Every year at this time, my mailbox, like yours, fills up with lovely holiday cards from family and friends. But that number, admittedly, has dwindled over the years. You see, I don’t send any myself.
I used to feel guilty about it, as I lovingly beheld the hefty cardstock, graced with pretty gold lettering and a professionally shot photograph. How do they find the time? Why couldn’t I?
Then I realized: I just don’t care. And I’m hereby granting you permission, as a distinguished fellow graduate of the DGAF Academy, to do the same.
For working moms, the holidays are a mad dash to make the season magical for your family. Trim the tree. Hang the lights. Plan the feast. Go to the store. Cook the feast. Do the dishes. Decorate the cookies. Plan the party. Move the elf. Bake the casserole. Book the sitter. Wrap the gifts. And that’s all after 6 p.m., or crammed into your already-jam-packed weekend schedule.
So, why, when our plates are so ridiculously full, do we still make time for a holiday tradition that, frankly, our kids could care less about? A tradition that no longer has a purpose in the age of social media?
Back in the day, families sent holiday cards packed with news and updates distant friends might have missed. Now we have Facebook. I’m pretty sure my friends and family across the country see more of my 3-year-old son than, let’s be honest, they even want to. Last night, I created a story on Instagram featuring my family decorating our tree, and enjoying hot cocoa and cookies, made from just a few minutes of footage my husband captured on his phone. Not only could my friends and family watch it, it’s a digital archive of the evening we’ll have forever. Best of all, we actually got to enjoy our time together.
Instead, I could have spent that time searching for local photographers, trying to find someone affordable and available to shoot a family photo. I could have spent the time picking out a perfectly coordinated outfit for us to wear for the photo session. I could have spent the time combing through websites, designing a card and trekking to the post office for stamps. I could have spent the time licking envelopes and bemoaning my terrible handwriting. But it wouldn’t have been much fun, for me, my husband or my son.
One of the rules I live by as a working mom who values her sanity is that I refuse to take part in what I call “performative parenting.” If something doesn’t directly benefit my family, my friends or my community, I probably don’t have time for it. (A good rule of thumb: Most things you have to source from Pinterest, besides recipes, is performative parenting. Another good rule of thumb: Most things the average dad wouldn't bother to do is also performative parenting.)
And while I’m sure my friends would enjoy seeing a Christmas card from us, is their enjoyment significant enough to outweigh the costs—both in terms of time and money? I doubt it. The one and only year I sent cards, I came to a life-altering realization: I was performing the ritual because it was expected of me. I was performing the part of a good mother, rather than living it. I guarantee you no person has ever said on her deathbed, "I just wish I'd sent more Christmas cards."
Look, if you simply adore receiving holiday cards, don’t let my admittedly Scrooge-like scorn stop you from sending your own. (Since, as I can attest, you generally have to give if you want to receive.) If it really brings joy to your life, it’s worth it.
But if, like me, you’re honoring the tradition just to keep up with the Joneses, assuage your working mom guilt or mollify your mother, I beg you, stop. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You have a beautiful family, and you’re a wonderful mom. I know, because I see it on Facebook.
— Audrey Goodson Kingo
This article originally appeared on Working Mother.