Every year I head back to the house I grew up in for a big family Christmas with my parents, brother and sister. These days they bring their own families too.
I am 35 years old, run my own business and overall am pretty happy with my life the way it is. However, being single can be hard during the Christmas season, and even more so when surrounded by my coupled-up family.
Deflecting well-meaning comments about my dating life (or lack thereof), finding myself with the lion's share of jobs to do around the house 'because you're obviously not too busy', and being relegated to the blow-up mattress in the living room leaves me feeling like the grumpy teenager I thought I'd grown out of years ago.
So this year, I have developed a 5-point strategy to help me cope:
1. Bring an extravagant gift for day one
I learnt this trick from my older brother. He always arrives at my parents' house with a big gesture, such as bottles of champagne, a whole Spanish Jamón, a hamper, etc. This immediately places him in pole position as the family favourite, and no amount of laziness seems to make anyone like him any less later on. Here's hoping it works for two of us this year.
2. Have your own 'in jokes'
This Christmas, I will be playing my own drinking game, based on the number of times anyone tells me I'll meet someone soon. Or some cliché like there are plenty of fish in the sea. Or tells me how envious they are of my childless status. It's going to be a very Merry Christmas for me I suspect...
3. Embrace the little people
Children are non-judgemental and unlike other family members, they actually think it's great that they can have you all to themselves. I plan to embrace this for all it is worth. It is nice to feel wanted after all, and of course, if I am busy entertaining the little ones all day I can't possibly be expected to peel all those potatoes by myself, mum!
4. Have a lie-in
Everyone thinks this is what I do everyday anyway, so why disappoint? This might be easier said than done as my bedroom becomes a communal area as soon as the first child wakes up at the crack of dawn. But, like Goldilocks, I'm sure if I hunt around I'll be able to find a bed to nap in that is just right.
5. Don't be a martyr
When all is said and done, nothing beats Christmas spent surrounded by loved ones does it? Family arguments, extra work, and lumpy mattresses pale into insignificance alongside all the positive aspects of Christmas. The wonder in my niece and nephew's faces as they open their presents, my mum's amazing Christmas dinner (that we all help to cook), even my dad snoring in the corner of the living room while we wait for him to wake up so we can open our presents together.
I know I'll be moaning about it before the end of Boxing Day and looking forward to returning to my normal peaceful life as soon as possible, but I really wouldn't miss it for the world.