When my children were younger, the holidays were both exciting and stressful at the same time. It took me years to find a balance for myself and my kids during the holiday season. I’ve recently hosted a few sessions on this topic on the Clubhouse App. I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
Try to figure out what you can handle and what is too much. For example, how many holiday events per day do you feel comfortable attending? You may have to set some boundaries for yourself and your family. It’s fine to tell people you cannot make it to a celebration if it doesn’t fit into your schedule.
Keep your kiddos’ routines as normal as possible during the holiday season. Maintaining consistent routines helps you and your family create balance. This may mean you have to leave early from a holiday party to get the kids to bed on time. This time of year is especially exciting and exhausting for children, so sticking to routines is a must.
I remember a time when my youngest daughter was about one. We were getting ready to head to a Christmas Eve party, so I woke her up to get her dressed. She was NOT having it. I would put an arm in the dress, and she would pull it right back out. She was kicking, screaming, crying, and refusing, while I continued to try to get her dressed. Frustrated, I left her room with the dress in-hand and summoned my husband to finish the task. Needless to say, he was not successful either. So off we went - hair uncombed, clad in a plain onesie (not the cute ruffled Christmas dress I purchased specifically for this event).
When we arrived, I met my mother at the door and handed her the baby and the dress! Once we were there and my daughter was fully awake and calm, the dress was successfully put on and the party resumed just in time for Santa!
In hindsight, it’s a hilarious story, but at the time I was trying so hard to be a great mom and have my children adorably dressed for the party. We had been in full holiday swing for several days in a row, so it’s no wonder everything didn’t work out perfectly. As I reflect now, it probably would have been better to allow her to wake at her own pace and on her normal schedule. The holiday hustle and bustle was getting to all of us.
Here are a few more tips to ease holiday stress.
Balance the Calendar:
During the Party:
After the Party:
What I have learned: The holidays do not have to be stressful.
Thinking about past holidays, I get a wonderful feeling reminiscing on the time spent at my grandparents home. On Christmas Eve, the entire family would arrive full of Christmas cheer. Everyone would have presents in tow. Each year we all had new outfits to wear. We went all out to celebrate the most special day of the year. Clad in patent leather party shoes, taffeta dresses with bows, suits, and ties, the excitement could be felt when you entered the room. My grandparents greeted each one of us at the door with hugs and kisses. The uncles teased us about Santa skipping the house or forgetting our presents. The aunts would try to smooth over our worries by telling us it would be okay. We kids were happy to be together - playing, giggling, and giddy with anticipation. Those are perfect memories.
I have to remind myself that my grandparents lived in a 1,000 square foot, two bedroom, one bathroom house. My grandmother called it her “Little Bungalow.” Think about it...25 of us squeezing into this tiny home for the holidays? My grandmother put up a tiny tree which sat on top of her record player. Not a single present could fit underneath it. The presents would be piled up next to couches, on the floor, and everywhere else you could imagine.
The dinner table took up most of the kitchen. Bowls and platters of food covered the table’s white and flecked gold surface. It was a well-orchestrated symphony to prepare a meal in that tiny kitchen. Everyone would try to make way for everyone else to get in the food line. You had to snuggle up to the cabinets to let the person with their full plate make their way back to the table. If you forgot your silverware or napkin, it was passed through the crowd (sure to be touched by everyone). You sat wherever you could find a spot: the floor, the arm of a chair, a stool. It didn’t matter because we were all together.
The special highball glasses were brought out for the adults, and I loved seeing them (probably where I get my love of glasses and dishes). There were six multicolored, sparkling highball glasses that were in a metal rack. My grandma also had the best penguin ice bowl, which was set out next to the glasses. Distant relatives would show up late but would still be welcomed with open arms (and maybe a bit of teasing from the uncles). The laughter and cajoling would continue into the wee hours of the night. Past holidays were remembered, and new memories were created.
The size of the house didn’t matter. We all piled in and we were happy as could be. We were a family, and my grandmother was over the moon to have us all under one roof! There was laughter, joy, and messiness as we littered the house with wrapping paper scraps and cookie crumbs. But my grandma never minded. We always did the dishes and tried our best to clean up, but she would always scold us and say, “Leave it be. I’ll tend to that later.” Looking back, I can now see that she just wanted to spend that precious time with us. Every year, no matter what, we were loved and we were welcomed!
What I have learned: It’s not the size or the grandeur of the space in which you gather that matters. It’s the way you treat your loved ones that leaves a lasting impression.
While filling out my Kickstarting Wellness Journal, I began with the first prompt, “My intentions for the week…” As I considered this prompt, the idea to write positive affirmations to myself for a week popped into my mind. Each day, I planned to write one affirmation on a post-it note and place it on the mirror in my workout space.
It can be hard to speak kind words to yourself. It’s often easy to compliment or encourage others, but we also spend quite a bit of time criticizing ourselves. We send ourselves mental messages about our body. We think to ourselves that we are not enough. Not good enough, not smart enough, not worthy enough.
I began to write simple affirmations to myself that day, very simple ones.
I invite you to come up with a few positive affirmations you can repeat to yourself throughout the day. Repeat them over and over. Eventually, it will become habitual to treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve.
What I have learned: We deserve to say positive messages to ourselves. WE are worth it!
Kickstarting Wellness Journal on Amazon
When you try to relax, how long does it take for you to feel your best? How long does it take for you to feel calm, at ease, ready to face the world? Think about it. When you’ve had a long day and you come home from work, how long does it take you to unwind?
Have you ever been overwhelmed from the workday, only to come home and get bombarded by your kids? “Mom, I need you to sign this field trip permission slip!” “I need glue for my art project!” “Mom, mom, MOM!” Maybe you have pleaded with your kiddos during this tirade by saying, “Just give me five minutes.” I know I have. But, can you really recuperate in just five minutes? Or, do you need to devote more time to yourself in these moments?
How long does it take you to become fully engrossed in your favorite hobby or most effective coping skill? All of these rhetorical questions hit on the same theme: Do you understand what it takes (and how long it takes) for you to rest, relax, and reset?
I believe it is important to explore these questions and become familiar with what works best for you. Once you do, you are able to better understand yourself. Then, you will be able to care for yourself in times of stress and overwhelm.
I have discovered that it takes me about 45 minutes to feel fulfilled. I love to go for a 30-minute walk, return home, and do 15 minutes of stretching. With this routine, I feel refreshed. However, when I am able to take a full 45-minute walk followed by stretching and deep breathing, that’s when I truly feel fulfilled, rejuvenated, and whole again.
Considering my 45-minute wellness routine, I realized that this amount of time is sufficient for a lot of things. When I play golf for about 45 minutes, I really start to feel good and get into the groove. When I sit down to read a book (which is hard for me to do being such an active person), I can really drop in if I stick to it for about 45 minutes. When I’m cooking or baking, it takes about 45 minutes to find rejuvenation in the kitchen. Even when I take a power nap...20 minutes of napping, 25 minutes of playing on my phone. Yep - 45 minutes!
How long does it take you to feel whole? How long must you care for yourself to truly feel rejuvenated? Have you ever really thought about it? I wonder what you will discover...
What I have learned: It takes me 45 minutes to recharge my battery. How about you?
As a young child, I enjoyed reading the short stories of American writer Erma Bombeck. From the 1960’s on, she was a newspaper columnist. I loved reading her columns “Dear Abby” and “Hints from Heloise” on the weekends. Those of you who are my age probably remember these columns. If you don’t, you should definitely Google them. They are great reads.
As we approach the holiday season, I am reminded of one of her short essays. I encourage you to embrace Erma’s words. I often think of this piece when I reach for the good dishes but then retract my hand, as I think, “I shouldn’t use these now. I should reserve them for a special occasion.” But then Erma’s words come into my mind. I think, “Isn’t this gathering special? Isn’t every gathering with people we love special?” So I use the good dishes! I invite you to read Erma’s words, embrace, and enjoy!
“If I had my life to live over...
Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.
My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.
If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I'd have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten popcorn in the "good" living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.
I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television ... and more while watching real life.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.
I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for a day.
I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn't show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.
When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner."
There would have been more I love yous ... more I'm sorrys ... more I'm listenings ... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it ... look at it and really see it ... try it on ... live it ... exhaust it ... and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”
― Erma Bombeck, Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream: Thoughts on Life from Erma Bombeck
Time can be the best gift you can give. While raising our girls, my husband and I both worked full time. He left the house at 6:30 in the morning, and I left by 7:30. Twice a month I had early-morning meetings at school, which meant that we had to leave the house 30 minutes earlier than usual. It may not seem like much, but anyone who has children knows that a 30-minute shift in routine can cause some serious issues. That slight change two times per month threw everyone off schedule and was stressful for all of us.
It was to my surprise that my mom told me she would come over on those two mornings and get the kids ready for daycare. When she offered me this incredible gift, I was stunned. I swear I heard angels singing in the background!
This generous offer gave me time to get prepared for my day. I could just get myself ready for work. No rushing kids to the sitter, hurriedly kissing them goodbye, or praying no one has a meltdown. No driving like mad or rushing to get to school. No speed walking to my classroom for supplies or rushing down the long hallway to get to the meeting on time. And finally, no jumping into my seat around the conference table while trying to look cool as a cucumber. This was incredible - my mom had given me the gift of time! She knew that these two days every month were stressful for me and the kids, so she stepped up to help.
It was the most incredible gift. In fact, I remember telling my mom that she NEVER had to give me gifts ever again. It was wonderful to go to work stress-free and not have to worry about my girls or the time. I could just walk out of the house alone. I’m so glad I accepted her unexpected gift.
My advice to you - Accept the help! Show gratitude when people offer to help you. It can truly be a game changer.
What I have learned: Gifts come to us in many different ways. Graciously accept them as they come.
If you would like to learn more about building routines into you and your kiddos’ schedules, check out my book Raising the Well-Adjusted Child: A Parent’s Manual.
Tania Farran is an educator, mom, business owner, and an author. Her blogs tell about balancing all of these things in life! Laugh or cry with her and maybe learn a thing or two.