Make Christmas A Family Affair

Who knows why? How did it happen? Women--wives and mothers--have come to bear the brunt of holiday preparation.

It's enough to make Barry Manilow sing! Women plan the meals, list the gifts and shop until we drop. We cook, we clean, we decorate--and we wrap and wrap and wrap.

Our hands cramp from addressing Christmas cards. We go short on sleep to run the sewing machine late into the night. We rise before dawn to anoint the holiday bird and entrust it to the oven.

Too often, we stew and mutter in our devastated kitchens as we clean up after yet another holiday meal to the sounds of football festivity in the next room.

There's something primitive and atavistic about this state of affairs. You'll find it in even the most modern, share-the-work, dual-career families. Whatever the arrangement of day-to-day life, in too many families the approaching holidays fall squarely on Mom's shoulders.

And that's too bad. Holiday preparation, when done in an unhurried manner, can be as much fun as the feast! Children and husbands need a sense of Christmas inclusion as much as Mom needs some helping hands.

Too often, Dad feels like nothing more than a bill-paying machine, shelling out big bucks for gifts, food, and decor over which he has little say. Young children need a sense of giving to accompany the gifts they receive. Teenagers may not show it on their "cool" exteriors, but will burst inside with pride when Tom Turkey is accompanied by a stuffing from their hands this year.

Open the door. Open the door to a family Christmas. Bring husbands, children, teenagers into the planning process, into the work, into the chores. Set a planning meeting for the entire family, and delegate, delegate, delegate.

No, those purple-iced cookies made with store-bought dough won't be as elegant as Mom's creations, but you'll never see happier bakers than the children who made them.

Give teens "adult" chores: baking desserts, writing Christmas cards, buying gifts for family members. They won't disappoint you.

Let husbands do more than stock the bar or haul the boxes, and they'll feel brought into the mainstream from out on the margins.

Plan a family cleaning day to vanquish those cleaning chores, and celebrate with the pizza man and a good holiday video.

Many hands make light work, and light hearts! Make this Christmas a family affair!