It starts as soon as the Halloween decorations are cleared out. Sometimes, it’s even earlier. The clock starts ticking and the pressure is on to create the perfect holiday season for your family. As a mom of two children, of course I want to build traditions and help my children experience the magic of the season.
One year, as I was looking over my long holiday to-do list, it occurred to me that my family might enjoy the magic of the season more if I weren’t such a stressed-out madwoman. It really is my favorite time of year, but my holiday obligations were leaving me feeling like Scrooge. I decided to take a step back – a few steps actually – to recapture the joy of the season. I’ve made changes that allow us to focus on what is most valuable to our family.
Unplug nightly! Make more time.
I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to frittering away minutes (more like hours) collecting ideas for my dream house on Pinterest. I’ve been glued to the couch for an evening going through photos on Facebook. Those are minutes and hours that I determined could be put to better use. It takes discipline, but if you commit to putting down your iPad or laptop by a certain time each evening, you might find thirty extra minutes in your day. That’s enough time to make hot chocolate and sit down to watch the marshmallows swirl around with your children.
It can also be very helpful to disconnect the phone for a while – or just carve out an hour or so each day when you don’t take phone calls or text messages. When I devote an hour of phone-free time to cooking, putting up decorations, or any other activity, I can be more efficient and make fewer mistakes. Arranging a holiday centerpiece for my dining room goes much more quickly when I don’t stop every two minutes to respond to a text from my friend.
There are four weeks in December, and somehow we pack in school parties, work functions, family gatherings, and other jolly social events. I have learned to be selective and to get comfortable declining an invitation.
It’s not easy to be selective. My family also celebrates my son’s December birthday, and I never want to make his day less of a big deal because it falls within the holiday season. I have had to choose devoting a day to celebrating my son’s birthday instead of attending an annual holiday party at my boss’s home.
It’s also important to say yes to those events that are the most meaningful to you. In previous years, I did not attend our church’s Christmas Eve service because I felt I didn’t have the time. After all, dinner preparations for the next day were underway and out-of-town family members were arriving. Last year, I was more selective, and I made the time to attend. For one hour, I slowed down and focused on why my family celebrates this season.
Simplify the details.
Over time, my children have taught me that elaborate and expensive does not equate to greater enjoyment. My children find joy in the simplest things.
We enjoy a tradition of decorating cookies in our household. It’s time-consuming and messy – especially if the cookie dough is made from scratch – with two little helpers in the kitchen. Now if I feel overwhelmed, I simplify by picking up cookie dough at the grocery store. The kids are just as happy, spending time with me – and the icing, sprinkles, and cookie decorations.
My family also enjoys checking out the elaborate displays of lights on homes around town. (Okay, maybe it’s really for me, but I admit to using my children as an excuse to do this multiple times in December.) Renting a limo for an official tacky lights tour isn’t necessary, and you don’t have to visit every home on the must-see list. Put the kids in the minivan and check out five or six houses in your zip code.
Cut the unnecessary.
One year, I did the unthinkable. I didn’t send out holiday cards. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of selecting the perfect photos, the best layout, or the cutest message of good cheer. I did have a couple of people who asked me if they’d been bumped from my Christmas card list, but I assured them it was nothing personal. I saved myself time and money! I do plan to send cards this year, but I won’t let it be a burden.
My rule of thumb is that if it feels like a burden, then I probably don’t need to do it.
Make rest a priority.
Even if you take several items off your list, your schedule may still be full. Don’t try to juggle it all with low energy. Make rest a priority. It might take some creativity, but here are some tips. Try to get to bed on time. If you stay out late for a holiday gathering one night, make sure to get to bed on time the next evening. Trade Saturday afternoons with a friend. One week, she keeps your kids so you can rest, catch a movie, or get a pedicure. The next week, her kids are with you. Delegate small tasks. For example, an older child or teen can help wrap presents or address cards.
You can also make family rest your new holiday tradition! Plan some time to stay at home, wear cozy pajamas, and watch a favorite holiday movie together – relaxation and holiday fun, all in one. If you happen to fall asleep, snuggled with your family, while you are watching a holiday movie, that makes it even better. After all, who among us hasn’t dozed for a little bit during A Charlie Brown Christmas?
This year, I may try a new recipe or two from my huge collection on Pinterest – but there will be no pressure for the perfect menu. I’ll also make sure we see the lights around town, and we’ll attend a couple of holiday parties.
Less Scrooge, more joy. Less hassle, more smiles. Good times – and lots more great memories.