I became an employee long before I was blessed with becoming a mom. I had cultivated an established position and was working on further development of a career prior to the growth of a family. I belonged to a family-owned business. I was a part of its growth and pruning through the boom and bust of the major economic cycles. This corporate family was unique as the leaders acted as if their roles extended into being father-figures to their employees.
The best example of this extension came during the last quarter of the year when the summer, the busiest time, had ended and preparation had begun for winter, financially the leanest time of year. In Colorado, August and September brings peach and apple seasons. Without notice, cases of fruit arrived via special trips to each field office. There was enough fruit for every employee to receive a case: not just a case, but a case of each. Between October and November, a calculation of the year-to-date salaries was made. It was from these calculations bonuses were paid. Different amounts were paid based on a variety of measures. Finally by year-end, a labelled “Christmas Bonus” was paid. The same amount given to everyone. Though this bonus system instigated intense emotional discussions and high conflict, any ideas to change this process were always rejected. Either immediately after Christmas or shortly into the new year, the company had a party where employment longevity was celebrated with plenty of food, drinks and gifts. The gifts were numbered lapel pins signifying years of service. Starting with the 10 year pin, precious gems were added. Oddly in many family systems and corporate structures conflict along with the anticipation of expensive gifts are forms of formality that have an invisible hold on the members.
I became a parent after being thoroughly acknowledged as a part of this corporate family. Parenthood came unexpectedly after much planning and arriving at a resolution that it would not happen. Needless to say, we all were quite surprised and tentatively thrilled with the confirmation of becoming parents. There were many discussions of the pros and cons along with cost benefit analysis of being a working or stay-at-home mom. In the end, I continued working.
Year-end at home as well as at work became a time of preparation. The last quarter of the year for my family was not unlike any other family. It is expensive. First, there was the cost of daycare then school with all the fees and fundraising activities. I came from a family where presents were expected and bought for everyone. I enjoy giving to charities. In short order, we had to devise an approach in order to not get caught up into the fiery of this season.
We chose to engage our seasonal dilemma rather than hide from it or pretend it was not happening. Our solution was easy and functional. We opened a Christmas Account. We opened a simple bank account that grew monthly by regularly depositing small incremental amounts. We estimated our spending limits and saved accordingly. Distributions are easily adjusted during procurement.
I write about this topic at this time of year when we are being bombarded with advertisements and commercials that press upon this intrinsic obligation of gift giving. Possessions are relentlessly being marketed and our common sense is being tested. Trials of what gift-giving truly is and one’s desires are being set in competition as if damage will come upon the person who picks incorrectly.
I write about this topic to show how this season can become a season of obligation rather than a reflection of the genuine essence of this season. A structure can help relieve stress of this paradox. I recognized things can have a profound importance as meaning is placed on them as symbol of fondness, friendship, and love. Too often purchasing is driven by a frenzy that has no meaning, and results in monthly reminders of overwhelming amounts that extend for months to come.
I write about this topic in hope that you take notice of your family, friends or organizational structure and what these groups view as important. I invite you to ponder how they influence who you are and what you do. It is easy to read between the lines or make excuses or reinterpret what others have done to us or for us. It is harder to make changes and transition out of the flow that we have accepted. So this season, take time to consider, does my gift-giving bring forth the goodness and meaning that I wish to extend outward or am I just in the mode of repetition?