CHRISTMAS IS A CAPITALIST CONSPIRACY AGAINST WORKING MOMS

OK. That’s a radical sentiment. But I say it only half in jest. Regardless of what you celebrate or how far overboard you go with the gifts, there’s not much joy at this time of year for already harried working parents. If you’re anything like me, just getting to the grocery store is a victory.

I shouldn’t complain. Our plight today is nowhere near as bad as that of working parents from previous generations. Online retailing has been an enormous help to clandestine Santas—working or not: Quite frankly, without Amazon.com, there would be a whole lot less under the tree in our house.

Still, when the leaves turn brown, a feeling of dread comes over me – not just because of the cold, dark months to come, but because of the whole holiday run-around. Every year, I try anew to impose some sanity on our approach to Christmas. Around this time of year, I draw-up a list of all the people I want or need to buy gifts for—and, this being New York, everyone from my mother to the guy who works at the lot where we park our car is on it. I pencil-in gift ideas as they occur to me, so as not to be rushed into last-minute decisions (the parking lot attendant is easy: cash). Then, in early December, my credit card gets a workout.

The problem: While I’ve done a great job organizing my list, I often fail to coordinate with others—my husband, my parents, my siblings. So while each of us buys what seems like a reasonable amount, the total can easily get out of hand. The other problem: I hate shopping and would love to dramatically reduce the time, effort, and money I expend. Not that I don’t love to give gifts. What to do? How to cut back without seeming cheap and Scrooge-like? There may be no ideal solution, but I'm hoping to explore some thoughts in the blogs ahead.

One promising development: My two sisters have decided we ought to do a "secret Santa." The problem: It's hard to figure out how to make it work in an equitable fashion. I have three kids. One sister has two. The other has one. My brother, meanwhile, is single. We can each pick one adult's name out a hat. But then, what do we do about the kids? If we each buy each of them one gift, those with fewer or no kids will have to buy more than those with the most kids (ie: me).

And should we put a dollar limit on our secret Santa gift buying? After all, if each of us buys for just one adult, we may be tempted to spend significantly more than we would have otherwise. Any suggestions you have would be most welcome.

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