Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays … for some. Picture: iStock
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays … for some. Picture: iStock

All I want for Christmas is a day free of family pressure

Christmas is meant to be a time for love, joy and good tidings.

However, for many, the holiday season is marked by stress, conflict and irrational anger at customer service staff.

The disconnect between holiday expectations and tedious reality is usually blamed on consumerism or the unholiness of modern life. We should be grateful, we are told, and we should focus on the family. But what if the problem is the family? Specifically, the idealised model of the traditional family - husband, wife and 2.5 kids - that has been socially imposed on us for centuries.

Some historians see the 'nuclear' family unit as coming about as result of industrialisation in the 18th century, while others claim some version of it has always existed.

Either way, the traditional family has historically been a raw deal, particularly for women.

Under the traditional model, the role of the wife is to handle home duties as the doe-eyed assistant to the patriarch. And despite gains in women's rights in the late 20th century, the bulk of housework - particularly the Christmas logistics - are still imposed on women.

The traditional family has historically been a raw deal at Christmas, particularly for women. Picture: Love Actually
The traditional family has historically been a raw deal at Christmas, particularly for women. Picture: Love Actually

It's no surprise then that many women would be feeling the pain of playing the housewife this time of the year.

For men too, the role of the traditional 'provider husband' can reach its peak during the holidays with calls to work longer hours to pay for gratuitous familial expense.

Indeed, the provider role is purely economic in traditional discourse, with men reduced to an economic lever on a bureaucrat's spreadsheet.

Playing any family role can give many of us feelings of inauthenticity. A sense that you are playing a character written by someone else, completely removed from your tastes and preferences.

Little boxes made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same, in the words of Malvina Reynolds.

But enough about adults, this holiday is for kids, after all!

Watching your child gleefully unwrap the latest gizmo is often a joyful consolation prize for parents during this season. That is, of course, if you wanted them to begin with. Children are another socially imposed expectation - one many of us would probably be happier doing without.

Every year, childless adults are peppered with unbearable questions about their plans for future children. Picture: Home Alone
Every year, childless adults are peppered with unbearable questions about their plans for future children. Picture: Home Alone

As philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur once quipped, "if children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist?"

The social pressure felt by couples to have children, particularly during the holidays, can be overwhelming. Trying to carve out a child-free life can often be a major challenge.

While these familial pressures were in the past a perverse consequence of heterosexuality, our modern ideas of 'family' easily impose same-sex couples with similar burdens.

Children are an enormous financial and emotional responsibility, one that requires a large degree of self-sacrifice, why then do we expect most people to reproduce?

The case against children is also not merely existential. For many people looking at the destruction of the environment and fallout of overpopulation, living child free also appears to be an ethical lifestyle.

When we reject the expectations of the traditional family a whole world of opportunities opens up for experiments in living. Happy bachelors and spinsters, childless couples travelling the world and nuclear families by choice, not expectation.

Perhaps you should give yourself the gift of a more open mind this festive season, and reject the pressures of a traditional family Christmas.

Jarryd Bartle is a columnist for RendezView.com.au



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