Since becoming a wife and mother, I’ve noticed that I’ve slowly taken on a lot of responsibilities during the holiday season. To be fair, no one really asked me. However, each holiday season, I take it upon myself to decorate the home, take pictures for our annual Christmas card and mail them out, keep up traditions passed down by our families, organize our annual baking party, organize our annual tamale-making party, prepare for Christmas dinner, buy presents for immediate and extended family, mail out said presents — the list goes on.
Add on the fact that my children get one week off for Thanksgiving and two weeks off for Christmas, the home is filled to the brim with energy and excitement for Santa’s impending visit. Did I mention I’m also Santa?
Since the holiday season is a time for togetherness and peace, no one needs a cranky and impatient mom hovering around. That’s why I’ve implemented some simple strategies to remain a chill parent so I don’t lose my sh*t before Santa’s arrival.
Keep up routines
We normally eat breakfast at 8am every morning. When the family is on vacation time, everyone tends to wake up later, resulting in a delayed breakfast. This, in turn, leads to cranky kids and fights over what cartoon to watch. I try my best to keep up with our daily routines, including set meal times and bedtimes. Of course, there will be days when we all stay up late or when the mounting holiday activities throw us off schedule, but as long we remain consistent a majority of the time, everyone is much happier and calmer.
Schedule a sitter
My husband and I schedule a sitter to come regularly during the year so we can have date nights. I make it a priority not to forget our date nights during the holiday season and schedule a sitter well in advance before the rush and chaos of the season ensues. No matter how hectic the end of the year becomes, at least I know I will have some quiet one-on-one time with my husband to reconnect. It truly is magic what a kid-free dinner and a dirty martini (or two) can do!
Don’t always be in charge
My husband jokes with me that the holiday season is like my Super Bowl. It’s flattering in a way because I guess I’ve sort of taken the lead on how this time of year will unfold for our family, but if I’m keeping it real, it’s not mentally healthy. Sometimes, you have to let go of the reins and let others take control. I tend to do most things myself because I want them done my way (AKA perfectly), but I’m just causing myself more stress and work. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s OK to let someone else wrap the Christmas presents, bake the gingerbread cookies, or even choose the holiday cards (gasp!).
Side note: my husband once suggested that we send out virtual Christmas cards. I lost my mind. But looking back, maybe he was right. For the sake of my family and mentality, I know I need to let go a bit. And you can too!
Burn off the energy
The holidays are a time of overindulgence. Between Halloween and New Year, my children eat more sugar than I’m willing to admit. I try to limit their sugar intake, but they are sneaky little sugar monsters! Aside from a trip to the dentist, the children need ways to burn off their energy. However, the cold Chicago weather limits our outdoor activity.
When the temperature dips below a safe range for outdoor play, I like to take my kids to an indoor swimming pool or bouncy house so that they can keep active and burn off the massive amounts of sugar they are taking in. Finding creative ways to release their energy will help them remain calmer around the house, which in turn, will make life much easier for you. And take time to incorporate exercise into your own routine as well. Walking just 20 minutes a day can do wonders for your outlook.
You don’t have to do everything
See #3. It’s OK to say no to holiday invites or activities. It’s OK to say no to houseguests, to hosting, to taking on extra projects, or even to volunteering. If you have a really good reason why saying “no” would make your holiday season less stressful, then be confident in your delivery and don’t feel guilty about your decision. You don’t need to go into great detail, you don’t need to apologize, and you don’t need to make up for anything.
So, you didn’t have time to send out Christmas cards or decorate the house like the North Pole. It’s OK. That’s not what the holiday season is about. It’s about togetherness and love, not garland around the mantel or matching pajamas on Christmas Day. You don’t have to do everything. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your family and friends.