One Christmas when I was a single mum to Olivia and Neve, I was so skint I couldn’t afford half of what they wanted. I was so upset, knowing they wouldn’t be opening the massive amount of presents, that some children had the privilege of doing on Christmas morning. I dragged myself round the shops, disheartened, wishing I had millions to shower them with lavish gifts.
Every toy seemed to jump out at me screaming “Olivia would love this!” or “Imagine Neve’s face when she opens this?” It was awful. I came across a set of plastic drawers on wheels, bright pink with 4 compartments. They were £14.99 each. I bought two. Over the next few weeks I filled them with anything art related; rubbers, rulers, pens, pencils, paper, scissors, glue, glitter you name it. I wrapped everything individually to make opening everything last longer.
With a few wrapped sweets and other presents from family members there was a few things there to open each. It didn’t look too bad an amount- but deep down, I knew they would know I hadn’t spent a lot. We baked mince pies, made cards and cut out snowflakes, all the usual stuff we do to enjoy the festive period and have fun.
The girls loved to tell me how many sleeps it would be, with such excitement in their eyes, I couldn’t stand to do anything other than go along with it. I wasn’t about to kill the spirit of Christmas because I was skint. Christmas Eve was spent how it always is, Christmas movies on the telly, me in the kitchen and the girls so excited they couldn’t sit still for a minute.
After the last sprout was peeled and snacks for Santa and Rudolph left out, I made my way to bed, too tired to think of how little I had spent and too excited to care. You would think with young children, I would be woken up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, not me. I’ve always been the first up. Even when I was little I was the first awake. More often, than not, I would be awake too early and told to go back to sleep-well I suppose midnight is too soon!
I crept into the girls room to see them rubbing their eyes. “Merry Christmas darlings” I whispered. “MERRY CHRISTMAS MUMMY!!” They squealed. They opened their stockings together while I made myself a cup of tea. Then we made the exciting trip to the living room to see ‘if he had been’. Running in the girls screamed “He’s been mummy!”
This is it, I thought. The moment of truth. They started unwrapping their presents, thanking me after every one, bless them. They looked so happy, I wished I could have given them so much more. After opening them all, I waited for the question of where the stuff was they had asked for, but it never came. The usual, who’s coming for dinner was asked and the list of who was attending that year was reeled off- we always have a house full, just how we like it.
And with that, I realised I had got away with it. They were happy, smiling and thankful- and so was I. No stressing over credit card bills, worrying over catalogue debts or panicking to pay back loans. I had spent what I could afford and they were happy. I was so pleased and managed to really enjoy the rest of the holidays with my beautiful girls.
Fast forward a few years later, and I had met my husband and gained a few more children in the form of my step-daughter, step-son and even had a son of our own. We had been through some tough times financially but this certain year we were quite well off for once. The kids had made their lists for us. This year was better. This year we could afford everything they asked for…and more!
We shopped until we dropped, making sure we hadn’t missed anything off the lists. Wrapping the presents was a chore, there was loads. In the lead-up to the celebrations, the usual smells of gingerbread and chocolate wafted around the house. The scissors, glue and paper worked as a team, until there were snowflakes and paperchains everywhere and we visited nearby villages to see their light displays.
The build-up is almost as important as the day itself, creating that magic with your children, hearing how excited they get as the days get closer, nothing beats it. The big day arrived and true to form, I was first awake. I had hardly slept properly, as I was so excited to see their faces when they saw the presents.
Eventually everyone was awake and opening their stockings. We crept to the living room to see if ‘he’d been’ and sure enough he had. The girls ran in and found their presents and began the usual frenzied opening of gifts, with a thank you after each one and huge smiles. They were so pleased. The last gifts were finally opened, and as usual they gave us great big hugs and said thanks and asked who was coming for dinner.
This wasn’t what I had imagined laid in bed the night before. I was almost upset. Didn’t they realise how much more money we had spent on them? And then it hit me. You can’t get happier than happy, can’t be more grateful than grateful and a smile is a smile and isn’t measured by money.
They were as happy on the Christmas we could afford lots, as the Christmas I was skint. That is why I never stress about how much I spend now. I spend what I can afford and no more after all why would they want miserable parents who are worried about debt?