Have yourself a gendered little Christmas: Holiday Meal Prep

holiday-mealSome of my most favorite holiday memories involve sharing meals with my loved ones. I love everything about it—smelling good things, tasting favorite family recipes, bright holiday decorations, and so much joyful laughter (sprinkled with realistic, nagging, teasing sibling exchanges). My love for holiday meal times makes it even more troubling to realize how unfair these family events can be.

Ever since hosting my very first holiday gathering, I’ve become acutely aware of how much work goes into it. It takes a whole lot of time, energy and expense to accomplish the perfect holiday gathering. More often than not, I’ve noticed that it’s women in families who get it done.

Even in my own family, my superstar mama is clearly working overtime to make everything happen. She gets up early on the day of, after prepping for days ahead of time, and is the first up from the table to start doing dishes after the meal is complete.

While my dad is an accomplished veggie chopper who always helps with prep work, and my brother is diving into the wonderful world of pie baking this year, it still seems like there are some major expectations for who is primarily responsible for domestic goddess-like activities.

Globally, women tend to put virtually all of their earnings from outside the home back into caring for the family in some way. I’m guessing that this doesn’t really change when holidays roll around. Beyond that, if we added up the amount of time spent preparing for holiday meals and assigned a dollar value to it, how much do you think the typical North American woman would make compared to the typical man?

Do you find that women’s work is highly valued in your own families? Are you part of a non-traditional family set up that breaks out of the gender-binary holiday mold? I would love to hear about ways that you’ve found to make the holidays happy, healthy, and equal for all.

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Submitted by erich on

What a great post! Very thought provoking.

I'm very happy with the chosen family I have surrounded myself with in this respect.  Everyone pitches in pretty equally, and the men can cook just as well as (if not better than) the women and often will tell us to just relax while they do the work.  Whoever didn't cook does the dishes, and everyone helps to tidy up the house afterwards--even the 3 year old, who gets just as much love and caretaking from her dad and step-father as she does from her mom and step-mother.  When it came time to decorate the house, bake cookies, and wrap presents, we were all in it together, and it was all wonderful time spent as a family.  

The only gendered activity I've really noticed is that the men are usually the ones chopping the firewood and shovelling the walk, while the women take care of the laundry and general organization inside the house.   I personally have no desire to chop wood or shovel snow, so I'm thankful that we have people in the family who are willing to make our lives easier by doing so and I'm more than happy to return the favor by making their lives easier inside of the house.

My biological family is a whole other story.  I can't think of anything in particular that the men do during the holidays off the top of my head, other than drinking and gambling.  I think I'm going to pay a little more attention to those dynamics this year as a result of this blog post. 

Submitted by amperrotto on

Thanks for sharing about the labor distribution in your chosen family. It's so wonderful to be surrounded by positivity and loving interactions. I hope that you enjoy the holiday season!