With five kids under 10, I’m sick of Santa getting all the credit for my hard work at Christmas

What I object to is the fact that, when I’m slumped, exhausted, on the sofa come Christmas afternoon – my energy and bank account both drained – it won’t be me that everyone’s grateful for. But him. That bloke in red

As a mother of five children under 10, you can only imagine what the advent period is like in our house
As a mother of five children under 10, you can only imagine what the advent period is like in our house

“Don’t do that,” my eldest daughter, Lily, says to her sister. “Santa might get cross.”

The mere threat of upsetting the big guy is enough to stop Evie, 5, drawing on the dining table. Because you wouldn’t want to upset Santa, would you?

Standing behind the pair of them, I can’t help but wonder – what about me?

As a mother of five children under 10, you can only imagine what the advent period is like in our house. Sticky, chocolate-covered fingers, excited speculation about presents and an almost tangible sense of excitement in the air.

Because Santa is coming.

Nine years ago when I prepared to perpetuate the Santa myth with my firstborn, I have to admit I was excited. Stuffing the stocking, sneaking it to the end of her cot, waiting for the excitement of ripping of wrapping paper and seeing what Father Christmas had brought. She was two weeks old, so I’ll admit, it was mostly for me.

Now, weighed down with the bitter experience of impersonating an overweight, fashion-challenged, thunder-stealing old man year on year, I’m not sure I’d introduce the idea of this fictional gift-giver if I had my time again. As it is, I’m quite looking forward to that moment in the next year or so when the truth dawns and the kids realise who’s actually due a huge back-payment of Christmas credit.

Think about it. Who buys most of the presents? Who puts the Christmas decorations up? Who helps wavering hands write their Christmas list to send to the elves? Who manages the excitement, protects the advent calendars from thieving siblings and, in short, makes Christmas happen? I’ll give you a clue. Her name’s not St Nick.

Look, I’m no Scrooge. I enjoy Christmas. I want my children to have a magical time. I look forward to seeing the wonder in their tiny eyes as they open piles of plastic tat and stuff their little mouths with too many Haribo. I get the whole festive season thing.

What I object to is the fact that, when I’m slumped, exhausted, on the sofa come Christmas afternoon – my energy and bank account both drained – it won’t be me that everyone’s grateful for. But him. That bloke in red.

He is the one that they behave for come December. He is the one they want to please. Despite the fact I wear myself out on a weekly basis to make their little lives run smoothly, it is his once-a-year nightshift that leaves them wondering how on earth he gets it all done. No one’s ever left me a little mid-work pie and whiskey to help smooth the edges of my day.

Realising that I’ve created the monster that I’m currently battling, I’ve tried in recent years to downplay the role that Father Christmas has in festivities. “You know,” I said last year to Lily. “Santa just buys your stocking presents; it’s mum and dad who get your bigger ones.”

“So? It’s still nice of him, isn’t it mummy!” she replied, defensively.

It’s not just the fact that Santa takes the credit for my hard work. His existence actually makes being a parent in December even harder than usual. While I don’t begrudge him a Christmas Eve tipple (and I’ll be honest, he often lets me drink that), I do resent the fact that year on year I am forced to answer constant questions about his whereabouts, home life and whether the guy with a grey beard in the supermarket might really be him.

It’s hard enough helping them with their homework (and you don’t see the jolly red fellow doing any of that, do you?) without having to answer questions such as: how does Santa get down the chimney? Will Santa know we’ve moved house? And, most disturbingly, can Santa see me in the bath?

His feigned existence also makes saying “no” to certain gift demands a nightmare. “Can I have a bike, exactly the same as this one?” Evie recently asked, when we saw a uniquely floral vintage cycle. “Well, maybe not exactly the same,” I replied.

“I’ll ask Santa,” she said, decisively. “He can make one with his elves.”

It’s also difficult to watch the more sensitive of my six-year-old twins worry about whether he’s been good enough; then witness his confusion on Christmas morning when his brother – who definitely hasn’t been good enough – receives just as many gifts as he does.

And to be honest, it’s a bit disturbing to realise how gullible your children are when they continue to believe in Santa despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Call me humbug, but I’m looking forward to a time when I can put my feet up come Christmas afternoon, sink my teeth into a Christmas pie, wash it down with a well-earned sherry and finally hear the words: “Thanks for everything, mum.”

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