For many career-loving parents, the holidays come as a welcome reprieve: a chance to enjoy a few slow weeks at work, unwind with the kiddos, and stuff their faces full of seasonal treats. Many parents look forward to the holidays.
But not me. And it’s not because I don’t love my family. It’s because—and there’s really no nice way to say this—I suck at the holidays. My weaknesses as a parent and a professional woman seem to become more pronounced when combined with the smell of a newly cut Christmas tree or a freshly baked pie. I over-plan, over-commit, and shop at the last minute. I worry about work when I’m at home and worry about home when I’m at work. I essentially spend the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years looking (and feeling) like a tightly wound ball of tinsel.
This year, though, I’m determined to handle things differently. My son will turn two just a few weeks before Christmas, and, unlike the past two years, he’ll actually understand what all those presents under the tree mean. I want to enjoy the holiday, not plow through it.
I’ve also come to realize that the stress I—and many other working moms—feel over the holidays is essentially just a concentrated version of the work-life balance challenges we struggle with all year. It’s as if the holidays are a final exam, an end-of-the-year evaluation of your ability to be both a mom and productive employee.
My go-to move for guidance is to poll my extensive network of like-minded career-loving moms. But, after spending a few minutes studying my husband’s placid expression as he perused our crowded—unmanageable!—list of holiday commitments, I decided that I needed to speak to some working dads. What are they doing that I’m not?