why we LOVE Elf on the Shelf - a mom rant

**Warning-- "a cranky, I've had it rant" follows** Hang with me, OK? :)

Well here we are, not a day into the month of December and already I've seen more bitterness about what some moms do over others in terms of the Christmas season.  I've already read an ugly handful of articles that mock moms just like me, with dozens of people patting them on the back.

And you know what?  I'm already sick of it.  Sick of the idea that if someone decides something is right for THEIR family, that it must be how it should be done across the board, that somehow certain moms were granted with a supernatural knowledge that the rest of us poor souls were left without.  I'm sick of it being OK to mock any mother that goes above and beyond what "you" are choosing (or willing) to do.  To me, it equates to making fun of (bullying) the kids in school who did the extra credit (that would be me, all day long). 

It seems not so long ago that a moms principal job in life was "childhood/home/husband management", and she was celebrated for it.  Time spent making dinners, celebrating birthdays (in simple or over the top ways), decorating for Christmas, making memories was an important part of being a parent, a mom specifically.  And now it seems like, for those of us who continue to make this our top priority, we're judged harshly for it if you put too much effort into it...like our time is better spent making a buck or investing in anyone BUT our children.

Don't get me wrong, I completely believe that God calls women to all sorts of rolls in life (just read Proverbs 31) so I don't think it's a matter of working mom vs. stay at home mom, because I am both.  These "what some do vs. what others do" seem to come down to "I'm a better mom because I do/don't/avoid/go all out and if you think otherwise...you're wrong!"

Somewhere along the way, going above and beyond, no matter the reason, became showing off.  
Take my favorite example, the Elf on the Shelf.  It seems that not only do you love it or hate it but that you LOVE it, or you judge a mother who does it as a time waster, over the top show off who has nothing better to do with her time.  Yep, anyone who knows me knows that sounds JUST like me (sarcasm).

Well you know what?  My principle job in life is to create memories for my kids.  Happy ones.  My own childhood was full of darkness and I work hard to make sure there are as few dark corners in my children's lives as possible. 

Critics of the Elf tradition will tell you that it's:
--a waste of time
(it makes a lot of fun memories for my ENTIRE family, the opposite of a waste of time for me.  Doug and I would probably still do it if it was just us.)

--that it's a waste of money
(it doesn't have to cost anything - you can purchase any elf or doll to do it with, or make your own.)

--that it's for moms with nothing better to do with their time
(not only is making memories and orchestrating childhoods my main job, but I have several other part time jobs on top of that, I MAKE the time to do things that make my children happy.)

--that people use it to manipulate their children into behaving (not in this house, for us it's more like "Elf hide and seek", my kids have no connection between the elf and good behavior.  We address behavior in a constant 12 months a year kind of way.)

--that it adds to the lies that surrounds Christmas (my kids know the truth about Santa, have always known the truth and know that the elf is a fun Christmas game to play.  We have a general life policy about not lying to our children).

--that it creates an extra "chore" to do around the holidays (I don't see bringing joy to my kids as a chore, especially considering that people are FREE to choose their level of elf involvement, why else would we have birthday parties or egg hunts or Christmas trees?).  

What will I say about you if you don't "elf"?


It's not my business or concern what you do or don't do for your kids.  I'm too busy "wasting time" making memories for my kids to concern myself with what my neighbors are doing in that sense.

I won't stand here and mock any parents choice of holiday activities because I like to be a nice person and assume that we're all doing the best we can with the hardest job ever created (parenthood!!!).

I won't participate in the bully tactics that coordinate with questioning another parents choices, especially when it comes to something as silly as Elf on the shelf. 
What will I share about our "elf experience"?

It's way fun.  We spend 15-30 minutes a day on it.  We don't see it as a chore.  Our kids get their morning jobs done 1-2-3 because they want to RUN downstairs to find our what the elf is doing.  We don't use it to manipulate or scare our children into behaving.  They know he's not "real" but like they do with all of their stuffed animals and action figures, he becomes real to them.  He makes their season a little more festive and fun.  

Our kids will always remember it.  Their Christmases are a little happier, brighter, cheerier and it's become part of our Christmas experience.  We love it. 

And if you don't do it?  That's ok.  We can still be friends.  And I won't assume you're terrible. 

Promise.  End of rant.


everydaymomma said...

a to the men...preach it siter.and not only do you bring your kids joy you make me excited everytime you post one and im 28:)

Jennifer said...

Right On! Well said! Jesus called us to love one another. Love our neighbor as ourself. Do everything and say everything through the filter of Christ's Love.

Denise said...

Oh my. Don't let the nastiness of others affect you. All that matters is your family. Who cares what others think? All we need to answer to is God alone. We also have an Elf. His name is Royal. We are having a blast. We are grandparents with a son and grandson living with us. It's fun for our grandson to discover Royal every day but I think we as grandparents and daddy have more fun waiting for the little man to see what Royal has been up to. Creating happy time, memories and a loving home is the best part of living. I think my little guy will remember this Christmas forever. You are awesome parents. God is watching over us. Have a Merry Christmas.

Allison said...

I REALLY like your post. And this is coming from someone who doesn't "do" Santa.

I think it's awesome that you don't use it to try to manipulate your children's behavior. I guess I've only ever seen it kind of put into the light that it's there for that.

Seeing as I don't do Santa, I never thought I would do the elf thing either, but I like that you've just made it a kind of game. Not that he's real, just fun pretend. That I'm okay with and I think it's fun.

I don't critique what other moms do because I don't think people should critique me. I mean, people critique those of use who don't do Santa too, like we're depriving our children. But that's a whole nother post.

Anyways, I just thank you for this, because it might actually make me consider doing an elf or angel type thing when my daughter gets a bit bigger.

Janna said...

I stinkin LOVE all your elf's antics;) I mean really - where did you find the toilet. LOL! I want to get one to do it for my kids so bad. Love him!

Veronika said...

Love this post! I feel the exact same way, took the words right out of my mouth! It's not a chore or a competition showing off, it's fun and has created fun memories for the children!

Anonymous said...

I dont have kids yet, but I have always wanted to get into elf on a shelf. I probably wont do it until I have a child, but your view on this is awesome- and I totally agree

Kristi Wyckoff said...

Whatever we do, there will always be critics. No need to defend yourself. As you say, what you do with your family is what is best for them. Just ignore the critics, that's negative energy that you don't need! You are blessing your family and many others who enjoy your posts of the elf and much more.

Unknown said...

It's like my mom always said...

People criticize for two reasons.
1.) They are jealous


2.) They are hurting.

Now that either of those should make us feel better about ourselves, but instead it should quiet the voices in our head and allow us to be confident in our own choices and simply pray for those who must have something nasty to say.

Go on with your crafty self and don't worry about all of em'!
If for nothing else, Sean and I love seeing what you come up with! It's awesome!


Stel said...

What IS it with people?
I only learnt about the elf recently, it not being an Afrikaans/South African tradition, but it looks like a fun thing to do.
Enjoy it or don't do it, don't belittle people who do it or don't do it - as my friend say...happy happy, joy joy!

Kate said...

I love what you do with the elf and think your creative energy is ah.mazing. I'm struck by the rant actually...I'm a working single mother and although i could make that time [just as I'm sitting here writing] I think that it is a struggle to be a 'Martha' [meant only in the most admired way!] for those of us without the traditional family roles. I don't think I have any right to criticize what you do but I do think that those who do are finding themselves wistful. That is, wishing they had the time or the peace to do what you do. Isn't that why people criticize? Because of what they see in themselves?

I'm no expert. I think you speak from your heart. Perhaps you could find some peace in the fact that its not personal to you but to them.

My son would love what you do with the elf. I admire your creativity and your determination. Maybe dont give up on those who aren't there yet. :) Happy Holidays.

Jessi said...

YES! This is our first year doing the elf on the shelf and I hate seeing all the negativity floating around. We do Santa AND Jesus in this house and I always feel judged because we do Santa. People seem to think that because we do Santa, that our children have no idea what Christmas is about and that is the furthest from the truth. Now that we do the elf, it just feels like that judgement has intensified. I'm so glad you wrote this! Can't we all just be glad that we're all good parents? I, too, associate this type of mocking behavior with bullying in schools. It's sad that there are so many adult bullies.

derekcindyterp said...

Oh PLEASE! Those who are telling you it's a waste of time, well, can't they finder a better way to spend time than to sit behind their computer judging another mom over something so silly? Seriously. I for one, LOVE the idea of elf on the shelf. With 3 kids here, the oldest being almost 5, I think we need to adopt this tradition. Our kids here will love it. And I'm willing to "waste" some time on that over here!!! :)

Carolyn said...

Well said, I appreicate your rants! :)

Elisabeth said...

I don't have kids, and growing up, we didn't have an elf. I don't think that changed my persepctive or my appreciation for the Holiday. I frankly was surprised when I found out how many people were so anti-elf.

Personally, I never realized how much fun an elf could be until I started seeing your elf pictures pop up on IG. I don't really go all out decorating for the holidays, but I would if I had kids, and when I do have a family, you've made me want to do something special and fun like this elf tradition!

I say rock on to you. You're awesome, and I love seeing the creative ways you make the Holidays even more special and memorable for your boys.

Just remember, haters gonna hate. <3

Amy @ Lucky Number 13 said...

YES!!! i love this so much and I could not agree more. and you know what? we don't even do the elf thing. i get so sick of the judging of us women/mothers by other women/mothers. Aren't we judged enough, do we really have to judge each other?!! Parenthood is so hard, if we spent more time encouraging each other/building each other up we would all be in a much better place.
thanks for the reminder!!

jonahbonah said...

I, for one, look forward to your elf shots everyday! Probably as much as your boys!!!

Keep up the good work, crystal. You ARE making memories for your children!

rebecca said...

This is our first year for Elf on the Shelf and I'm LOVING it! I only wish I'd done it sooner as my kids are ten and seven. The seven year is totally in to it! Both our children know the REASON for CHRISTmas is JESUS and we totally celebrate that....but I'm sure that HE enjoys seeing his children have fun together! :)
PS: Where did you get that adorable toilet? So cute! rrhirschy@embarqmail.com

Shay said...

*sigh* I LOVE this post. A few of my family members have been poking fun at me because we're doing the Elf.. makes me feel a little dumb. My children love it so I don't know why they'd even try to rain on that parade.

Unknown said...

GO YOU!!!! Congrats on taking the time to make great memories for your family & be proud of all you do! It's something you will treasure always.

Cari's Ark said...

All those negative Nancies...What a waste of energy! As a working mom of six; I have recently come up with this motto; If your comment is NOT
1) Productive 2) Helpful 3) Kind

Please do not waste my time...

I look forward to all your posts. If it is just not something that I am "into", I may just check back the following day...but I most certainly would never judge or criticize.

The best to you and your family!

koryshar said...

Thought you might find this article featured on yahoo encouraging. http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/elf-shelf-gives-childrens-hospital-patients-christmas-treat-193723272--abc-news-topstories.html

koryshar said...

Thought you might find this article about the elf on the shelf encouraging. http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/elf-shelf-gives-childrens-hospital-patients-christmas-treat-193723272--abc-news-topstories.html

Unknown said...

This is the first time I've been to your site and I was LOVING all the Elf on the Shelf stuff then I read this. I can't believe people can be so mean, over nothing really. This is the also the 1st year that I've seen more of Elf on the Shelf and I think it's a great idea. I hope to do it next year. My five-year-old twins were telling about Dillions Elf and what he does and what he did and they thought it was really fun. It's hard but don't let other peoples harsh words bother you, what you are doing for you kids is pretty amazing. I wish I was more like you, I'm not such a crafty one :(

Jessica said...

Here it is March and I remembered this post from December and just shared it with someone who was downing those "Marth Stewart Wanna Be crafty moms".....The person downing them was my sister out of all people. This post speaks so true for me and I was so glad I had it to refer to when speaking with her. Thanks! @gardenjunkie

Ezilda said...

I just discovered your blog and couldn't agree more! Being from South Africa myself I think we are years behind in having some fun over festive seasons and holidays. And oh my can people judge! Especially when you're a stay at home mom. I gave up my very successful career at age 28 to become a full time mom. And I love it. I love being able to pick up my kids from school every day, do the over-the-top birthday parties, making Christmas and Easter and every other holiday memorable. For me there is no "waste of time" when I do something for my girls. And one day when they're older and have their own lives I'll return to the land of the working but until then, when has it become a sin to put your family first and actually enjoying being a "stepford wife"? Oh and ps, I think we might have an elf that will start staying with us this year...

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