Earlier this month I recorded a programme for BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme about the so-called ‘Divorce D-Day’: the first Monday back to work in January, when divorce lawyers are supposed to be inundated with new divorce instructions in the wake of decisions made during the Xmas holidays.
In the past I have made no secret that I think it is just not true. So when asked bluntly whether I thought ‘D-Day’ was simply “PR hype to drum up work for lawyers”, I left no-one in any doubts about my thoughts on this subject.
Last week I saw a new client, whose children had all grown up. She came to see me because she wanted to initiate divorce proceedings before Christmas. I also saw three women clients who all have young families; they are determined to proceed, but have decided to wait until after Christmas so that they do not spoil things for their children.
This got me thinking: why is there an increase in instructions from women clients before Christmas? Without exception, all four ladies were dreading the coming holiday; the client with grown-up children told me that she wished to avoid it completely. They described the hard slog: all the preparation beforehand, the shopping, the cooking and the day itself. One specifically mentioned the sausage rolls; another, the Xmas puddings begun in early November. All complained about the hard work, cooking all the food and serving it in nice clothes that were bound to get gravy-stained. They described the tidying that had to be fitted around entertaining, the exhaustion and the never-ending rounds of relations and friends for at least a week afterwards. More than one said that she had do all this work herself – and dreaded it. None of them would put themselves through it at all if their children were older.
Listening to these tales of drudgery I wonder, have women really attained equality? I doubt it. It seems to me that for women, Christmas continues to be an exhausting, miserable slog for women who take on the chores year in, year out because they feel that they must. It appears to be a matter of tradition, rather than choice.
I can’t help concluding that it isn’t Christmas that causes a divorce. It’s the thought of it.
I can understand why this is so. Although I don’t celebrate Christmas, I recently wrote about the Jewish New Year when, for the best part of a week, the entire family comes together to eat, drink and reflect on the year gone by – whether we are on good terms with each other or not.
Like Christmas it is undoubtedly a stressful time, which takes weeks of preparation, but I am lucky to have a son who is passionate about food. This year he produced a wonderful lunch, and his assistance made an incredible difference.
So I asked some of my clients, couldn’t they find a way to take it easier at Christmas? Can’t they enlist help from their loved ones? Money isn’t an issue for any of these women; so if it came to it, couldn’t they pay others to come and help them make Christmas as painless as possible? Or why not go away over the Christmas period, and let others take on the burden? They looked at me quite shocked. Even people who can afford it don’t seem to think they can or should get help. So much for the “peace of mind” that financial security is supposed to provide! Regardless of their circumstances, many women assume that festive stress is their lot.
I do not doubt that in the run up to Christmas, in the gloom of the wet winter and with the season’s commercial pressures piling on, the prospect of Christmas can be so depressing that it can drive women to consider divorce. They struggle on as best they can, with housework and other chores, while holding down jobs and raising children. Eventually, they collapse under all the pressure and divorce.
The divorce rate remains high and politicians wring their hands in despair, failing to comprehend that family breakdown is not fuelled by the divorce law, but by our lifestyles.
It is worth adding that for some women, the deluge of Christmas advertising seems to be the last straw. Judging from comments made by our clients, this certainly seems to be the case with several of the new instructions we have been received this month.
If the thought of Christmas is stressing you out or if your wife is threatening divorce, and it is possible to do something practical that will relieve pressure and save someone’s sanity at this time of the year – please, do it!
I can’t guarantee that it will make everything perfect, but it can make Christmas more enjoyable for everyone. And the cost is much, much, cheaper than a divorce.