The most wonderful time of the year is finally here! The holiday season is my favorite. Parties are happening every weekend, and I love social events. Retail shoppers notwithstanding, people seem to make an effort to be kinder and more hospitable around this time. Even though it’s still hot where I live, the Christmas season somehow feels cozy. And feeling cozy is my fave.
There is one thing that disheartens me about the holidays, and that is how often moms complain about how stressed they are.
The true meaning of Christmas often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the seasonal obligations.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I want to propose an idea: You get to decide whether or not the holidays are stressful.
Yes, it’s true. You are in charge of your life. And you get to choose how to spend your time and energy.
There will always be external circumstances that vie for your attention, to be sure, but ultimately you get to decide to say yes and no.
As with so much of parenting today, there is immense pressure to execute the perfect holiday season. As with so much of my writings, I would argue that these expectations are ruining Christmas.
I recently read about what kids wanted most from their parents. And would you believe that the top answer was for their parents to be less stressed and tired?!
More than the latest gadget, more than the most elaborate Christmas decorations, more than a tree full of gifts…kids want you to be less stressed and less tired.
In my decade of parenting, I have noticed a trend. I am most exhausted by parenting when I am doing something out of obligation (rather than desire) and guilt (because everyone else is doing it).
I am not talking about the physical exhaustion that comes from teensy babies and little toddlers. I am also not talking about the emotional exhaustion that comes from navigating pre-teens and teens. Those are natural byproducts of raising kids.
The exhaustion and stress I am talking about comes from deep in your soul. The exhaustion that tells you that you will never be enough or do enough. The stress that causes you to lose perspective, where you value looking good to others instead of loving your family well.
You can choose to enjoy beautiful traditions that create unity and fun in your family.
Or you can choose to be all things to all people and not really be anything to anyone.
You have the choice.
And I hope this holiday season you choose to be present with your family, even if (especially if) it means letting go of your expectations for the perfect Christmas.
The topic of the PeopleTek Leadership Journey session I just had last week is the perfect remedy for overstressed holidays. “Magic Dust” refers to what you are really good at and enjoy doing, and I think that’s an awesome place to start in making this holiday season as stress-free as possible.
When deciding how you want the next few weeks to look, consider what you are really good at and what you enjoy doing. When you do something you love, it hardly feels like work. When you do something because you think you should, you loathe it. When you do something you’re good at, the feeling of accomplishment feels great. When you do something you kinda suck at, you are almost always annoyed with the outcome.
Oftentimes what we are good at and enjoy doing comes so naturally that we fail to see the awesomeness in it. We tend to overvalue what other people are good at and undervalue what comes easily to ourselves.
Think about all of the possible holiday traditions and celebrations.
Decide what is your seasonal Magic Dust (what you are good at and enjoy doing).
Decide what is your kryptonite (what you suck at and hate doing).
Though not an exhaustive list, here are some ideas to get you started:
– Holiday parties: Are you an introvert or extrovert? If parties exhaust you, consider saying no to some. If they exhaust your kids/spouse, enjoy the festivities on your own.
– Baking with kids: Do you love it or hate it? Store-bought goodies do not determine your worth as a mom. In fact, they’re preferable if you lose your mind when flour and kids are in the same hemisphere. If you love to bake, share that love with your neighbors!
– Elf on a Shelf: Some moms love creating antics every night. Some moms don’t. If you don’t enjoy it, stop doing it. Your children will live. I happen to enjoy a very modified version of the elf, but if you don’t, take heart that we all enjoyed an elf-less childhood and turned out just fine. Most of us, anyway.
– Advent: My kids enjoy their subpar chocolate each day. It’s zero effort on my part. I wish I was more dedicated to a thoughtful Advent season, but it’s just not in my wheelhouse. Perhaps this is where you shine. Do you. However that looks.
– Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions: Establish what works for you and your family. I’ve never lived close to family, so perhaps this is easier for me…because I don’t have to spread time between sides of the family. My husband and I decided early on in our marriage to stay home on Christmas Eve and Day. I wanted my kids to wake up in the same place every year, and I am a much happier person in my own home. My best friend couldn’t imagine spending a Christmas without her huge extended family. Neither is better than the other; it’s just what works for you. Decide what is best for you and your family, and the people around you will eventually adjust.
I could go on forever. The opportunities to enjoy yourself or exhaust yourself this time of year are endless.
No life is exempt from exhaustion and stress. Especially when children are involved. But as December comes full throttle, say no to anything you can that is outside of your Magic Dust. Say yes to what you love. And watch how the holidays feel way less stressful and way more fun this year.
You can’t be all things to all people. But you can be really awesome to the people who matter most.