Christmas Day 2004 was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was the Christmas where the proverbial poop hit the fan—when I finally said to my husband what I'd been stuffing down for the eight years we'd been married:
"I hate Christmas!"
Taking my cue from some of the psalmists, I decided to vent. I grabbed a pencil and paper and scribbled down everything I hated about Christmas.
I despised traveling at Christmas—the stress of packing, crowded airports, and traveling with kids. I disliked the lack of physical and mental space I experienced when we stayed in someone else's house with two other families. I love my extended family, but living under one roof with them for 10 days does not foster "peace on earth and goodwill to men," moms, or nephews.
Trying to come up with gift ideas for 19 relatives who already had everything they needed exhausted me. I was bitter about spending my evenings and weekends shopping. The facial expressions of the strung out shoppers around me all seemed to ask the same rhetorical question: Why are we doing this? When our kids unwrapped gift upon gift from loving, well-meaning relatives, my husband and I pictured our house piling up with more toys than our kids could possibly play with. After we'd loaded all of the gifts into our van, we stared in shock at the snapshot of excess and consumerism before us.
The final item on my list was the pressure I felt to try to fulfill the expectations of my parents, in-laws, grandparents, husband, and children, and the stress I experienced when one person's expectations conflicted with another's. Trying to make everyone happy was emotionally exhausting and impossible.1