For our partners and our children, Christmas is a magical day where there are presents in abundance, good food on the table, a tin of chocolates in every nook and cranny of the house and it’s a guaranteed period where there is no screaming for chores to be done.

For us mums however (or maybe just this mum?) it’s months of preparation, months of self-doubt – “will he like that, is she still going to be into that band, will everyone be relaxed and happy enough, will the Christmas pudding that feeds six be enough for the one person who actually likes it?”. The demands are endless.  My stress levels start to rise around Halloween; it’s almost a symbolic start to a period of horror. Who eats what? Who sleeps where? Who do we need to visit? Where do you get teabags on Christmas morning because you’ve only been buying the luxury Christmas food for the last few weeks (this has happened to me)? Simple basics take a back seat for the Christmas period, but, we still need tea right?!

I have four children and two step children. My partner wants to spoil them all: “it’s just once a year”. I want to teach them how lucky they are and that they shouldn’t take what they have for granted! For the last 10 years I’ve decided that I want to take them to a soup kitchen to serve the homeless before they unwrap any of their over-the-top, unnecessary “it’s just once a year” crap. The said crap that I will find still in boxes in dusty corners of the house when I come to do the spring clean (usually not until summer, some years even autumn, some years not at all). I am still yet to take them to the soup kitchen, mainly because I’m hosting a party for minimum of 10, every flipping year!

The first couple of years it’s wooden train sets and Tweenie characters; we’re talking a £30 budget and a guaranteed smile on a small child’s face.   When they hit five/six it changes. There will be tears if you haven’t got them the action figure/Barbie doll that their friends have bragged about getting – and so peer pressure kicks in, not just amongst the children, but also the adults!

Some parents gage their success of parenting and their ability to provide by how much they spend on their little darlings. An Xbox here, a laptop there. I know this because I have indeed at one stage been sucked into this trap. I’ve spent the money; I’ve offered up the latest most sought after present on Christmas’ past. One year I even queued at Toys R Us at 7.30am, took my token allowing me to buy one doll and bought my son the Teletubby that I felt he HAD to have because everyone will have one. He played with it once!

What I learnt from that Christmas, and a few others that were epic displays of credit card grandeur, is that as tacky as it sounds, it’s not about the giving of presents. We give all year; we love, we feed, we teach and we nourish our children and if ever there was a perfect time of year to make an example of this, it’s Christmas.

I make sure my children appreciate every gift big or small. I spend time with them to make up for the time I’ve not been able to spend with them for the rest of the year as I’ve been too busy doing stuff for them. I make the day about family and gratitude.

Sure there’s still a constant flow of chocolate (and wine, you gotta do what you can to make it through, right?!), and they don’t go without as far as presents are concerned, but I also use the opportunity to educate them a little bit more about how lucky we are.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve bought the 1Direction tickets crossing my fingers and toes, hoping that come June next year she’ll still be in love with Harry. I’ve bought the laptop that comes under the guise of “it’ll help with his homework”. BUT presents do not drive our Christmas, it’s just a nice little addition to our day, and of course they all come from Santa anyway!!

Enjoy your Christmas!