It's officially Christmas season. Time to start flagellating ourselves at peak shopping times to find what we deem to be the perfect gift for people and then come home to hours of wrapping.
Aside from one year where I found myself charging around St Lukes mall approaching midnight, I am an organised Christmas shopper.
The year I was pregnant I sent Christmas gifts down in July. With a baby due in December I wasn't waddling around the shops among the rest of the Black Friday / Small Business Saturday / Cyber Monday / Giving Tuesday and Christmas shoppers.
My daughter's birthday is just prior to Christmas so it's a double whammy. I recall a discussion about induction and what if she arrived on Christmas Day. Teeming with pregnancy hormones, I declared that if she was born on Christmas Day we'd just tell her that her birthday was 25th November. She wouldn't know. I remember a look between my husband and my obstetrician, but wisely no words were spoken.
Like many others, I used to pride myself on not visiting the supermarket for days prior to Christmas. Now I roll in on Christmas Eve to do my groceries because the fridge doesn't have capacity for birthday and Christmas food. It's an awfully fraught situation in there and I am that woman that I used to look at scornfully and wonder why she doesn't have her s*** together already.
At this time of year, it's important to me that our family thinks of those less fortunate than us. If we have a special meal on Christmas Day and some presents, then we are better off than so many families. We support a charity by shopping for gifts and warm clothes for a child in need, and our daughter understands the extra packages are not hers.
Last year we adopted a new gift giving charter for the holidays. Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. With Christmas and a birthday within three days of each other, the last thing we needed was a gift-fatigue-induced meltdown. Sticking to the four gifts made the experience so much more enjoyable. I'd encourage you to try it.
Teacher gifts are another end-of-year beast. As the daughter of a primary school teacher, we were inundated with boxes of Roses chocolates at the end of the year. Not that I was complaining; I was the only one to eat the Turkish Delights.
I initially balked at the idea of contributing to a pool of cash for our daughter's five teachers, three outdoor staff, PE coach and two administrators but then I realised that even buying a box of chocolates, a card and then wrapping those up would be sending me into triple digits.
It went against all my instincts not to make something time-consuming and luscious for them, but it saved money and time by transferring cash to the fund. My Mum nearly spat out her tea when I estimated the Christmas windfalls and I have spent many hours making Rocky Road and bath salts and writing cards for other occasions since. I can confirm it's easier to give cash.
If you can, start holiday traditions serving those less fortunate and set an example for your kids and others. Buy from local stores and farmers' markets, but don't beat yourself up when you find yourself in the inevitable mammoth queue at Kmart. Against all our best intentions, these things happen.
I'm so grateful to celebrate the holidays and summer without restrictions. If ever we adopt a smaller and more meaningful mindset at Christmas, it's this year.