FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #3 – Boxing Days if you’re a parent

Reader Jane dropped me a line:

“I think I’ve figured out something that may help in terms of ‘how Mums can do a boxing day’. You may need to relax the ‘rules’. The thing is, there is always so much to do around the house and for the kids/husband/etc.

“If I had planned a bit more beforehand (e.g. booked a massage, picked a film to go and see, arranged a friend to meet for lunch, booked a table to eat alone, etc) then I might have had more of a successful BD. However, because (the rules state) you’re not ‘allowed’ to think about what you’re doing in advance, I ended up doing a whole load of chores and things that needed doing around the house. Which was fine, but not really the rest a 36 week pregnant woman with a one year old needed!

“I suggest that childcare is arranged, even if it’s just for half a day with Grandparents, and then you allow Mums to book one thing to do (or plan one thing to do) outside of the house. This would remove the temptation to go ahead and get on with chores, etc.

“A Mum’s (and I’m sure a Dad’s!) lot is a busy one and there is, like I say, always so much to do that it’s hard to put oneself first, especially if you have that rare commodity of free time. The first thing that comes to mind is something along the lines of ‘thank goodness! Now I can get that big pile of ironing done, weed the garden, cook for the freezer, etc.”

My gut reaction to Jane’s email was to point out that there’s a huge difference between pre-planning (what you’re going to do on Boxing Day) and preparing (doing whatever’s necessary so that a Boxing Day is possible). Pre-planning is bad. Preparing on the other hand, is very very good. Necessary even.

However, hot on the heels of Jane’s email, readers Kirsty and Alison contacted me with very similar thoughts! It seems it’s just too darn difficult to be spontaneous on a Boxing Day if you’re a Mum – other stuff always gets in the way. Clearly I’m out of my depth here.

So I called in the Big Guns and emailed Keris Stainton –  author, journalist, fan of this book and (most importantly) Busy Mum of two. I put the Busy Mum vs Boxing Day conundrum to her, reserved several pages in the book for her words of wisdom, and waited. If anyone would know the answer it would be Keris. Why, she’d probably end up writing a blog post or an article about it. Fabulous!

Three weeks later (I told you she was busy) I got her  response.

She was, to use her own words ‘flummoxed’ – unable to see how being a busy parent is so different from being a busy anything else. She went on to say:

If the FIRST thing you think of when you get up on Boxing Day is ‘thank goodness – Now I can get that big pile of ironing done, weed the garden, cook for the freezer, etc.’ then, well, you REALLY need a Boxing Day!

If any of this rings true for you then let me just say this; “go for it”. And if ‘going for it’ means you need to have one thing pre-arranged, or you have to have a rule that says Boxing Day takes place Off-site, or you limit Boxing Day to the hours between dropping the kids off and picking them back up again, or Boxing Day is something you do with another Busy Parent – if that ‘fixes’ Boxing Day and makes it work for you – then you have my blessing! I am not going to stand in your way. I’m just pleased that you’re finally taking time out for yourself.

If you’re a parent and have any thoughts on the challenges of Boxing Day, feel free to share them in the comments box below or on the facebook page.

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #2 – Not knowing what to do

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Ideally here’s how Boxing Day should work: You wake up, you ask yourself what you fancy doing at that precise moment, then you go and do that thing. And when you’ve done that, or you’ve had enough of whatever it is, you go do something else. Easy?

Not necessarily.

Once you’ve decided (in advance) when your Boxing Day will be, Gremlins immediately take up residence under your bed, ready to thwart you.

The first gremlin is ‘your usual daily routine’. Unless you begin Boxing Day right away it’s incredibly easy to start the day pretty much as every other and before you know it you’re checking emails, opening post and oh, the laundry basket’s looking a little full I’ll just put on a load of washing.

The second is a ‘general lack of inspiration’. There you are. Sitting in bed. Ready for the Boxing Day euphoria to kick in just as soon as you can decide what it is that you’d like to do… and you just can’t think of anything.

I’ve been there.

Here then are some top tips should you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Start Boxing Day from the moment you open your eyes – Try and break from your normal daily routine from the moment you wake up. A couple of times I’ve come downstairs and as I’ve reached for the milk in the fridge I’ve seen those eggs, sitting there, quietly doing nothing, and thought to myself – sod it – let’s cook breakfast. And other times, as I opened the cupboard to take out the Weetabix, I’ve noticed a kilo bag of oats and thought to myself, “You know, what I really fancy right now are flapjacks.”
  2. Perform the Boxing Day Dance – Flushed with the success of the first Boxing Day (which you’ll remember was an accident) I was quite excited when, having made an appointment with myself, it was time to have the second one. I was so excited that I danced round the flat in my dressing gown making up a silly Boxing Day song as I went, much to the bemusement of my cat. Strange thing is though, I’ve since found that if I’m having a Boxing Day which feels a little flat, a few bars of my Boxing Day song will be all I need to get the Boxing Day juices flowing. (No you can’t hear my Boxing Day song – make up your own!
  3. Do the first thing that comes to mind – Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to do with your Boxing Day because you’re over thinking it. If you’re struggling to feel inspired, stop, and ask yourself “What do I want to do RIGHT NOW?” The thing that comes to mind, usually before you’ve even finished the sentence, is very possibly the thing you should do. It doesn’t matter how silly it may seem, or how simple – if it can be done, now, and you like the idea – do it!
  4. You can work – Working on Boxing Day is a completely legitimate exercise if that’s what you really want to do. And let’s broaden the definition of work to include any activity that you might not consider typically “fun”. Decorating, for instance. Balancing your cheque book. Filling out an application form. Don’t put yourself under pressure to fill your Boxing Day with “fun” activities. If it’s what you want to do (want to do – not need to do) then it’s a legitimate Boxing Day activity. For instance, I am writing this paragraph on Boxing Day! That’s the absolute truth, and I can honestly say that right now, given the moment, the opportunities available to me, and how I feel, writing this is what I really want to do.
  5. Make a list – Pre-planning Boxing Day is utterly forbidden, but if you’re a planner at heart (as I am), there’s nothing to say you can’t do a little brainstorming at the start of the day. If I don’t wake up and feel instantly inspired I often grab a piece of paper (rather than sit at my computer) and jot down ideas – things that I could do. I try and write my ideas all over the page and at weird angles so that it’s as un-list like as possible (otherwise I might be tempted to start at the top and work through the items). And then, when I’ve finished brainstorming, quite often I’ll toss the list to one side and do something entirely different.
  6. You can be dull – If you want to do nothing but sit on the sofa and watch TV, or go back to bed, or read a magazine cover to cover, or play computer games, that’s perfectly acceptable. If it’s been a while since your last Boxing Day (perhaps you had to postpone it) then maybe this is the first opportunity you’ve had in a while to rest. So do it. Rest. However, I encourage you to rest with gusto – if you want to go back to bed, put your PJs back on, close the curtains, put on some soothing music, maybe download some “ocean sounds” to your iPod, sprinkle lavender on your pillow – really go for it! If you want to watch TV, grab some snacks, then sit down and watch an entire season of Lost, or 24, or the Gilmore Girls, or Doctor Who, or whatever floats your boat.

Towards the back of the book, under the section ‘Putting It All Together’, you’ll find an example of what a typical Boxing Day looks like (for me).