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Feeling like a yule mule this Christmas

She’s cooked, cleaned, bought all the gifts, remembered what brand of whisky her father-in-law likes. Sophie White wonders if she is the only one in the house shouldering the burden

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By Sophie White on

Often I feel that as a race we women have really played things all wrong. For eons we have put in all the graft when it comes to life – we stay on top of the mountain of personal and familial admin, we organise the dinner parties and the birthday parties, we plan the barbecues and make at least six accompanying carb-themed salads. Then at the last possible (and crucial) moment we stupidly allow the men step in and seize the credit usually with some well-marinated meat or an elaborate birthday gift. Christmas time more than ever sees the thunder-stealing men doing what they do best (virtually nothing).

Maybe it's just me who's doing it all wrong? Have other couples mastered the division of festive labour? Am I the only one solely shouldering the burden of keeping track of who wanted the Paw Patrol sticker book, which mother in law hates perfume, and what niche brand of whisky my father-in-law drinks?

And that's not even touching on the unending meal prep required for the dinner. As we all know the deliciousness is in the details. The litany of sides, sauces and sumptuous accompaniments are what makes Christmas dinner great.

This is why I can’t help but feel irked when after three days of planning, peeling and prepping, the men swan in at the eleventh hour, do some minor prep with the bird, some basic sums regarding weights and cooking times and then proudly present the thing as though they've saved Christmas.

For the last few years the amount of fretting I do around Christmas could practically count as cardio

The turkey, as we all know, is like a showboating soloist, it looks good for sure but really it's lost without the choir of accoutrements. The stuffing, the cranberry sauce and the bread sauce mean even a bone-dry breast will hit the high notes. And who delivers these high notes? Well (gross generalisation alert), it's Us.

For the last few years the amount of fretting I do around Christmas could practically count as cardio. I organise all the catch-ups and outings, agonise over gifts for my husband’s family and expend a lot of effort making magical memories that my toddler will then definitely ruin with some fairly typical toddler behaviour. Not to be a martyr to domesticity, but I often wonder if I were to just drop the balls (or baubles as it were) what would happen?

As an experiment this year I decided to opt out of the attendant Christmas crap. I decided to look after my own and see, just see, what would happen. I wrote a list for *my* people and *my* presents and *my* priorities and I waited for any sign that the apparent lack of provision for his family was causing concern.

Then, to my astonishment I uncovered an unfamiliar scene in the kitchen – a mess that was not of my doing. “I thought I’d get a start on the stuffing,” said The Man when confronted.

I nearly passed away from shock. Not to be proved totally wrong, I took the offensive tack and in catty tones suggested that he’d be better using his time to sort out a gift for his mother. “Oh I did that,” he replied without a trace of triumph as he began hunting for the peeler in a completely low-key not remotely rubbing-my-face-in-it kind of way.

I was incensed. He had won and he didn’t even know what game we were playing. Perhaps next year, if I’m feeling like a yule mule forced to do all the donkey work, I need to remember that it’s quite possibly all in my own head. I shall now swap my Christmas Whine for a mulled wine and give the festive wordplay a rest.


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