ONE of my favourite cartoons was posted on the Hurrah for Gin Facebook page last year.

It shows a picture of a little girl asking her mother: "Why don't we have an Elf on the Shelf, Mummy?"

"Because," replies the mother, "I've got enough on my f***ing plate sweetie."

And so, at the beginning of December, my feelings of maternal inadequacy began once more as I watched social media acquaintances post endless pictures of all the festive antics their elves were getting up to.

For those not in the know, this Elf on the Shelf trend involves an elf figure 'visiting' your home during the month of December to report back to Santa about your children's behaviour. Every night the elf gets up to some kind of mischief ready for the children to find the next day.

My early December guilt, however, quickly turned to relief when I remembered I didn't have to remember to wrap teddies up in toilet roll or encase the elf in ice at night and get up early to chip him out of an iced tupperware container the next morning. Just google 'elf on the shelf' ideas - they range from the genius to the ridiculous.

Christmas as a mother is mental enough without having to remember to look after another small creature with pointy ears. I have enough trouble with the tooth fairy - earlier this year she got 'lost in a snowstorm' which completely explained why the tooth was still there under the pillow the next morning, and no coins had appeared.

I promise, I'm not a humbug, I love to embrace the Christmas joy. Today, for lunch, I had Greggs festive soup AND a festive bake.

It's just my goodwill extends only as far as I have time and energy for it to go.

Then, last week, disaster happened. My children returned from their father's house with a bloody elf.

I decided to embrace it. We had an 'elfternoon tea' with Christmas-themed cakes.

The first night, the elf emptied the complete works of Dickens books off the bookcase, and the children found him the next morning reading A Christmas Carol.

The second night he was found face down in a packet of sweets.

By the third night, in a delightful but uninspiring mist of gin and tonic, I had completely run out of inspiration and he was just plonked on top of the Christmas tree. The kids are now wondering why the elf is so much more creative when they're at their dad's house. I think they might suspect something.

I blame the Americans. It's their fault we feel we have to spend money on overpriced bits of plastic Halloween tat every year, and decorate our homes with pumpkin orange fairy lights, hanging bats and shouty plastic skeletons. Twenty years ago we were happy with a sparkler and a firework through the letterbox. This elf thing is also completely their fault.

Christmas is stressful enough – remembering to buy all the food, gifts, advent calendars, write cards, get the decorations out of the loft, swear at the Christmas tree when it won't go up straight, provide costumes for endless festive school concerts and plays, turning up to said plays, and fitting in a Santa visit at some point – without this elf business.

My next, cunning plan, is to build the kids' Lego train set and tie the elf to the tracks.