The pressure to host a family dinner can be particularly stressful. That’s why one woman is urging others to forego the idea of a “perfect” festive occasion and choose comfort and gratitude instead.
Writer Liz Petrone recently took to Facebook to share an important message about the power of relieving yourself of the pressure to be the perfect mum, wife and daughter over the holidays.
Petrone shared a photo of herself taken while hosting her first Thanksgiving dinner, an American custom, wearing a skirt, apron and high heels.
Although she looks picture-perfect, the mother of four says she was struggling to keep it all together.
“I’m smiling that cray smile and sucking my (just had two babies in two years) belly in something fierce because I felt like all of that mattered,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
“Like I should be smiling and thin and take up as little space as possible, please and thank you, even though my marriage was falling apart under the stress of our new life that we were no way prepared for…”
Petrone said she was anxious to cook for her family, and despite doing her best, considered the entire experience to be chaotic.
“The turkey came out undercooked and the stuffing was too salty and we didn’t have enough dishes for everyone because the kids had smashed them, or maybe I had while I yelled at [my husband] about how all I really wanted was to be able to go to the bathroom for once without someone needing me mid-stream…” Petrone continued.
“Some of us ate off of paper plates and I kept spontaneously bursting into tears while my sweet mother-in-law said the most beautiful grace.”
Years later, Petrone said she doesn’t feel “embarrassed” or sad for her former self, instead she feels grateful.
“I want to grab her by the shoulders and hug her tight and thank her for her inane scrubbing and her uncontrollable tears and her stubborn insistence on couples counselling even though she wasn’t sure it was going to help… no matter what, she wasn’t going to give up.”
On the other side of things, Petrone reveals she’s learned that all of “that junk” and “all that shit that wants to bury us” is what has been the foundation of her life now.
For her, the photo is a reminder that she survived, and will continue to never give up on her family, although now she can see through the trappings of what’s important – and what’s not.
“Now I cook in sweatpants and fuzzy socks, the stains of a decade’s worth of gravies on my shirt and the stains of a decade’s worth of living in lines around my eyes,” she said. “I can make a turkey in my sleep, and we have dishes, more dishes than we need, but sometimes we still eat off paper plates because it’s easier.”
Now, with two more children in her family, Petrone said she’s released herself from the pressure of keeping the perfect home for guests because “I’ve discovered the wonders of dimming the lights.”
Her marriage is now in a better place and Petrone says she’s grateful for never giving up on her vows.
“If you’re struggling, please take a lesson or two from this chick right here,” Petrone wrote. “Kick off the heels, take off the stockings and the skirt and put on something cozy… Find yourself a glass of wine or a cup of cheer instead. Dim the lights. Use paper plates if you need to and even if you don’t.”
The takeaway, for Petrone, is to focus on the holidays as a reminder of the hard times and coming out the other side as a family.
“Listen to someone’s grace and let it remind you of all that is holy and from God, including you and this life you have built,” she said to end the post. “Then wipe your eyes and dig in. You deserve it.”
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