on plodding on martyr-like taking on the whole shebang single-handedly, thinking the Christmas angel would award me extra kudos for sneering at the Paxo and spending hours pulping pork shoulder in the food processor to blend with a concoction of herbs and berries for Jamie Oliver’s stuffing.
Then on 27th, exhausted invariably I’d come down with a lurgy and spent new year wishing I had spent more time with the boys, only, like childbirth to forget the hell and the pain and do it all again the next year.
This is the first Christmas without my father and, at 54, it feels odd. The last four Christmases have been spent dashing the 20-odd miles to visit him in his care home where he had to eat his lunch in bed, and then going to home to continue cooking for the rest of us.
I regret the years I snapped at my father for his irritating peccadillos, like appearing with a bin bag to pick up all the wrapping paper as soon as it was discarded.
If only I’d spent more time on those precious Christmases playing and enjoying the day rather than on futile attempts to be perfect.
My friends in their 50s and late 40s, working full-time, living full pelt all lament not having enough is is spending time, but we make life tough for ourselves.
Children don’t remember what anything looked like or tasted like, they remember who was there and the warmth and the love.
Facing a different chapter in my life, I’m heading abroad for the first time for Christmas to a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas for a total change.
Enjoy your Christmas whatever you are doing – and make sure it’s one to remember for the right reasons. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas, but there are happy ones. Happy Christmas.