How Comparison Stole Christmas (And How to Get It Back!)

Often, the holidays feel less like peaceful quality time with your family, and more like a competition to present the best image of your Christmas to others.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
December 22, 2016
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2
Minute Read

My sweet niece texted me this photo the other day after attempting to make gingerbread houses with her daughter. You can see my niece holding the house remains after it collapsed. When the house fell, her daughter ran out of the room crying.

The truth is, this scenario is far more typical of baking with our kids during the holidays than one where magazine-worthy houses are crafted alongside perfectly shaped and decorated cookies while children giggle with flour-covered hands.

We’re just a few days away from Christmas and by now you’ve probably noticed a trend on social media where moms and dads are capturing their family’s daily Advent activity or Christmas craft and posting a photo of it.

Day 1: Write Christmas cards to children in the hospital.

Day. 2: Watch a Christmas movie.

Day. 3: Make holiday cookies together.

This goes on for the full 25 days.

Doing something meaningful with your child for 25 days in a row might be fun and joyful for you, but I bet for many moms even the idea is stressful. Yet, you feel pressured to participate because of things like Facebook and Instagram. Like my niece and the gingerbread house, you set out with high hopes that you would complete the family Advent calendar this year, but somewhere along the way—around day 12—everything collapsed.

Traditions are a wonderful part of childhood. But when fun traditions turn into stressful expectations multiplied by the pressure of social media comparison, it might be time to let them go.

When fun traditions turn into stressful expectations, it might be time to let them go. 

The reality is that sometimes our attempts to create meaningful moments with our children end in arguments, crying or fighting during what is meant to be a joyful holiday baking tradition. And as we clean up, we feel like failures, thinking of our friends who bake cookies with their kids but surely don’t end up in arguments and meltdowns.

Facebook and Instagram don’t often show the cracked gingerbread houses. And here we go again, smacking into those ridiculous expectations we put on ourselves during the holidays. We not only want gingerbread houses that stand upright, we want cookies that aren’t cracked and icing that doesn’t look like someone sat in it.

But why? Why do we care one wit about the outcome? The joy is in the trying.

Real fun can be had in eating more of the candy than gluing it on the house. The only reason we end up in tears ourselves and feel like failures is because we focus on the end product: the house that didn’t cave in and the perfectly filtered photo for Instagram. So when our gingerbread house collapses, we throw up our hands in exasperation rather than laugh.

Don’t let outrageous expectations and social media comparison steal your Christmas. 

Don’t let outrageous expectations and social media comparison steal your Christmas this year.

Let’s make a pact with one another and set this whole Advent calendar and holiday baking thing straight: roll out some dough, see what you can create and let it fall.

Put sprinkles everywhere and gum drops down the chimneys. We can’t allow ourselves to miss the fun here because we once again chase after the woman in our minds or on our Facebook feed who is the perfect mom version of who we are.

Roll out some dough, see what you can create and let it fall! 

No, throw some water all over her and let her melt! She can make perfect cookies and houses. She can complete a full 25 days of Advent magic with her children. We don’t care to. Our job is to have some fun–no matter what.

So the next time your Advent baking activity or Christmas craft collapses, do as my niece did: raise a glass of whatever your heart desires and give yourself a big pat on the back for focusing on the fun.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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