The holiday season is upon us. Are you starting to panic? Choking on your candy canes thinking about presents, parties, Pinterest-perfect table settings, and making the best memories for your children?
I used to be like that. I devoured every article, magazine, and creative idea out there. I tried to incorporate everything to make my four kids have the best holiday ever. And you know what? They had a blast. But they were also left with a frazzled, upset, exhausted mom, who spent so much time trying to make the perfect holiday, she lost sight of what was really important.
Not any more!
Here are my tried and true ways to have a great holiday. Forget the perfect holiday picture for your cards. I actually take a picture of real life. Here are a few of my photos from past cards.
I have had more people say they love these cards than the cards of posed kids with matching clothes and perfect smiles. Now, if you are able to do that, I applaud you. But for the rest of us who realize on December 15th we need a card, ASAP, this is for you. Take a shot of everyday life, order the cards, put a funny saying on it, and call it a day. I look back on my cards with fondness and a smile on my face.
1) Pick Three. There are so many things people say are a must during the holidays: decorate cookies, make gingerbread houses, see lights, volunteer, read stories, go on a sleigh ride, do an advent tree, etc. You don’t have to do it all!
We pick three things. Just three. We have a family meeting and ask the kids what they want to do during the holidays. And you know what? They picked simple, easy things: drink hot chocolate and watch Elf, adopt a family and buy gifts, go see lights. That is it. That is doable. Everything else is extra.
The kids don’t need Pinterest-inspired holiday crafts. They want you calm and doing meaningful things with them. Ask them what their three things are, and then put it on your calendar. If you have time for more things, great! But if not, those three things are all that is necessary.
2) Plan Shopping Ahead. Make a list of everyone you need to buy for. Keep it in your purse. Shop early, or in my case, just avoid the mall all together. Sit at home, maybe while everyone is watching Elf, and order online. One click, no stress, easy peazy.
3) Limit Your Decorations. I asked my kids if they wanted the Christmas village out this year. I was surprised that they said no. I’ve spent hours in the past putting it together, with lights in the houses and the trains. I thought they really wanted it, but it was not as important to them as I thought. Now they want the snowman that sings and the advent calendar with the little treats– but the village, not so much. So why was I taking so much time putting it out? Who was I trying to impress?
I am going to take those extra hours and enjoy some family time. Put out decorations that have meaning to you and your family. Give the rest away or store it for next year. I gave away tons of ceramic snowmen this year, blessing someone else with decorations that I no longer needed. Your house can feel festive with a few meaningful pieces.
4) Simplify. If you have a tradition you feel you need to continue, consider ways to simplify. For example, the “Elf on a Shelf”: do you have one of these? Our elf magically goes from place to place and that is all he does. He does not rearrange closets, spill flour, clog the sink. Unless you are doing it because you love it, don’t make extra work for yourself.
Remember the reason for the season, whatever your beliefs are. Be grateful for your family and your children. As a mom, you have the opportunity to see the sparkle in your children’s eyes. Be deliberate in what you want to accomplish this season. Don’t be so overwhelmed and over-scheduled that you miss it.
QUESTION: Are you already frazzled for the holidays? Is there something you can simplify to make your holiday season more enjoyable?
CHALLENGE: Pick one of these suggestions to free up some time with your children and reduce your holiday stress.
Images provided by Rachel Winter.
Graphics by Julie Finlayson.
Originally posted on December 16, 2013.