It’s the most wonderful tiiiime of the year… Right? With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, ‘Be of good cheer’. And the endless shopping lists and streams of relatives and delicious food and constant minor hangovers and joyful high points and tricky family relationships and wonderful family relationships and one million social engagements and presents and wrapping and kids expectations and elves to put on shelves. Sounds exhausting. And as two child-free women, we’re aware that we probably have it pretty easy, so who better to school us in all things family than two of the most-excellent women on the ‘gram – Sandra from @theidlehands and Katie from @comedowntothewoods. And for some extra goodness we asked a few more of our favourite ‘grammers how they get through the festive season unscathed.
Emma: Oh, hi guys
Katie: Oh hi
Sandra: Oh my god, hi!
Emma: Fancy seeing you here
Sandra: Fancy seeing you here!
Emma: We’re the SAME
Sandra: So similar. Twin-like
Emma: Quick, Katie, you say it too
Katie: Kids are covered in haribo, movie on, should be good for a while
Robyn: I wish someone would bring me haribo
Sandra: I have just waved off a man who was attending to my beading. I am now free
Robyn: Ohhhh errr
Emma: Read that as ‘shaved off’
Sandra: He actually did shave some off it, so it still works. Just call me Sandra Claus
Emma: I always do
Katie: You’ve been waiting all day to use that haven’t you Shirl
Sandra: I bring it out on Dec on an annual basis
Robyn: That’s what she said. Can this just be a whatsapp of all the innuendos we can do
Sandra: It’s like being in a Carry On film
Robyn: I’m Sid James
Sandra: My bra might ping off in a minute
Emma: I’ll be Barbara Windsor
Katie: And by the time Dec rolls round in we’ll have all forgotten you said it in the first place. A bit like my Instagram content
Robyn: Ok, Emma, make it serious
Emma: YES, Christmas
Emma: Thanks both very much for joining us for a festive chat. We wanted to talk to you guys because you both have families and we don’t, and you’re both very funny and probably have loads of insight into Christmas good bits and bad bits
Katie: I do indeed have more than my fair share of bin lids
Sandra: I’m confident in saying we are the right candidates for this chat
Robyn: Yeah our Christmases are basically us trying to please our in-laws/parent while not having a breakdown
Emma: Like, how different is Christmas once you have kids?
Katie: You basically become actual Santa
Emma: Red suit and everything?
Robyn: I think it’s different with kids. Different stress but maybe a bit of the magic back?
Sandra: The main difference is the exceptional, bone crushing tiredness. But absolutely bringing the magic back
Emma: Crushed bones is where the magic lives, maybe?
Robyn: I miss the magic and I firmly believe it’s cos there’s no under-fives in my family
Katie: You choose ALL the presents for ALL the kids, you then choose ALL the presents for everyone else to buy your kids, you then choose ALL the presents for ALL of your friends and family, then ALL the presents for your husband to give all of his friends and family. Finally, they all ask you what you’d like and you have to choose your own presents. It’s truly magical. Basically a lot of time spent on Amazon
Sandra: Oh god, the choosing presents for everyone else to give the kids. There’s just so much to do. Every day. Mine are both at school which is a whole other level of festive crazy. Every day. Christmas jumper day, Christmas assembly day, donate to the tombola, school Christmas fair, carol service, donate all of your salary to various causes, in fact why not just set up a standing order
Emma: Oh man, that sounds like a LOT
Robyn: I mean, I’m next level jealous of that scenario.
Emma: Do kids still make Christmas lists for Santa? And, crucially, do they still believe in the big man?
Sandra: Yes! Mine make Christmas lists. They are extremely materialistic. They’re 11 and 7. The 7 year old still believes, and the 11 year old hasn’t said she doesn’t. She probably doesn’t but fears the lack of presents if she’s made a mistake
Katie: As for believing I’ll take a screen shot of Felix’ letter to Santa. They’re definitely on the cusp but that’s entirely due to other kids in their class.
Sandra: Sniffle. Felix!
Emma: this is ADORABLE. And mathematically correct
Robyn: Oh my days Felix
Katie: I’m juggling (and dropping) a lot of baubles right now. I guess for me, it’s the time of year where something really has to give
Emma: Like normal life, but then a million other things thrown on top
Katie: I got the wrong time for my kid’s nativity yesterday and this morning I found myself just shaving my ankles in the shower.
Emma: I think there are a finite number of things one woman can keep in her mind box at one time
Sandra: Agree, Katie. I have an annual festive breakdown due to utter overwhelm every year. Well done to me for adding a building project into this year’s schedule too
Robyn: Do you vocalise that? Like, that it sounds like Christmas is the equivalent of being Elton John’s PA, but also the PA for David Furnish and the children
Emma: To add on to Robyn’s question: is it hard to vocalise struggles at a time of year when adverts tell us everything should have that hazy perfect-family glow over it?
Sandra: I have just cancelled every single work Christmas party/event I was meant to be going to. I cannot do it. I have lost about £60 in deposits paid but I don’t care.
Robyn: Do you feel like it falls on Mums disproportionately?
Sandra: Yeah it does fall on mums disproportionately
Katie: I feel like the mountain of responsibility is almost entirely placed on a mother’s shoulders. And what then happens is the time for actually enjoying Christmas is sucked out of it
Sandra: But I’m not sure I do feel like I have to pretend everything is rosy. Apart from to the kids. I think it depends who you have around you, and every other female with kids I know feels exactly the same. No-one is skipping around Santa’s grotto having a brilliant time. Apart from for mins for a lovely photo
Robyn: Can you call it out? Can you say dudes, I need a wingman, or is that just opening the door to more stress like training up an intern. I.e quicker to do it yourself?
Sandra: Quicker to do it myself.
Katie: Me too. If I gave my husband the responsibility of doing things we’d have a cheeseboard made entirely of Dairlyea, and no presents
Sandra: That’s my kind of Christmas, Woods. When my eldest was little I started loads of ‘magical’ traditions like putting a little something in a beautiful cloth advent calendar every night, and the elf of the shelf. Or the fucking elf, as it’s referred to now. This just adds to the overwhelm. You can edit out the swears…
Robyn: Oh no, we love the swears
Emma: Yeah, more swears
Sandra: THE FUCKING OVERWHELM
Katie: THAT FUCKING ELF
Emma: Do you like Christmas, or dread it? Or like the idea, but dread the reality?
Sandra: I still love Christmas though! I really, really do, even though I’m a husk by the big day
Katie: TBH I totally expected to be better at Christmas. As in, the baking, the traditions, the beautiful wrapping blah blah blah
Sandra: It all comes together though, right? Somehow?? I was always a beautiful wrapper. Now I have a bottle of Prosecco in one hand and just hurl paper and sellotape at a mountain of presents and hope for the best
Katie: We need that wrapping elf from Arthur Christmas
Sandra: Oh we do!
Robyn: I think we live in a world where we erase a lot of the actual reality of Christmas, which is sad.
Katie: I was asked to share my family Christmas tradition for a campaign. I didn’t think they needed, ‘Getting shitfaced and arguing over who wraps the presents’ so I had to make one up
Robyn: It’s mainly for me like an episode of The Royal Family. But every year we do watch an episode of On The Buses, i like that
Sandra: On The Buses, so festive! Olive!
Emma: This is the thing though, right? We’re all having these shared chaotic experiences behind the scenes, but the world still only wants to see the cute stuff. Isn’t that weird?
Katie: Ultimately, Christmas is always brilliant but I break a little in the run up
Sandra: Exactly this
Katie: And then convince myself it’ll be different next year
Katie: That I’ll start earlier, that I’ll be more organised
Robyn: Narrative arc
Katie: Never am
Robyn: My Dad said his worst Christmas was when he was doing it on his own and finished the wrapping at like 11:50. and we got up at 12:20.
Sandra: Poor Dad! I haven’t really done any Christmas shopping yet. No decorations due to builders.
Emma: And that is totally ok – I think most of the population are in the same boat. Not on Instagram, obvs
Sandra: To be fair (I hate having to be fair), my husband does buy some of the presents for the girls, and is quite good at that
Katie: I’ve not bought a thing but that’s not bad. The earlier I start, the more I tend to spend.
Sandra: Instagram could drive you mad if you were that way inclined. Assuming everyone has a picture perfect, ultra organised Christmas
Katie: Reality needs to be shown more. Whenever I do an instasham shot I’m shocked by the amount of people that say thanks you etc. I mean, I just thought it was. Given that people knew it’s 90% shithole. People actually think I live like the grid, which isn’t healthy
Sandra: Instasham posts are so popular! I put one on stories yesterday and people are so relieved that I live like that. My house is genuinely hideously messy
Robyn: No one has a pristine house and clean children all the time. That would be insane
Emma: Yes! I think it’s like airbrushing in magazines – we all technically know it’s happening, but that doesn’t change our comparisons
Katie: Wanna see a reality shot? This is actual Christmas…
Robyn: Is there an antelope in those bags? I think people are terrified that their real life isn’t likeable. And that makes me sad
Katie: No antelopes, just bags full of underwear and jeans and more stuff that’s arrived more a shoot. Magical
Robyn: Oh, I’d love lots of festive undies
Sandra: More stuff just equals more stress at this stage of the game
Emma: How do you guys feel about Christmas family time on the ‘gram – will you be sharing stuff on Christmas day, or do you prefer to keep it offline?
Katie: I try and stay off line on Christmas Eve/day/Boxing Day
Sandra: Naaaah, I wouldn’t share Christmas Day on the ‘gram. Think that’s pretty standard, not many people online then.
Emma: I feel like it’s good to just focus on what’s happening in front of you sometimes. But I know a lot of people like their family shot in front of the tree, etc
Sandra: I still take those shots. And might stick it in after the event. I’d probs put it on Facebook, mind. Facebook’s different
Katie: I think showing people what you’ve got can make people feel rubbish
Emma: Yeah, true
Katie: And when I say what they’ve got I don’t just mean gifts. There are so many people who would give anything to have kids
Robyn: Yeah for SURE. It’s a fucking gloomy day in parts
Emma: This is something Robyn and I talk about a lot – the people who aren’t there over Christmas
Katie: Whatever you share you have to know it can trigger
Sandra: Posting on Christmas Day all feels like too much – it’s my time. I’ll be drunk. And maybe dancing to Jingle Bell Rock
Robyn: you deserve it San. Pity me and my vegetarian teetotal Christmas
Sandra: Why is your Christmas veggie and teetotal?????
Robyn: Dad was an alcoholic and is a veggie
Sandra: I see. I’m a veggie, nut roast can be fun! Nut roast can actually never be fun
Emma: I love a nut roast!
Sandra: Uuuurgh do you?
Emma: I do!
Robyn: It’s the pigs in blankets I miss the most But back to grief…
Emma: Grief at Christmas is like pigs in blankets – all soft inside wrapped in salty deliciousness
Robyn: Best description ever. Squidgey inside grief
Sandra: Oh of course. It’s quite a heightened time for grief or loss in any form
Robyn: We’re all living in families who’ve experienced loss – is that particularly on your mind at Christmas? I know it can be a shitter
Emma: I will also throw that one back at you, Robyn, as I know we deal with our grief in very different ways
Katie: Chris and I are in the very fortunate position to still have both sets of parents, but grief can run deeper. I have so many emotions wrapped up around Christmas all to do with my grandparents.
Sandra: I’ve squashed it for many years. (Grief not nut roast). But last year I felt I wanted to be more open and I got little bauble things, a K, a P and a J, for all my kids, including the son not here with us. And my sister is coming this year and we like to have a little Prosecco-fuelled cry about my mum not being with us.
Emma: Sandra, this is beautiful
Robyn: Really is beautiful. Were you really close with your grandparents, Katie? Do not have to say, of course
Katie: My dads mum died of breast cancer when I was really little but everyone says I’m exactly like her which is lovely and annoying in equal measures. I’m sad for not knowing her but don’t miss her .My other man was fucking incredible and the loss of her when I was and in my first year away from home was devastating
Robyn: Like my Nan was the centre of Christmas. She basically ran herself ragged to do everything but all she wanted was us all to be there. And now we’ve dissipated and I miss her gravitational pull if that makes sense?
Katie: It’s all about the stimulation of your left hand brain right. The sounds, smells, tastes, joy. The missing ones hanging like coats from all those legs of emotions.
Robyn: Yes. To the max
Sandra: I miss going to my gran’s on Christmas Day. That side of the family was huge and fun and it was so exciting. And they were the centre of Christmas while I was growing up. I can still feel every emotion I went through on Christmas Day there. Everyone is all over the country now and gran and grandad no longer with us
Robyn: I think incredible grandparents don’t get enough airtime
Sandra: It really is! Last Christmas totally reminds me of Christmas at my gran’s and my Uncle Iain playing it! And all the Quality Street and party hats and daft games
Robyn: They have the distance to be the support you need when going to your parents is out of the question. Like all the love, none of the risk
Sandra: And they always do a mean beige buffet in the evening
Emma: I still love a beige buffet
Robyn: I adore a beige buffet.
Sandra: Beige buffets are the greatest.
Robyn: And the games. We’d always play cards because that’s all there was, and it’d be thick with fumes from people smoking inside
Sandra: Those fortune-telling fish really remind me of it. I get them now for the girls advent calendars
Emma: The little plastic things you put on your hand?
Robyn: I’m obsessed with fortune-telling fish
Katie: Cards, those little metal puzzles you had to try and disconnect. People smoking inside, vol au vents. Those little Cadbury machines you had to put p in
Sandra: Yes, smoking inside, cut crystal ash trays (posh). Gran always forgetting to bring the trifle out and then making everyone eat some, despite everyone nearly being at vom-point. Grandad sneaking me a Buck’s Fizz and telling me not to tell my Mam
Emma: Ha ha, go on, Grandad. I’ve never been so drunk as on my Grandma’s vodka and orange
Sandra: Oh god, I love vodka and orange! So so much
Robyn: It’s my drink San, cos it’s good for you – Vitamin C. Is it a screwdriver..?
Sandra: Yes, a screwdriver! Let’s only call it this from now on
Katie: Advocaat… vom…
Robyn: My nan used to make 100% extra pig cos everyone would get at least one out of the oven. And we’d have a traditional row about my Nan’s terrible gravy
Emma: Shall we have a new year Christmas where we all get to do whatever we want? Robyn, you can grow some crystals and eat raw sausage meat. Sandra, you can drink pints of vodka and orange. Katie, you can look queasy at a bottle of advocaat
Katie: I got properly drunk for the first time on Christmas Day when I was about and woke up projectile vomiting all over my room
Sandra: We’d get bollocked for not being hungry for Christmas lunch because we’d eaten an entire chocolate Santa for brekko, washed down with Quality Street
Robyn: This is excellent. Did you get in the shit?
Sandra: Waaah Katie! Did you confess to being pissed? Or pretend it was a dodgy sprout?
Katie: I got into SO much trouble, we were going on holiday on boxing day morning. An hour coach ride to the Alps… Went down like a shit sandwich
Robyn: Oh the horror
Sandra: There was no need for any further punishment 😂
Katie: I can still smell it now
Katie: Lesson learnt obviously…
Robyn: Was that your worst Chrimbo? Does everyone have a standout?
Sandra: A worst one? Only the year I lost my son, he’d died weeks earlier. My daughter was young so I had to get up, but don’t remember anything about it. Apart from that horror, I’ve only had bloody great Christmases
Katie: Nothing can be worse than that Shirl
Emma: That is probably the hardest a Christmas can get
Sandra: I had to ring everyone and tell them I’d done that. And then they were all devastated too.
Robyn: Oh Sandra that is fucking tough. The fact you got up at all is incredible
Sandra: God, I’ve clenched every muscle writing that.
Emma: Oh, Sandra
Robyn: I want to give you a full body hug San. I’m so sorry
Emma: I’m sending you hugs through my screen
Katie: Me too, and you know I give good ones. All boob and back fat
Emma: If this is too personal, tell me to shove off: I find that around the time of year my Mum died, I get intensely emotional – do you find Christmas hard because your brain recognises it as that hard, hard time of year?
Sandra: Not for me. I grieve at the end of Nov when he died, then officially allow myself to get festive. From Nov onwards, it’s Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues (featuring Kirsty McCall)
Robyn: Like the catharsis of the grief month
Emma: That’s an excellent way of working in your time to be sad. Because everybody needs time to be sad
Katie: We need to shout this from the rooftops
Robyn: And then a little peak of giddy, manic excitement
Katie: I think it’s the expectation that things should be perfect and then the disappointment that they aren’t there to make it so
Emma: Exactly. You have to find new ways and new perfects
Katie: And change that internal dialogue
Robyn: I agree so much. I think all the relationships we have or had are thrown to the forefront cos it’s meant to be a Perfect Time
Emma: We do – at a time of year when all the adverts are mince pies and smiling families, I think it’s so important
Sandra: Isn’t there that statistic about divorce rates rocketing after Christmas?
Robyn: I often have a row with Jamie on Christmas cos I’m stressed out about feeling it has to be perfect and thinking it’s going to be shit. I’m a great wife
Emma: My Dad does this. Has a plan, and wants everything to be so perfect, but if the plan deviates even slightly he thinks everything is ruined
Katie: Since I’ve had kids my mental health has been so much better (not that it was bad) but…
Emma: Is that because you have other people to focus on, do you think?
Katie: When a child comes to you with a problem or a worry, whatever it might be, however big or small it is acknowledged. It’s heard. We don’t let our problems be allowed. Best advice I EVER got was to change my internal dialogue. Speak to myself as if I’m a year old kid. Self soothing is an incredible tool. Especially around Christmas
Robyn: Oh, hello
Sandra: That’s great advice! I am doing that immediately
Katie: Literally, get that picture up in your head of a three year old you and talk to yourself as if you were her. It’s genuinely magic. And yes, I often want to give my husband a big Christmas punch in the face
Sandra: My husband once made us all sit in complete silence to watch the Christmas Day Doctor Who amd got in a mood when we made any noise.
Katie: I want to punch him in the face too. Although I am due on
Sandra: His parents were included in the silence mandate
Robyn: Children don’t like Dr Who. FACT
Emma: Dr Who was terrifying as a kid
Sandra: I don’t like Doctor Who!
Katie: I won’t let my kids watch any other movies apart from Christmas ones at the moment. They hate me
Emma: Ha ha, I’m here for that enforcement
Sandra: Same Katie!
Katie: The eye roll
Robyn: I never get to watch Christmas corrie in silence with my family
Emma: that’s a thing at Christmas isn’t it? Lots of time spent with people you don’t usually spend lots of time with..?
Robyn: Yes! Everybody descends
Katie: And you never quite know when they’ll leave
Sandra: You NEED an end point
Emma: Think I’d have to book a trip two days into their stay… Something immovable
Robyn: Or fake having norovirus
Sandra: Even with your best friends, you need to know the end point
Emma: Exactly! And then there can be tensions around things said – Grandma will say something offensive, but you’re not allowed to correct it because everybody says that’s just the way she is…
Katie: It gets on my tits
Emma: It’s maddening, because we just have to accept that some people get to behave however they want
Robyn: I’m dreading Christmas cos I have to see my grandad who was a stunning mix of homophobic and racist last time I saw him
Katie: You can learn how to use an iPhone, you can learn to stop being a dick
Emma: Well said
Robyn: In our ideal Christmas we would…
Emma: Ooo, good question
Robyn: Have a cheese counter ticket that in-laws would take for their turn to come and the time allowed
Robyn: Have a chrimbo concierge
Emma: Have a screwdriver tap
Katie: Make Santa real
Emma: Have a little room you could go into that isn’t a toilet, where you can just be by yourself. Padded, in case of screaming
Sandra: I love that it isn’t allowed to be the toilet
Robyn: Have a half hour emotional check morning, afternoon and evening where you could just be somewhere really squishy and warm
Emma: I just think there are better, less poo-riddled places to spend quiet time
Robyn: We’ve all had a toilet breather, right?
Sandra: Time alone is so important for me
Emma: Same. That’s why I find Christmas tricky – because there’s nowhere to go. You’re just stuck with all these people and a bowl of twiglets
Robyn: I say ‘I need a nap’ like little Lord Fontelroy.
Emma: I need to get better at doing that. This year it’s just me and the boyfriend, so I shall nap at will. Ok, so quick-fire best thing about Christmas?
Katie: Kids’ reactions, pigs in blankets
Emma: Both equally important
Robyn: Going for a big walk. Jokes
Emma: Chocolate at any time of day
Robyn: And doing a big memory share-a-thon
Katie: Lounge wear, sparkles
Robyn: Yes! And the car radio
Emma: Call me cheesy, but I love the sense that a massive portion of the country are all kind of in it together
Robyn: Yes all the jolly people you see
Katie: The songs not the ladies. And sprouts
Katie: In fact, the sprout challenge
Robyn: Urggghhhh sprouts – what’s the sprout challenge
Katie: If our kids eat sprouts they get their sprout gift. One wrapped up not wind
Emma: Into this
Robyn: Ha ha ha
Katie: It’s more bribery than a tradition
Emma: Does everybody have festive breakfast traditions, ours was always bucks fizz with smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels.
Robyn: Emma, you are so fancy!
Katie: Always pancakes. The nine year old makes them from start to finish now. I don’t lift a finger. He’s asked for a pancake pan for Christmas.
Emma: Can I come to yours, Katie?
Robyn: JUNIOR MASTERCHEF. Can I loan your nine year old?
Emma: What a guy!
Katie: Gotta teach them young/make them do your jobs
Robyn: Mine is eat an entire selection box then Twiglets at my uncle Ian’s house
Sandra: Choc Santa for brekko
Robyn: Will you have a friends Christmas, Leeds contingent?
Katie: We’ll spend Christmas Eve with friends. We are all in the same boat with family at a distance and all of our parents blend together really well so we always get together then we’ll walk round to a friends house on Christmas Day. I LOVE MY FRIENDS
Sandra: Er, there seems to be an oversight, where was my invite to friends Christmas Eve? I have no Christmas friends contingent but usually see all the groups of them in the run up for a knees up
Robyn: Ok, my last quezzer. What piece of advice would you give someone to get them through the festive period?
Sandra: Find time to be selfish
Emma: I love this. If selfish is taking time back for yourself it is not a bad thing
Sandra: It’s your Christmas too, essentially. and drink lots of booze and listen to Carols From Kings, it’s v calming
Robyn: Katie’s gone quiet, must be handling her sausages? Emma what’s yours?
Katie: Potato waffles
Robyn: Ahh waffle
Emma: Fucking love a potato waffle. That’s not my answer though.
Katie: They’re waffly versatile
Sandra: Beat me to it
Robyn: Iconic lines. That and the Mr Soft ad
Sandra: Oh my god! Mr Soft. And the Hope it’s Chips song
Emma: Mine is to sit back and have a think about what you actually want your Christmas to be for you, then work out what situations will give you that
Sandra: Yes. Very yes.
Katie: I’d say don’t sweat the small stuff. Those things you’re thinking will make Christmas won’t.
Sandra: Yes! One of my best Christmas memories is my dad riding my brothers new skateboard down our street (quite out of character) and falling off
Robyn: Did you send it to You’ve Been Framed?
Sandra: Alas, pre camera phones
Emma: D-bag, what’s yours?
Robyn: Mine is take some little breaks for a check in with your noggin and don’t over hype it
Sandra: Don’t start any adorable traditions
Katie: And fuck elf on the fucking shelf
Emma: This is the line we’ll use to close the post
And you know what reader, we did.
A Merry Christmas/festive break/whatever you fancy one and all!