It was the day after Christmas, and her home looked like Chuck-E-Cheese. There were games and toys with flashing lights, crumbled popcorn in the carpet, and shreds of wrapping paper strewn about the living room. Her dreams for this holiday season included lazy afternoons snuggled up with cocoa watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and having the kids help make a pot of soup for an elderly neighbor.
She imagined all of the memories she would create with her children during their time off school, reading “The Polar Express,” driving around looking at lights, and enjoying time as a family around a crackling fire. Yet somehow, now that it’s over, she can’t help but wonder where the time had gone. She was surprised by her own melancholic feelings, even a little bitterness had crept in. The whirlwind had come and gone, and she was too busy to enjoy or remember most of it.
Holiday Season Planning
She had scoured the internet for that perfect Star Wars toy, rifled through the basement storage bins in search of the family cookie recipe, outfitted her little ones in matching flannel pajamas, yet somehow, she felt empty. Somewhere along the way, she convinced herself that SHE was solely responsible for the magic in her children’s Christmas.
Of course, she would have never have said this consciously. But the pressure was there, subtly nudging her while she shopped at Target, telling her to buy just one more pair of snuggly fleece socks for the kids’ stockings. It hounded her while she tied up decorations, pointing out the imperfections in her well-loved Christmas garland that always adorned the stair banister. And though she’d never consciously say that Christmas wouldn’t be special without scratch-made hot chocolate simmering in a crockpot with a side of homemade whipped cream, a little voice inside of her quietly told her so.
She’d expelled much of her energy to make cheddar scones from scratch, which served as a lovely side to the honey baked ham she served for Christmas dinner. Friends and family had come and gone, given warm compliments towards her culinary exertions and extended appreciative side hugs. But when they all left, she felt like something was missing. She was as tired as she had been prior to her company’s arrival, only this time, she had a kitchen to clean up and empty bowls of cranberry sauce to soak in hot, soapy water.
As moms, we not only want our children to remember the joy of Christmas, the togetherness with friends and family, the meaningful service opportunities and well-chosen gifts, but we want to surround them with glittering decorations, Pinterest-worthy food creations and impeccably chosen Christmas movies and music.
Providing these things is a tremendous joy and privilege and one we get to enjoy as a part of motherhood. However, if we’re not careful, this gift can snowball into a monumental pressure that will rob the joy of the season right out of us. In addition, our culture emphasizes the importance of stuff, stuff, and more stuff in this process, so we’ve created to-do lists and to-buy lists of astronomical proportions. The effect this is having on us is very troubling. We’re feeling depleted, overwhelmed, unorganized and stressed.
But…it doesn’t have to be this way!!
Fast forward to January 5th, and a friend asks how the holiday season went. What adjectives do you want to be able to truthfully respond with? Special? Rejuvenating? Meaningful? Slow-paced and beautiful? Write down those words, because it’s entirely possible.
Tips for Low-Stress Holidays:
- Don’t fill the month with mindless activities, however “festive” they might be. Say no to the crazy calendars on Pinterest that give you 50 holiday activities to do with your kids. Sure, decorate the cookies. Sing the carols. Watch “The Grinch.” Deliver poinsettias to the elderly neighbor. But be selective about what you do, and then do those things with your whole heart. Be completely present with your family when you do them. Choose a manageable number of service opportunities and social activities that your family values, and pour your heart into them.
- Clutter just makes life more stressful. Sometime in October or November, make a big, merciless purge of household items. Say goodbye to excess clothing, toys and books. Donate or sell as much as you can. You may even want to consider adopting the “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” rule-of-thumb for gift-giving within your family.
3. It’s ok to say “no”
- Upon receiving an invite to something, ask yourself, what value will this add? Will it bring joy to someone? Does it align with the adjectives you selected ahead of time (see above)? Did you already commit to three other events just like it? If you decide to decline based on those questions, do it kindly, promptly, and WITHOUT GUILT.
4. Use Shortcuts
- What are those holiday season tasks that seem to energize others but totally suck the life out of you? Be honest about what those things are. For me, it’s holiday shopping. The thought of going shopping on Black Friday gives me a mini panic attack, so I mostly shop online this time of year. Is it cooking Christmas dinner? Think of what shortcuts you can take, ask others to bring things, and think realistically about what you can accomplish. Only make those Orange Walnut Sweet Rolls if the idea makes you giddy with excitement and the kitchen is your happy place. Your family loves the woman that you are, with your own unique personality and giftings, so don’t try to be something you’re not.
I guarantee your family would rather rub elbows with a happy, peaceful you at a table full of takeout containers, than a frazzled, stressed out you at a five course, Good Housekeeping-worthy meal.
So here’s to a peace-filled, meaningful, joy-overflowing kind of Christmas!