The holiday season basically starts as soon as Summer break ends, and it's these last few months of the year that can be utterly exhausting. As a mom, I have to assemble special holiday outfits, attend seasonal performances, and help with classroom parties, on top of hosting gatherings at home. Plus, there's constant pressure to give my kids everything the season has to offer — not just gifts but experiences, too. It's a season when caring for others can be consuming, but over time, I've learned I need to care for myself, too.
For the first few years after becoming a mom, the holiday season made me incredibly anxious because there was just so much to do. I did all I could to give my kids the most magical experience possible. My efforts were put into making extravagant meals, baking a buffet of fancy treats, decorating the house, attending every once-per-year event, and of course gathering coordinating outfits that would make for eye-catching family photos. Not to mention purchasing piles of gifts for my own kids and participating in gift exchanges with their cousins.
But none of it got me into the spirit of the season. In fact, I was tired, short-tempered, and even resentful. And when my kids started to notice, I realized that for them to truly enjoy the holiday season, I needed to be able to enjoy it, too. So, I started working on self-care during this crazy-busy time of year.
This meant learning to say no, prioritizing, and enlisting the help of others. Instead of hosting holidays at home and being in charge of class parties, I started picking one to focus on each year and let someone else take the reins on the other. My kids and I picked three holiday treats to bake, and we've stuck with those three for several years now. I cut down on the shopping list by opting out of extended family gift exchanges and purchasing just three gifts for each of my kids. And then I made a rule that they could choose two holiday experiences to participate in, instead of trying do all the things. Some years, they've chosen a parade and an evening at The Nutcracker. Others, it's been a light show and a movie at the theater.
Trimming the to-do list has been helpful, but there's still tons of stuff to do. That's why I also take advantage of those "drop n' shop" opportunities that tend to pop up at churches, rec centers, and kid-centered businesses around the holidays. But instead of dropping off the kids and going shopping, I come home, drop on the couch, and binge-watch holiday movies. Plus, I schedule a full day when my husband takes over everything and I clock out to go do whatever I want. Sometimes that's a massage or pedicure, sometimes it's spending time at a bookstore or even napping.
Since making these changes, I've been so much happier during the holidays. Don't get me wrong, it can still be stressful, but I feel like I can at least breathe now. And my kids prefer a happier mom. Without an overstuffed schedule, we enjoy our time together so much more. Plus, they are learning to prioritize, too — choosing what's most important to them and letting the rest go will serve them well the rest of their lives.
Our culture has convinced moms that we must do it all, especially around the holidays. And that if we don't, our kids will miss out with their holiday dreams being unfulfilled. But that's just not true. Because being overscheduled and overwhelmed isn't good for them either. They'd rather have memories of a happy mom and a peaceful home than all the holiday hoopla in the world. And when we take care of ourselves, we show them how to do the same.