It is now January, and though the Christmas tree is decomposing in the far corner of the garden, the twinkling lights are packed away, and all the snowflake cutouts with far too much glitter are finally gone, the decompression process from the madness of the holidays is only just beginning. ‘Tis the season of the “Violet-state,” the emotional intersection of sadness and anger. This not a sorrow that the holidays are over and declining temperatures are forecasted for the foreseeable future. Nor is it a displeasure over Christmas waste, mass-consumerism, and that fact that Brexit is still a thing. The Violet-state, rather, is the emotional settling point that nearly all over-doer mothers (i.e. the ones for which the Christmas planning season starts in early October) who are flat-out exhausted by the time New Years comes around. It is in this process of unwinding that the over-doer mother realises that she provided a successful Christmas/Boxing Day/New Year (and all the days inbetween) that made everyone happy, except her.
The Violet-state season begins with an oversized jumper, a good cup of coffee, and that neglected book that has remained untouched on the side table since early 2018. The much anticipated hour of quiet to read and relax is finally happening, except, the mind isn’t interested in reading 512 pages of Hillary Clinton’s take on What Happened in the US Presidential election. Rather, her mind wanders over each word of text, processing nothing, until the word, “stolen” catches her eye. She revisits the homemade stollen that took 7 hours to make but contained dried fruit so none of the kids ate it. The word “Watergate” brings to mind the matching Christmas onesie idea that everyone ditched after learning it was too hard to get out of to pee. Now on a roll of self-pity for time, money, and energy wasted, she comes to realize that she has been sitting next to another dismissed gift – an oozing vat of unicorn slime that is now all over her and the sofa. Naturally, her mind considers, “Why did I do all that?”, “Did anyone even enjoy it?”, and “I’m worried I don’t actually like the purse I picked out for myself.” Worst of all, the doubt begins to set in. “Did I waste my time on the wrong things?” “Did I do enough right for the kids to cherish this holiday for the rest of their lives?” This self-doubt triggers a wave of blue sadness that starts to fill her emotional chart.
Later in the week/month, a long walk, a good night’s sleep, or finishing off the Christmas chocolates in private restores sanity and brings perspective. It was a great Christmas. The smiles and happiness shared with the kids are the positive memories that will fuel her to do it again next year. Unfortunately though, as the over-doer comes to realise, in all the catering for a crowd, the running from event to event, and tidying up so everyone can move freely outside of a sea of wrapping paper, those smiles were missed, and the moments of happiness went unshared while she was busy filling everybody’s cup full of Christmas cheer. She feels robbed, and a bit of red anger begins to cover the strokes of blue.
Firmly in the Violet-state now, the over-doer is feeling a bit down and a bit mad about how the holidays transpired. She considers the options:
- Drink? Self-pity and anger do pair well with red wine.
- Buy a SAD lamp and hope the feeling passes come late March?
- Vow to never do it again? Plan only easy meals, less gifts, no company, more time with the kids, more movies, more Yahtzee!
- Cry thinking about the dwindling number of Christmases left with young children that have been wasting on being busy?
- Plan a few days away to revel in the Violet-state while it inspires her to write the next War and Peace?
As an over-doer, she understands that, though all fair options, a real plan needs to be put into place to kick the Violet-state back into steady happiness. In between sips of tea, work, driving kids from place to place, the mental pros and con lists in her head are in full swing. Guests/no guests, turkey/no turkey, presents/charitable donations, wine/gin, etc. Then, only after debating the merits of finding a job that will have her overseas for the entire month of December, the truth hits. It’s not entirely the missed smiles, or the time spent on planning, shopping, meal prepping and executing the holidays that is upsetting her, it’s that in making the holiday perfect for everyone – she forgot to include herself. Christmas is for all to enjoy, she considers, not just the kids, not just the spouses, not just the grandparents – it is for women, who also happen to be mothers, to enjoy as well. Also, regardless of what that late-night binge watching of Bandersnatch taught her, she recognises that she does have free will, even after becoming a mother. Her happiness still matters, but this doesn’t happen naturally, she needs to advocate for it.
Like those last remaining pine needles on the floor, her Violet-state starts to disappear and her emotional order begins to be restored. With a promise to speak up for herself, not just in an “I’m exhausted” way, but in a “this Christmas I really want us all to attempt to sing Carol of the Bells in rounds,” way, she draws another column marked “me” in the “Christmas Wish Lists” section of her diary. With new resolve and high hopes to eradicate the Violet-State forever, she opens her computer to find over ten event notifications for Christmas parties, requests for holiday invitations from extended family and friends, and even Christmas wreath-making fundraisers for the kid’s school. And thus, the cycle threatens to repeat again.