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Presents vs Presence- what’s more important these days?

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I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately so thought I’d finally put down my thoughts…

I used to speak the gift giving ‘love language’. By this I mean I used to really treasure the whole process of giving gifts. Choosing something really unique, personalised and special, wrapping it delicately with matching ribbons and paper and choosing the perfect card to go with it. You name it, baby showers, birthdays, weddings- as soon as I received an invite I went into present mode….

But something has changed…

I’m not sure if it’s driven by my change in financial situation, (the fact that I don’t have nearly as much money as I used to), or if it’s more aligned to the fact that there are ‘so many’ occasions and people now to buy for (I have many friends, 6 brothers and sisters, 14 nieces and nephews and nearly 3 children of my own- just to start!). Maybe it’s just that I have a lot of other priorities. Maybe since having kids I’ve seen the huge shift to a focus on presents and ‘things’ as opposed to ‘presence’ which sometimes makes me uncomfortable (because I know I was guilty of trying to buy my children’s love when I was not really ‘present for them’!).

For whatever the reasons, I just don’t get the enjoyment out of giving gifts on occasions like I used to. I felt the change in me over the last couple of years and I just went with it, I didn’t even see it as a big deal until it’s come to my attention recently when I was accused of not caring enough and being selfish to not give a gift at an occasion.

Maybe I need to start with my view on receiving presents because that’s clearly where the shift has occurred. If I have an occasion or party or a social event- the biggest gift for me is for my loved ones to attend, or if they can’t attend- to just let me know they’d love to but can’t. I don’t get upset anymore if someone has something else on, I don’t even get upset if they just say ‘I just don’t feel like it’, because I understand. I guess I’ve become more understanding and empathetic as I’ve grown older and become clearer on my expectations of friendships and relationships.

As I have learnt to say no to things myself (which has created much more balance in my mental health and happiness), I’ve developed a much greater understanding of others. No longer does it mean we are not good friends or you don’t love me if you can’t make my birthday dinner or baby shower. No longer do I question our friendship if you can’t make it the pub for drinks or if you don’t come to my sons 6th birthday party (that frankly I know is boring as hell as an adult- I wanted to drop and run myself!) And to get back to the point of this blog- it certainly is no reflection on our relationship if you don’t give me or my children a gift when you do see us.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very appreciative of gifts and I do still love the smile on peoples faces when I give them something they truly love, but I’m more spontaneous with my gifts and they are not always material things. If I see something a loved one would like, I’m inclined to buy it then and there- even if there’s no occasion (or if I can’t justify the cost- to send them a photo telling them it made me think of them!). I’m more inclined to take my nieces and nephews on an adventure than to buy them a toy that will get lost with the other hundred toys on their birthday. In today’s hectic world, a little message or card from my friends saying they are thinking of me at any given moment can mean just as much as seeing them in person.

Its ok that we all do friendships and relationships differently. For some its gift-giving, for some its quality time, for others its random acts of kindness and love, and at times its just sitting back and watching your friends flourish in their new phase of life (be that parenting, a new job, a new relationship or a process of self-discovery).

Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and how they do things, let’s stop judging how others do things and just appreciate each other more.

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Sarah W


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