There are two things I know to be true about having children: The first is that their least favorite food is the one we just bought in bulk. The second is that the amount of work we put into something special for our kids—a birthday party, a meal, a sensory craft—feels wildly disproportionate to the appreciation we receive. Thus, because Advent and Christmas are often hectic times for parents, these seasons are the ones for which we get the least credit proportional to our work, even if our children are exceptionally observant and grateful. We make huge sacrifices of our time, finances, and mental capacity to make the magic come alive. And if that weren’t enough, the world had to construct this “Santa brought you this” narrative so that accolades go to a fictionalized version of one of our favorite saints.
Now if we signed up as parents for the awards we would receive, we entered the wrong profession. The vocation of parenting and especially, if I can be so bold, motherhood is often thankless. We aren’t busting our festive bums preparing our homes and hearts for Jesus because we can’t wait for the “thank you” we will get when the big day arrives. Still, we lit the wreath, sang the carols, wrapped the presents, and coordinated the parties—and our kids are probably none the wiser of the time and stress we put in.
So today, as the empty boxes sit in the recycling bin and you enjoy the final days of your decorated house, I wanted to write a post to give all of you moms (I’m writing in the Catholic Mom column, but dads, you’re in this, too) the thank you’s you deserve.
I see the time you spent thoughtfully navigating both your religious and secular Christmas traditions. You wanted to do right by Jesus and prioritized the richness of the season over a commercialized Christmas. You enjoyed the cookie baking, the present opening, the tree trimming, and the Elf on the Shelf-ing (or Mary on the Mantel-ing!) without forgetting to think about preparing your homes and hearts for our Savior. You remembered to order or make the Advent wreath, said extra prayers, and rolled out your purple and pink linens. You were thoughtful about what time you should go to Mass to balance your family’s schedule, the hustle of attending Christmas parties, and your desire to just enjoy a warm cup of coffee on Christmas morning. You did right by your own faith and in cultivating that of your family. So Christmas Mom, thank you.
I see the ways you created or continued your favorite Christmas traditions, all to build a culture of love in your home. You made notes on your calendar and grocery list to remember to buy supplies. You decorated and crafted and baked. Your kids may have slipped out midway through some activities, but you smiled and finished them anyway. You rearranged the nativity scene nightly when the kids scattered the pieces throughout the living room. You added ice cubes to mugs of hot chocolate. You wiped unattended spills from ornament painting. You spent hours addressing, licking, and stamping envelopes for Christmas cards. You cleaned the Kitchenaid twenty times. You yearned for your kids to have fond memories of this season. So Christmas Mom, thank you.
I see the time spent visiting extended family, maybe with more than one drive in a day. The kids napped in the backseat, but for you, the time in the car wasn’t quite relaxing. Even though visits with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins were (hopefully) enjoyable, a piece of you just wanted to be able to rest and take in the day. Or maybe you hosted and spent hours cooking, cleaning, and hiding the breakables from your nieces and nephews—not to mention the hours of clean-up you took on when everyone left. Attending or hosting Christmas parties is no small feat. So Christmas Mom, thank you.
I see the time you spent hidden in your room, wrapping and labeling Christmas presents. You picked out the right paper and analyzed your purchases to ensure gift distribution was fair. You considered everyone—not just your kids and spouse, but your godchildren, the kids’ teachers, the delivery drivers, your in-laws, and the poor and needy—and made thoughtful decisions about your list. You stayed up late, and your back ached as you spent hours hunched over the wrapping paper box. You ensured Christmas morning would feel abundant without breaking the budget. (Okay, you broke the budget a little.) So Christmas Mom, thank you.
I see those who wanted to do more than you were able. Grief, illness, or work kept you from checking every box. You spent your first Christmas Day without a loved one. You missed parties or traditions because you were sick or caring for someone who was. Other demands kept you from all of the experiences you hoped for, and your heart was heavy with guilt or sadness instead of joy. You did as much as you could with the bravest of faces. So Christmas Mom, I see you.
You’d rather hear it from your kids, but until they are parents—and thus handling the liturgical planning, the present wrapping, the tradition making—they will not truly understand. Today, they do not realize that their favorite holiday is one that doesn’t just happen; loving parents stand behind the curtain, pulling the strings to make the joy of the season come alive.
But one day, they will be parents. One day, they will be responsible for all of the work that made celebrating this beautiful season and building this family culture possible. They will remember how special you made them feel and will want to give that warmth and love to their own kids.
And one day, they’ll think (and hopefully say) the words that you deserve to hear today: Christmas Mom, thank you.