Column

Having a Good Holiday Season? Thank a Woman!

Holiday cheer is almost exclusively manufactured by women, often at a cost to our own happiness

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Published in
2 min readDec 24, 2019

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Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

II love this time of year — the lights, the holiday cheer, family dinners, and kids getting way hyped up for presents and vacation. I also dread it a little bit; between the meals I cook, the holiday cards I write, and the presents and I order and wrap for my immediate and extended family, I feel almost hungover come the new year.

I’m not the only one — holiday cheer is almost exclusively manufactured by women, often at a cost to our own happiness. We cook the meals, we make sure the gifts are ordered for the in-laws, we create the family traditions. It can be really wonderful — I love cooking a huge seven-course fish meal every year, and making my loved ones happy. Watching my kid tear through wrapping paper? There’s nothing like it.

But the lead up to all of that is exhausting, and the expectation that we keep it up every year is completely overwhelming. After all, if someone is missing a gift or a holiday card goes unsent, it won’t be my husband who is judged.

Those expectations and judgment are not so different from the rest of the year, of course: Women still do the vast majority of domestic work, and if a kid shows up to school with unbrushed hair or if an apartment is covered in dust, it’s women who are considered lacking in some way.

Women are more likely than men to feel anxiety and stress this time of year.

But that standard gets revved up this time of year, especially with the advent of social media. It’s not enough that the holidays go off seamlessly for our family, they have to look picture-perfect, to boot. (And then there’s the emotional work of being jolly while you brave sales for gifts, lick the hundredth stamp, or bake another batch of cookies.)

In fact, the American Psychological Association says that women are more likely than men to feel anxiety and stress this time of year, and even offer tips on how to avoid holiday overwhelm — like taking time for yourself and tampering your expectations. (I have a few friends who just do a family vacation and flee the state around the holidays, which is sounding better every year.)

Maybe you can escape, maybe you can just choose not to do every single thing every single year. But if I’m being realistic, I know that most of us will just continue on bringing the holiday cheer with the same zeal and stress that we do every year. So if you’re enjoying the season, do me a small kindness — thank a woman.

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Jessica Valenti
GEN
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.