Pressure to Perform

Almost there… we don’t even need to say the words, I can see them written all over Mr J’s face as he falls through the front door, usually late, windswept, rain lashed… you know, the standard mid-December look. It feels as though we are clinging onto routine with our fingernails. The threenager has been coughing on and off for a month, the rest of us are doing our best to fight it off (I am not convinced we are going to win this one). The husband and I are working hideously late to meet deadlines (so we don’t have to work over Christmas), but worst of all we are checking our calendars almost hourly to ensure we don’t miss anything crucial.

Sometime during the year our seven-year-old daughter was replaced by a young thespian. She has joined drama clubs, musical theatre groups, choirs, drumming, and now that Christmas is here the result is daily performances… throw in the annual school carol concert, the threenager’s first preschool extravaganza and her ever popular ballet recital and we are feeling the pressure.

Social media is filled with blogs focusing on self-care this festive season, reminding us that we don’t have to do it all; the house doesn’t need to be perfect, the kids don’t need to be constantly entertained with Christmas activities, you don’t have to see every family member if it’s going to affect your mental health. The thing is, none of that worries me. I am a total Christmas nut, I will happily decorate the house from top to bottom, not because my Mum always did it, because I want to. I won’t entertain the kids constantly, I think it’s important for them to play by themselves regularly, and we have taken to spending Christmas at home each year, hosting it and telling everyone to come if they want to, those that don’t sort themselves out. However, my heart sinks at the thought of my child performing without a loved one in the audience.

I know, that my children are sensible, my eldest, in particular, would understand if someone couldn’t make a show, she knows money doesn’t grow on trees and sometimes Mummy and Daddy must work, but that wouldn’t make me feel any more comfortable about missing it. So far so good, with only three shows to go, we are almost there, yet every time my youngest coughs I hold my breath; please don’t be ill, if I have to stay home with you there will be no one at the 1.30 performance. The end of term can’t come quickly enough. When the last show is over, when my children are collected, bought home (fit and well), happy that they performed their best and their loved ones were there to applaud, I will finally feel Christmassy.

No matter how much you love this season, guaranteed there will be something to get those anxiety levels raised. The kid’s shows are what I enjoy the most, but at the same time what I worry most about. So many of us simply can’t make every show, or recital. My husband and I are lucky that we, currently, both have a certain amount of flexibility to our jobs, so long as the work is done, we can often alter our hours, but an afternoon show will often mean we are still up at midnight, glued to our laptops. What about the parents that don’t have any flexibility, who are out of vacation days, or need to save those for the school holidays, the shift workers with no cover available? It may be the kids that are on stage, yet it feels like the parents are under pressure to perform.

As I sit in my daughter’s shows this week, I will undoubtedly bawl my eyes out at the sheer cuteness. I will remember many of the performances well into the future, when they have grown and flown the nest, I will savour each carol concert clip and nativity photo and I will feel blessed that I have been able to make that show, but I am always aware of how difficult it was to get there on time, to arrange cover for, to be given the opportunity to be there at all. At Christmas time, there is a lot to be grateful for, but, for me, the little things like performances really count.