Being a mom of many at Christmas-time is like any other time, more of everything! More happiness, more smiles, more food and presents and, well, just more! For me, the more the merrier! I love my big family, and we’re quite happy being such! But it’s when the holidays come about, that I discover another not so good ‘more’ I can add to the list, especially with recently adding another family member – more guilt.

My guilt stems from our extended families’ insistence on showering our large family with bountiful presents every year. Our parents, as loving as they are, feel like most other grandparents – they feel the need to spoil their grandchildren. Except in my household, there are six children to spoil. This goes well beyond simply picking up and popping in the mail a $1 matchbox car from the store, just because my child was thought of. I have six children that get thought of. So this now requires an all-out assault requiring six ‘just because’ presents to be purchased, packaged, then shipped. So much for the quick buck ‘just because’. It just became fifty bucks, after everything is said and done.

Guilt setting in.

And even after my insistence, grandparents will be grandparents, and it will continue, despite how much it must punch a hole in their wallets to do so.

During the holidays it gets way worse. For Halloween there are six separate gift bags to be stuffed full, and a huge box that arrives. In the spring, six Easter baskets filled with blankety-blank-blank Easter grass and trinkets for the kids. Here it is, Christmas, and I’ve gotten the calls already. You know, the "hey what do the kids want for Christmas" calls, despite my insistence that just seeing them, spending time, and doing things with them are enough, there are now lists to be compiled for my children. If a simple "just thinking of you all of you" costs fifty smackaroos, I can only imagine how much our family must be costing our extended families for the holidays.

More guilt setting in.

For instance, I just spoke to my younger brother, who has one daughter. I asked him about what my niece liked, what they needed for their new house, etc. Then came the question about our children, and my heart sank once more. Usually it’s a gift card from them, which actually rocks, to divvy up as we please for our children, along with the fact that it’s inexpensive for them to ship. Less guilt. This year, though, we’ll be seeing them while visiting my parents, and I realized, as we spoke about gift ideas back and forth, the dollar amount he would be spending for my children since he was now purchasing presents, and how much we’d spend for them. It doesn’t seem quite fair.

Here I am, so proud of my big family, but suddenly feeling guilty that, because I chose to have such a big family, and even after explaining to my family they don’t have to get a lot for them, who are happy with or without big ‘gifts’, they spend a lot anyway.

So much guilt setting in. And I’m unable to reconcile that within me, the guilt. It haunts me every year.

Now I know what some of you must be thinking and itching to comment to me… "that isn’t what the holidays are about." I hear you. I am very much with you. Our holidays have never been about big extravagant things. In fact, in the past, we’ve been known to skip gifts altogether and go somewhere, or do something, as a family. We try to reinforce the ‘season of giving’ aspect with my children, doing crafts, singing songs, decorating and writing cards, donating to help the less fortunate, etc. While we do purchase gifts for each other, we make a big deal of even the little things that are bought and given. We wrap stocking stuffers, like shampoo, conditioner, crayons, you name it. We make a huge celebration about all of it. It never was about what you get with us, it’s about sharing, giving and love. We also tackle ‘needs’ with the holidays. The kids cheer each other on opening new underwear, socks, shoes, etc. I love how uncomplicated we make our holiday for each other.

If only I could convey that to our extended families, too.

Unfortunately, since I can’t control what my extended family does or doesn’t do, despite what we believe and how we celebrate, I will still continue feel guilty. I can tell them to buy my children nothing, give them no information on what my children do and don’t like, and they’d still buy for them, still spend a lot, and I will still feel guilty.

Guilty because my family already has enough. Guilty because they feel they need to spend so much when they don’t. Guilty because, despite our best attempts and not materializing the holiday, it happens anyway because of our extended family’s presents, whether they can afford it or not (and especially with our economy such as it is, the latter is probably the answer).

So, try as I might, it won’t change.

Before I ask how to deal with this situation, I will close with something I once read, something that has always stuck with me:

How much is someone going to enjoy the present you bought for them if they know you couldn’t afford to give it in the first place?

Amen to that!

So, what say you? Do you have any words of wisdom for me, for my situation? I certainly hope so. I could use any kind words at this point. Or some chocolate. Or something equally as devilish so that I can drown my guilt in something treat-filled and yummy.

Lisa Douglas is the editor of Big Families and blogs at Crazy Adventures in Parenting.