It’s the middle of December, and The Question is on everyone’s lips: Are you done yet?

As if Christmas is a chore.

Are you done yet?

How should a person respond to that? “Yes, I’m done! I’ve washed two loads of clothes, cleaned the bathroom, made dinner and besides all that, I’m done with Christmas!”

Is that any way to treat the most wonderful time of the year?

The thing is, the question is gender specific—it’s the question that we mothers are asking each other. When we’re chatting at the class party, when we pass each other in the aisles of Publix, sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, we give each other a knowing look and then ask…are you done, yet?

After all, we are the purveyors of Christmas Magic.

The veritable winter wonderland that springs up each December—of decorations, gifts, parties, treats and greeting cards—is the product of wild-eyed women running ragged. It’s as if we moms are all swabbies on the U.S.S. Make It Happen and Captain Christmas is in charge, barking orders and sending us to the poop deck.

Somewhere along the line, Christmas Cheer got replaced with Christmas Chore, and that’s a rotten, Grinchly thing. I looked for the root of the fa-la-la-frenzy, and I discovered that it really isn’t growing in my home. Rather, it’s out there with all the dashing through the malls and showing our love to all of our friends, relatives and service providers. The Christmas spirit has become a goblin that chases us around department stores and bakeries, haunting us with guilt if we don’t spread a little joy to everyone we know, in the form of a loaf of homemade banana bread.

December has become the designated “show your appreciation month.” It’s also become national “bake your best cookie month,” “light up your yard month,” “spruce up your house month,” “send cards to your friends month” and “visit your relatives month.” It makes for a daunting list of tasks.

But I decided that it was time to take the reindeer by the antlers and do something about it. It occurred to me that if I was going to take the chore out of Christmas, I needed to extend the deadline.

I got permission for the extension from a song. You know it, too—it’s the annoyingly redundant “The Twelve Days of Christmas”—the one that starts with a partridge in a pear tree and ends up sounding like “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

They’re not singing about a race through the malls from Dec. 14 to Christmas Day. The Twelve Days of Christmas start with Christmas and keep on going past the New Year and clear into January. They’re bonus days. These are the actual days of the Christmas season, and so I use these days to give gifts to the neighbors and the mailman.

I entertain after Christmas Day, when the house is still decorated and the holiday food is half-price. I give the teachers a New Year’s gift. I figure that friends can get our greeting cards around the time that the Wise Men made it to the manger.

Why not?

It’s not a perfect solution, but it does help. It allows me a grace period, if you will—time to take a breath, tone down the trappings and do a bit of spiritual preparation for this holy season. It’s not only a traditional thing to do, it’s a sane thing to do.

So put down that mop, you scurvy swabs, and take a load off. Stop with the chore and have a cup of cheer.

And make mine a double.

Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at robinjm@earthlink.net.

Robin Conte

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.