B.T. (that’s Before Teddy), I had started on a path to simplify our Christmas celebrations. Christmas has *never* been a source of stress for me, but I wanted to do the holiday a bit different. More Christ, more handmade, more heartfelt, less commercial.
Then Teddy. The year he was born, I actually had already made most of our Christmas presents before he was born. Though I wasn’t anticipating a Thanksgiving baby and a NICU stay with a Christmas Eve discharge, I was anticipating a baby to be born around Christmas, and I was prepared. I won’t say that the holiday season was peaceful – I seem to recall doing a LOT of crying as I explained to my kids that Christmas might be a little different for them that year – we were planning to have to spend Christmas Day in the NICU. But we got the handmade and heartfelt in there.
But the next year… 2012 was a rough year. I don’t even remember most of the details any more. It’s a blur of surgeries and hospital stays and missing my family and lots and lots of tears and stress. We spent most of August through November in Iowa City and I did ZERO crafting. (well, not true. I did a lot of knitting, but I don’t generally knit for gifts.) I think we mostly bought gift cards for Christmas. I believe I sent Randy out the day before Christmas Eve to buy them. We’re awesome that way. It wasn’t a cheap decision, but it was one that I could live with.
Now I’m getting ready for Christmas this year, and I’m reconsidering things. I have made nearly everyone on our list at least one thing for Christmas (and usually also birthdays) every year since I can remember, until 2012. The 3 or so years before Teddy was born, we switched to all handmade for everyone except our kids, who got a mixture of handmade and store bought. And I can count on my fingers the number of those gifts that were ever used, worn, or displayed by the recipients (not including the stuff made for my immediate family). We’re talking over 100 items made, carefully and lovingly and with the recipient in mind. And I’m feeling like it’s been a huge waste of time.
This is why I don’t knit for most people for gifts. I’ll knit for my immediate family and for other knitters. But that’s about it. But I’m starting to rethink sewing and other crafting, as well. I have limited time each day, and I have begun to think that it is not a wise use of my time – it’s not being a good steward of my time – to spend it creating things that will be thrown away, sold at a garage sale for a quarter, or stuffed into a drawer and forgotten.
I’ve been of two minds about this for a while. On the one hand, there’s the principle of the thing. And there’s also a sense of If I Stick With This Long Enough, Eventually They’ll Appreciate It, Right? And on the other hand, there’s the thought that I’m royally wasting my time, money, and effort.
Is not the whole point of gift giving to please the recipient? If the recipients of my gifts do not appreciate the value that is a handmade gift… then are we not all better off going a different route? Am I better off using my time to create things that other people *do* want (namely, custom orders through Wallypop and the other things that are selling well), and then using the money from my industriousness to buy something that the recipients might want?
I’m actually thinking so. So this year, while I’ll still be encouraging people to Give Handmade – and I’ll be giving handmade items to those who will appreciate them (either things made myself, or things made by others), I’m actually changing my personal strategy. It’ll mean each person on our list gets less – I still have the same amount of money to spend, and finished items cost a lot more than raw materials when my time is thrown in for free – but hopefully each person on our list will be more pleased with what they do get. We shall see.
How do I get Christmas to be stress free? Other than one obligatory event every year, I just don’t engage in the things that tend to be stressful about the holiday. I don’t do a ton of baking, unless I get a baking bug and want to. I don’t do any shopping. Crowds stress me out, and so I avoid them – even before Teddy, I was avoiding crowds. I don’t do holiday parties. Randy’s work stuff is always just for employees, so there’s no office party to worry about. We don’t travel. Until recently, I was able to keep Christmas Day as a day for *just our family,* at home, spending time together. We make a crock pot roast for dinner, we eat refrigerator rolls for breakfast, and we have snack food for lunch, so nobody’s cooking all day. We watch Christmas movies and play board games. We go for a walk if it’s nice, we go for a drive around the neighborhood to look at lights. It’s not stressful. Because I’ve made it that way. 🙂