As I write this, the second week of January, my Christmas tree is still up, so it’s easy for me to reflect on this last holiday season. Every mom knows the holidays are exhausting, making sure all the magic happens. However, this year leading up to the holidays seemed the easiest year yet. It may be that the kiddos are getting older, but I think most of it was giving myself a break that it didn’t have to be Hallmark-perfect to be enjoyable. Here are the top 10 things I learned.
1. Take a weekend away. I’m not talking about a holiday shopping weekend. Go away and take a few days off from anything holiday planning. The man and I took a December non-kid weekend in warmer weather. I would not have imagined being away in December before. It was relaxing and paused the holiday madness, allowing me to catch my breath and return refreshed.
2. Allow kids to relax. Don’t plan countless holiday activities to make memories. Forcing teenagers to do family time is not fun for them or you. This year we stayed home a lot leading up to Christmas. We watched movies, had a Gingerbread house competition, and allowed days to unfold without agendas or strict expectations. Surprisingly, I felt we spent more time together.
3. Connect one on one. Often around the holidays, we try to have everyone together. That’s nice but connecting without all the pomp and circumstance feels even better. Have coffee with a friend, go into your child’s room, sit with them and see where the conversation goes, or take a shopping day with your daughter, that just finished her first semester at college.
4. Set boundaries with family. Of course, you want to see your extended family, but share your expectations upfront and do what is best for you and your children, even if it irritates others. A big one for me this year was the time limit. We were the only ones with a lengthy drive out of my family. We made the trip, but I said we were leaving at a particular time, no matter what, so we haven’t burnt out the rest of the week/holiday season. If family members want more time, they know where to find us throughout the year. It doesn’t have to all be in one day.
5. Do a family community project. Talk to your kids and find something they want to invest their time in. If it benefits kids or animals in any way, my kids are hooked. I wish we did more of this all year, but especially around the holidays, it helps us focus on others and not all the presents and treats. I don’t know if the kids will remember their gifts over the years, but I’m sure they will remember cutting out lots of small teddy bears from fabric and stuffing them.
6. Making things such as meals easier is not cheating. For Christmas break, when all the kids were going to be home, I picked up easy-to-make meals from Costco. So I could spend more time with them instead of cooking and cleaning.
7. Self-care goes a long way. Especially if you have many people, you are taking care of. This is the rule of putting your oxygen mask on before helping others on the airplane. Get extra sleep, get your hair and nails done, meditate and practice saying thank you for understanding that I can’t help you right now. You’re acting as a role model for your children by taking care of yourself. You don’t want them to be burnt out. This year the week before Christmas, we all went and got pedicures together.
8. New traditions are good. Since my divorce, I have been trying to keep my children’s holiday traditions intact. This year, I asked the kids what they wanted to do. We added some fun things to the traditions that we will continue to do, like the gingerbread house competition.
9. Expect meltdowns. Don’t take breakdowns personally over the holidays. Everyone’s sleep and possibly eating schedule is off, and a lot more sugar is added to the mix. If your 10-year-old gets up a half dozen times in the night because he’s so excited for Christmas morning, he’s not going to be a peach after all the gifts are opened – and mom might not be either.
10. Ask for help. Asking for help used to be tough for me, but now I find it adds more joy. For example, I ask the kids to help get all the holiday decorations out of storage, and it’s fun for them. They get to discover things they haven’t seen in a year. My youngest and I have a tradition of putting up the yard decorations together, all because I asked him to help one year. The man was here this year helping me wrap presents until the last hour and set up for having people over. It makes me adore him more. I can’t think of a negative experience of asking for help.