President’s Corner: Do Not Take Home the Talking Chinchilla! Also: Happy Holidays!

by Jaime Castle

We’ve cleared the Thanksgiving table and are rounding the corner heading into the Holidays and some folks are cheerful and geared up in anticipation. Other folks (read: moms) are frantic and stressed with so much preparation that somehow always seems to fall on them. You, dear reader, are probably one of these people. Either you have benefitted from someone now or in the past, who has, behind the scenes, worked very hard to make this season bright or you are someone who willingly or begrudgingly have made the magic happen. I am writing to both of you today!

Without the Holidays, what would winter be like? Long, cold, dark lingering days would do a number on us. The Holidays bring song, togetherness, joy and light as we celebrate, each family in their own special ways. I love people who love the Holidays – we may bemoan that they are decorating too soon or playing the music too soon, but their happiness is often palpable. My 13-year-old is like this. You have to wonder why they love the Holidays so much and it’s most probably because they have such happy memories of this time of year. What a blessing they’ve had in their lives! There are people who didn’t have good childhoods and who have struggled at this time of year, and it is important to recognize that! When we see joy, we can share in it by recognizing it.

My own mother did not have a joyful, abundant childhood and therefore when she had the opportunity to dote on my sisters and brothers and me, she did. We had special cookies and decorated the tree and woke up to the magic of mountains of wrapped gifts under that tree on Christmas morning. I am so grateful!

It wasn’t until I became a wife and mother that I realized all of the work that went into making a Holiday. I had to make the shopping lists of gifts for the entire extended family and plan out each step. The happiness of others was on me it always seemed. I had to not spend too much but also spend equal on each kid and think of things that my husband would appreciate as well as his parents’ gifts, and his brother’s, and the dozens of others…. And then there were the decorations that needed to be unpacked and put up around the house and the special home-baked treats – all on top of the everyday chores of cooking and laundry and….

I like to think that there comes a time in life where folks who find themselves overburdened finally realize: enough! They delegate, prioritize, practice self-care, and set boundaries. It wasn’t until just two years ago that, after I realized I was feeling resentment, I started buying myself Christmas presents, too, with the same energy and love that I was putting into getting gifts for others. I also delegated my in-laws gift giving to my husband and I gave my kids ownership of a lot of the Holiday planning and execution. I have found myself enjoying this time of year much more since then.

This predicament speaks a lot to privilege as I know I am lucky to be able to celebrate and give and receive. I think it also speaks a lot to generational and gender expectations and I hope that in the future, moms are not the bearers of all of the mental load and extra unpaid labor in the household.

I had a dream recently that upon later reflection, I was very proud of my reaction to the circumstances in which I found myself. In this dream, I was cleaning up my classroom (which was outdoors for some reason) and was tired and ready to go home. Up walks to me this super fluffy, adorable chinchilla. It looked friendly so I held out my hand to it in a way that communicated: is it ok to pet you? “Hello!” I said to it with a smile.

“Hello!” it said back to me.

Heavens! A talking chinchilla! What a magnificent thing! It immediately occurred to me that this chinchilla needed a home and someone to care for it and my mind went to work calculating what all that I needed to do to take Mr. Chinchilla home. But then, the hard truth hit me: I did not have the bandwidth, the capacity, to take this on! This adorable mammal would want to talk my head off – to have me listen and reply and it would need a lot of attention – full attention!!!

“Goodbye!” I told the chinchilla.

May these be Happy Holidays for you and yours! Be grateful for the people in your life, find the joy, make the joy, but set the boundaries so that you do not overwhelm yourself. Do not take home any talking chinchillas and buy yourself something nice! <3