Leading up to the holidays I read a lot of articles covering things like,
- how to avoid holiday overwhelm
- ways to stay within your gift giving budget
- best gifts for kids
- making time for self-care during the holidays
Now that the Christmas holiday is, for the most part, behind us – I thought I’d share what worked for me, especially as a mother. The list below is what I took from all those articles, tempered with real life experience. I’m writing this having just gone through Christmas, but really it can be applied to any holiday, celebration or event.
#1: Get clear on expectations
Sit down with your partner and commit some real time to talking through what you expect from the holiday season. If you don’t have a partner, talk through it with someone close or spend some time alone writing it out.
We carry so much of our own childhood experiences into holiday celebrations so being on the same page from the beginning – before being in the thick of potential holiday madness – can be a major game changer.
Things to discuss could include,
- Which traditions are important to you
- Which traditions you would rather avoid
- Stance on gift-giving
- Which gatherings you want to be at
- How you’d like your child or children to remember the holidays
#2: Stop Comparing
This one is easier said than done but even when you become just the tiniest bit aware of the fact that what you’re doing doesn’t have to be the same or “as good” as anyone else you’re placing above yourself, your mind becomes a much happier place. This can also really help offset any potential “mom (or dad) guilt.”
For me, this came in the form of gift giving. We decided early on that we would give just one, small meaningful gift to those closest to us; which I was totally comfortable with until we got closer to the celebrations and I started feeling like ours wouldn’t be enough compared to how much we typically receive from others.
I started comparing and immediately felt anxious and inadequate. What a crappy way to make yourself feel. The comparisons can also creep in with…
- what you do for your kids vs. what other parents do
- how much money we spend
- how our homes are decorated
- the nature of family gatherings
- the quality of the photo you got with your kid in Santa’s lap (ok sorry, had to lighten the mood with this one.)
I had to talk myself down from going last minute shopping to get more gifts for everyone and I questioned if we were making the right decision to not stuff our daughter’s stocking or leave any gifts under the tree from Santa.
Guess what thought? Everyone really loved the one, small meaningful gift we gave them and our toddler daughter had no idea she was missing out on anything from Santa. (Hint: your newborn won’t know either!)
#3: Stay True to You
Magazines, TV shows, billboards, ads on social media, influencers on social media (even that one really cool family you follow on Instagram), your family, your friends…they’re all sending us messages, all of the time.
This is all maximized during the holidays, which have added significance for most of us and unfortunately seem to have added pressure as well. Add in the fact that if you’ve recently become a parent, you’re probably already trying to reconcile your new identity.
What worked for me this Christmas was to remind myself that I’ve worked hard to shape my life built on certain foundations of minimalism, being frugal, saying no to things that don’t align with my goals and being totally present as a mother. This meant not giving many or spending much on gifts, only going to the most important gatherings, and using time off to do fun things as a family.
Staying to to yourself and your core values is so important, and if you can do it during the holidays, chances are it’ll be a lot easier in everyday life.
#4: Remember Why
Last but not least, remember why you’re giving energy to any celebration. Whether it’s Christmas, Kwanzaa, a birthday, your anniversary, a solstice, a retirement – whatever, just don’t forget the real reason for the celebration.