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Work at Home Work-Life Balance

How to Reap the Rewards of Working from Home Part 3: Lesser-Known Challenges

Over the last couple weeks, I discussed the two main challenges of working from home: Maintaining self-discipline and dealing with a lack of community. In the final article in this series, I’m taking a closer look at some of the other, often overlooked, challenges of working from home.

When you’re at a corporate job in an office building, working from home seems like the ultimate scenario: A flexible schedule, time with your kids, and the ability to work without someone breathing down your neck. What’s not to love? However, once you begin working from home, you quickly realize that it has some downsides of its own.

No job is without its challenges, and I would still choose working from home any day over a typical 9-to-5 career! Let’s look at some of the lesser-known challenges you may face as a work-from-home mom and how to overcome them.

1. Distractions

Being a mom means juggling a whole host of responsibilities. From school pickups to drop-offs, grocery store runs to cleaning the house, the old saying is true: A woman’s work is never done! It’s no surprise then that when you work from home, there are many distractions that may keep you from actually working.

You may find yourself starting the laundry before you start your work, thinking, “I’ll just do this one thing real quick and knock it off my to-do list.” But before you know it, you end up cleaning the entire house and it’s time to pick up the kids—the day is gone! Does this sound all too familiar? If so, welcome to work-from-home motherhood!

To avoid being side-tracked by chores, schedule in laundry day and other chores. Be sure to order your work around your busy mom life.

You may also want to designate a working space separate from your living space, if possible, to help you stay productive and prevent you from seeing the distractions. It will also put distance between you and the refrigerator—another go-to distraction for work-from-home moms.

2. Dealing with the (Un)Reliability of Employees

If you’ve set up a business at home and hired a remote employee, you face a whole new set of problems. What if you send them a retainer and they never do the work? Or they do the work, but it’s far below expectations? You’ll either need to find a new worker or train the existing one—both of which take valuable time.

One way to combat this is to use well-known, reliable platforms when hiring freelancers. Sites like Upwork or Freelancer may offer some protection for both parties, while giving you the peace of mind that someone else is actively vetting them. You have enough on your plate without having to chase down and hound irresponsible workers!

3. Missing Out on Employee Benefits

Your corporate job may have drained the life out of you, but it had its benefits—literally.

Medical insurance and paid sick leave are just two luxurious benefits that few of us who are working from home can afford to offer ourselves. Often, if you’re just starting out working from home, time spent not working means no income—and if you can’t afford benefits, then you definitely can’t afford to have no income!

The thing is, while no one plans to fall ill, we all inevitably get sick at some point. The best thing to do is to plan and prepare financially for times when you may be sick or simply want to take a vacation. This means making saving and planning a priority, no matter how difficult it may be.

With no company to look after you, it’s all up to you—don’t let yourself down! This article offers more helpful advice and tips on saving money as a work-from-home mom.

4. The Dreaded Question: “What do you do?”

You are going to have to explain to a lot of people what you do because, most of the time, there probably won’t be one word to describe your profession. Then there’s the assumption that usually comes after your answer, as people imagine you lounging in your pajamas all day.

There will always be someone with something to say when you go against the norm. Stay confident in your choice to work from home and don’t worry about what others think. You have your reasons for choosing this lifestyle and it’s helpful to recall those reasons when you get discouraged.

Remember what you’re doing this for—time with your kids, quality of life, dream house—and keep your eyes on that prize! Don’t let anyone make you second-guess yourself.

It may also be helpful to have a concise and well-rehearsed answer ready when you’re inevitably asked this dreaded question. Your confidence will lend you credibility, and when you sound confident, people are less likely to doubt you.

Working from Home: It’s All About Willpower

As with everything in life, your willpower is what will help you overcome challenges. For some, working from home might sound like the easy way out. But, for those of us who experience the work-at-home lifestyle, we know it involves a lot of hard work and willpower.

To fully reap the rewards of a work-from-home lifestyle, you’ll have to learn—and do—what works best for you. Trust me, you’ll find your sweet spot when it comes to work-life balance eventually.

To learn more about how to find success as a work-from-home mom, contact us at www.momsmakingsixfigures.com or (858) 837-1505.

lack of community Work at Home

How to Reap the Rewards of Working from Home Part 2: Lack of Community

Last week, we explored ways to develop our self-discipline to reap the rewards of working from home. Today, I’ll take a look at another big challenge that faces moms working from home: Lack of community.

As much as some of us may complain about coworkers, chances are that we’ve had one or two good work friends that we chit-chat with and enjoy happy hours together every once in a while.

While one perk of working from home is that you don’t have to deal with anyone you don’t really like, the lack of social connection can get old—fast. If your kids are in school, the silence of an empty house—ironically, the very thing many of us moms crave—might not create the most inspiring mood. It can even be downright depressing at times!

Here’s how to reap the rewards of working from home and still maintain a sense of community in your work-at-home life.

How to Be Social While Working from Home

1. Align Your Working Hours with the Rest of the World

One of the benefits of working from home is that you can schedule your work whenever it suits you. However, the danger may be that you end up working when everyone else is off—namely, on evenings and weekends.

If your children are young, after you put them down at night may be your best chance to get uninterrupted work done, but don’t push it by staying up too late. Also fight the temptation to sleep in by maintaining your corporate waking and working hours as much as possible.

But wait, you don’t have to work from 9 to 5—then what’s the point of working from home? However, getting most of your work done between those hours will help ensure that you’re free when everyone else is—that way your social life doesn’t take a hit!

2. Get Out of the House

Whenever possible, schedule outside meetings—don’t just stick to phone calls and emails. Face-to-face communication forces you to focus, engages multiple senses, and builds personal rapport more than a simple phone call.

A change of scenery now and then is also a good idea. so even if you don’t have any meetings scheduled, head out to work from a coffee shop that offers Wi-Fi. A hot vanilla latte, some ambient music, and the presence of other people might be just the refresh you need!

Being among other working people will help create a sense of community even if you don’t know them. Plus, you never know what business connections you might establish by striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you!

3. Attend Relevant Workshops and Conferences

Speaking of establishing business connections, workshops and conferences are a great place to do exactly that. And if you feel like you’ve lost that professional skill as a result of working from home, networking with other like-minded business professionals in your field may help you up your game.

So throw on your heels and get out there!

4. Set Up Virtual Meetings

It’s just not always possible to meet clients or employers in person, especially if they live in another part of the world. In those cases, face-to-face virtual meetings will help you put a face to names and may even improve communication. After all, there are some things that simply can’t be articulated properly over email.

Business conversations with like-minded adults are a nice change of pace from the baby talk you may engage in 24/7 with your toddler at home, so utilize resources like Skype, FaceTime, and video conferencing technologies frequently.

Virtual meetings, although not physical in nature, can also help establish a sense of community through a more personalized medium of communication.

5. Keep Emails to a Minimum

How many hours do you spend in a week writing emails, checking emails, and frantically searching through your inbox to trace back an email thread for a specific, work-related project? If you’re like me, the answer is too many!

If you have a team of remote workers, set up a project management system. These invaluable platforms allow you to keep track of what everyone is saying and doing, all in one place. A project management system also allows you to establish due dates, create checklists, and assign tasks to specific people so that everyone is clear on what’s expected of them.

Having your team in one place—even if it’s a virtual place—helps alleviate isolation and makes everyone feel like part of a team.

Make An Effort to Reach Out to Others

Not having to deal with your boss or clients on a daily basis? Great! Not having actual contact with anyone other than your family for extended periods of time? Not so great—even if you have the most amazing family ever.

Remember: You’re a strong, confident woman with a lot to offer. You are more than capable of making friends and building a business network, even if you spend most of your day at home. Working from home doesn’t mean falling off the face of the earth socially speaking—so get out there!

In the final part of this series, I’ll take a deeper look at the other challenges that come with working from home and cover practical ways to overcome them to fully reap the benefits of your work-from-home experience.

Curious about other work-from-home options? Contact our expert business mentors at www.momsmakingsixfigures.com or (858) 837-1505 to learn more about joining our team!

Work at Home Work-Life Balance

How to Reap the Rewards of Working from Home Part 1: Self-Discipline

When you think about working from home, three things probably come to mind: Sleeping in, working in your pajamas, and having a flexible schedule. Sounds perfect, right?

But, working from home isn’t necessarily an 8-hour pajama party. Whether you’ve just started or you’ve been working from home for some time, you’ve probably discovered that there’s another side to working from home: avoiding the temptation to procrastinate.

In this three-part series, I’ll look at some of the challenges of working from home and how to tackle them to fully reap the rewards of working from home.

Let’s start with self-discipline.

Do deadlines always seem to creep up on you? With no boss around to check your hours and no set schedule, it’s easy to find yourself relaxing a little too much before reality sends you scrambling.

This lack of discipline can affect your productivity and, ultimately, your success. Here are 5 tips to harness your self-discipline to enjoy the full benefits of working from home.

1. Set a Schedule and Stick to It

Start off simple and keep your goals realistic.

If you’re like me and you love to check things off your to-do list, then do yourself a favor and keep your list short and sweet! Set only one or two “must do” tasks for the day. Giving yourself too much to do will be overwhelming and discourage you from finishing your list.

Once you determine the bare minimum for your to-do list, remember that it’s exactly that, a starting point—build on it little by little until you find your productivity sweet spot. If you can only work when the kids are in school, do that. If you need to break your work day up into 2 or 3 hour chunks to accommodate your toddler’s nap times, do that.

Figure out what schedule works best for you and stick to it.

2. Wake Up Early

The temptation to sleep in is huge when you have no office to go to and no boss breathing down your neck if you show up late. You may even ask yourself, “What’s the rush on this project, anyway?”

However, studies have shown that the earlier you wake up, the more productive you are. According to Inc.com, morning people are more proactive, and as work-from-home moms, proactivity is the name of the game. All of this is actually great news for us moms since most of us have little walking alarm clocks that rarely give us the option to oversleep!

I’ve found that one of the keys to my productivity is rising before my darling little alarm clocks wake up so that I can clear my head and plan my day in peace. That’s not to say that your late night hours can’t be productive. But, let’s face it—as a mom, being a night owl is difficult and exhausting. Because your kids are most active during the day, it makes sense that you’ll need to be, too.

Continue to wake up at the time you used to wake up when you had an office job. But this time around, start your day by relishing the fact that you’re not rushing out the door with a piece of toast in your mouth, frantically throwing on your heels as you head out for a 12-hour work day.

3. Get Dressed

As tempting as it is to stay in your pajamas all day—don’t do it! Pajamas leave your brain in sleepy mode.

When you think of business attire, what comes to mind? An outfit that radiates focus, power, professionalism, control, and self-discipline. That’s the frame of mind you need to be in even when working at home.

Remember, if you look the part, it’s easy to act the part. You want to be self-disciplined? Then dress like you mean it!

4. Stay Ahead of Deadlines

As a mom, we all know that things don’t always go as planned—okay, they pretty much never go as planned! Plus, there are those moments when we just need a little time-out from everything.

As work-at-home moms, the temptation in those moments is to say to ourselves, “I’ll do it later,” or, “I can just finish this tomorrow.” Once you start saying that, before you know it, it’s the day before the deadline and you’ve made no progress.

Anticipate and prepare for those needed time-outs and crazy days by staying ahead of your deadlines. This will help ensure that when you do give yourself a much needed day off, you can do so guilt-free!

5. Reward Yourself

Speaking of guilt-free days off—what an excellent way to reward yourself for the hard work you’ve done!

This tactic is similar to “bribing” your kids into doing their chores, except it’s for you. Do your work before you go get your nails done. Or, treat yourself to ice cream. Whatever motivates you!

Some may call it bribery, but I call it a well-deserved reward. Just make sure you’re disciplining yourself so that your reward really is well deserved. You could even put in a few extra hours from Monday to Thursday and give yourself Friday off. This would give you extra time to yourself to do whatever you want while the kids are in school.

Self-Discipline and Working from Home: Create Good Habits

Some of these tips may seem like temporary fixes, like rewarding yourself with a trip to the nail salon for getting your work done. But you’ll soon discover that once you get into a groove, these tips will become good habits.

With time and practice you’ll learn to silence the procrastinator in you and become a lean, mean, self-disciplined machine! Ultimately, your work schedule will reflect your determination and endurance.

In Part 2, I’ll take a look at another big challenge when it comes to working from home: Lack of community. I’ll share helpful tips for battling the isolation that can drive you crazy.

Looking for a different approach to working from home? Reach out to us at Moms Making Six Figures to learn how we can help you better balance your career and family life!

Work at Home Work-Life Balance Working Mom

Working From Home: 10 Tips For Success

When I started a small part-time business 2 ½ years ago, I had no idea that it would grow to the full-time business is it today, allowing me to walk away from a corporate career I spent 15 years building! When I tell people I work from home and have replaced a corporate salary within 2 years, I usually get one of two responses – “I don’t know how you get anything done,” or “I wish could do that.”

I feel that many of my friends who are also moms like me think the flexibility of working from home sounds amazing, but they aren’t sure they have what it takes to be productive. I’ll admit that you can become easily distracted, but here are 10 tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Establish a Schedule

I know for many moms this can seem difficult (especially if you have young children), but it’s a critical element to successfully working from home.

If you do not have a schedule and do not set your intentions for the day, you will waste more time trying to figure out what work to do versus actually getting work done. It doesn’t have to be an hour by hour schedule, but something that becomes routine.

For example, I like to use Mondays as my office day to make calls, send follow-up emails, write my social media posts for the week, and set appointments with current and potential clients – anything office related. Tuesdays through Thursdays, I usually schedule an hour of office/desk time but spend the majority of those days on appointments and networking with others. I like Fridays to be my day to tie up loose ends and tackle all of the tasks that I necessarily pushed off. I have a daily list – I know I have had a productive day when I see all the things crossed off of my list. Even if you only work 2 or 3 hours per day on whatever it is you do from home, it is important to have that time blocked off and know what you intend to accomplish during those hours.

You can accomplish a lot in 1 hour if it’s a focused, distraction-free hour; if you try to squeeze in 5-10 minutes here and there, you’ll likely find yourself stuck in the same spot for weeks.

2. Establish Boundaries

I truly believe this is where most moms struggle. I have a designated work-space in my home. When I am in my work-space during my work hours, I do not spend any of that time answering personal emails or personal calls (unless it’s my kids’ school or my husband, which are really the only exceptions). My kids are now 4 and 7, so we had a conversation in terms they understand; if Mommy is at her desk on the phone, it is not the time to interrupt. And I’m realistic when I’m planning my work schedule, so when my kids are home (day off of school or in the summer), I typically don’t spend more than an hour at a time at my desk. Instead, I’ll break up my work day explaining “it’s Mommy’s hour to work” and give them 2-3 choices of things they can pick to do during that hour. You may or may not agree with this method, but I believe children need to learn to entertain themselves for short periods of time (i.e. it helps them practice self-discipline). I have even caught them playing “office,” mimicking me making my calls, etc. On the flip-side, my kids know they will have my full attention during play-time.

By setting the boundaries and schedule, you won’t have to worry about the guilt of empty promises of “just give me 10 more minutes and we’ll play then…” Your family will appreciate the boundaries. They will learn to recognize when Mom is working and when she is available, rather than constantly interrupting because they’re competing for your attention.

3. Know When You Need childcare

Sure, I started my own business to have more time with my children, but there are times when you may have to put in more hours or attend a meeting and it simply wouldn’t be appropriate to bring your children along. If your children are not yet in school and you work from home, find a reliable form of childcare for the times it is needed, even if it means swapping playdates with a friend.

4. Get Out of Your House

This might be difficult for moms with small children, which is why I mentioned #3. I understand that one of the main reasons we choose to work from home is because we want more time with our children. But working from home can be a bit lonely. While a lot of connecting begins through social media, real relationships are still developed in person. Make attending local networking groups, trainings or events a part of your regular schedule. That’s where you can meet potential clients, colleagues and mentors to support you on your journey. I recently attended a LinkedIn class and not only did I meet great people, but I also chose an activity that would benefit me professionally.

5. Evaluate Your Activities and Priorities

I was a busy corporate mom before I started my own business and either way, when you add a new responsibility, you have to let go of something. No one is going to do this for you. You have to be the one to evaluate your current activities and obligations and decide where your time is best spent. I started by clearing out my DVR; I still like to binge-watch Fixer Upper every now and again, I love me some Chip and Joanna, but TV can be one of the biggest time wasters.

Be clear about your priorities in life and focus on them. Cut down on activities and obligations that don’t help with your priorities. (i.e. TV watching, magazine reading, social activities, mindless Internet surfing, etc.) Make every moment of your life count. Do only what helps you achieve your goals. Learn how to say no without guilt. I really wanted to serve on my daughter’s school’s parent teacher committee this past year but when I looked at the time and commitment, I realized I was still establishing myself as a business owner and balancing my time as a mother. I still contribute, just not by serving as a committee member.

6. Hold Family Meetings

Make sure your spouse understands your business, your goals and your priorities. My husband travels 50-70% of the time for work but he still likes to understand what I am working towards with regard not only to my schedule, but how our children will be cared for on my busy days, as well. We also involve our children at times. When I first started my business, our daughters understood that Mommy had to work really hard and a lot of hours so she could quit her job and be the one to take them to and from school. My husband and I explained that we needed their help, which included doing their chores without complaining, getting ready on time in the morning and understanding that Mommy would have to work late sometimes during what looked to be a very busy upcoming year. To increase their willingness to be helpful, we promised them Disneyland passes if they followed through. Let’s just say incentives work wonders with young children!

7. Get Your Rest

Remember when you had your first child and everyone said “Nap when the baby naps.” I hated hearing that! I used to think “but what about the laundry? I need a shower.” I soon realized an overly tired Mommy wasn’t good for my husband or the baby, so I napped. I am not saying to take naps, but if you are up working until midnight or 1:00 am to work on your business while the kids are sleeping – stop! Lack of sleep will catch up with you and won’t be good for anyone. Go back and read #2. It is possible to work while your kids are awake. Even powerhouse mompreneurs need their beauty rest!

8. Get and Keep Your Home Organized

An organized home will demand less time for upkeep, while a cluttered home will require constant work and suck your energy. Don’t even think of starting a home-based business or working from home until your house has been decluttered and organized and your household maintenance systems are in place. Set up daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and yearly routines for house cleaning. For example, I throw in a load of laundry every morning, it goes in the dryer when kids come home from school and is folded and put away before we go to bed at night. I wipe down the bathrooms Monday morning and wash all the bedding on Thursdays; it doesn’t matter what you do or when, but create your system and stick to it.

9. Dress for Success

I know your PJs are comfy and one of the perks working from home should be that you don’t have to get dressed up BUT, you still have to get dressed, even to work from home. I’m not sitting here in my power suit and heels, but you do need to get out of your PJs and slippers. I wear something comfortable and casual that I can wear outside the house. I even put on my basic makeup. My rule of thumb is – be presentable enough to meet a potential client. If you’re physically ready for anything, your mind will be as well. Believe it or not, this will make you more productive.

10. Let Go

Let go of the idea that you can do it all. Maybe this should have been #1. You can’t clean the house, do all the laundry, run the errands, pay attention to your husband, answer 100 emails per week, plan and prepare dinner every night, print pictures to mail to grandma, volunteer at school, bake cookies for the church bake sale and grow your business…all by yourself. Get over being perfect. If you have the luxury of doing so – hire someone to clean the house. It’s okay if you have to buy the cookies. Ask your spouse to help out a little bit around the house. Feel “OK” if you can’t do it all – remember why you started – to have more time with your family; they won’t mind if the cookies are store-bought. When you are 86, what will you look back and treasure the most? You’ll either look back and love the time you had with your family or wish you had made more time for family. Live in the moment so you can look back and actually remember these moments.

Debt Free Finance Money Work at Home

Simple Steps for Working Moms to Become Debt Free

Being Debt Free – Oh the Freedom!

“I’m in debt. I am a true American.” – Balki Bartokomous

Many of us aspire to get ahead in life, but then things happen—it seems like, no matter our financial situation, debt sneaks into our lives and holds us back. Just when you think you’ve got some extra money saved, another bill pops up that needs to be paid off. Sound familiar?

The harsh reality is that many people are struggling with all kinds of debt. From credit card balances to student loans to taxes to car loans to medical bills and everything in between, being in debt has become a way of life for many of us. Add to that the fact that you have a family to take care of and the situation becomes even more stressful!

The good news is that you’re not the only one drowning in debt. The even better news (no bad news here!) is that you don’t have to accept it as a way of life. You have options to get out of debt and actually start saving money. With some discipline, clever thinking, and the right attitude, you and your family can be well on your way to experiencing the freedom of a debt-free life!

Tips for Becoming Debt Free

1. Create a Realistic Budget

Before doing anything else, you need to establish where you are financially. Everything you spend money on has to be accounted for—whether it’s bills, kids’ daycare or extracurriculars, food, or entertainment—record each item and the amount of money you spend on it every month.
After compiling a comprehensive list of items to include on your budget, decide what you and your family can do without (cable, for example). Oftentimes, it’s only when we see something in writing that we realize how much we spend on unnecessary things.

Speaking of putting things in writing, don’t forget to make a list of your debts and face them head-on like the strong mom that you are. Once you complete this exercise, you’ll be able to determine how much money you need to dedicate to debt repayment each month. This will help you envision the best plan for reallocating money from that list of unnecessary expenses (like your unused gym membership) to pay off your debt.

Look at that, your total debt is decreasing already!

2. Stop Borrowing!

Stop signing up for credit cards.

Forget about test driving that car you’ve been eyeing but really can’t afford the car loan for.

Remember, when you borrow, you’re only digging yourself further into debt. The more you dig, the longer it will take to get out!

3. You Can and Should Start Saving

Think of it as an emergency fund.

Life happens—If an emergency comes up and you have no savings, chances are you’re going to turn to credit cards to fund those emergencies.

Start small and work your way up. As a mom, ensuring that you can take care of the kids, particularly in an emergency, is undoubtedly one of your top priorities. Savings will be the safeguard between you and endlessly mounting debt.

This way, you can get out of debt and have peace of mind that you’re (somewhat) prepared for emergencies.

4. Pay off the Smallest Debts First

Let me tell you why:

You’ll be able to remove smaller debts from the list faster than that big loan with insane interest rates.

Once those debts are paid off, you’ll be able to contribute more to the bigger loans and pay them off faster.

Seeing debts removed from your list will give you an incredible confidence boost. Good job, mom! (Go ahead and do your happy dance!)

Don’t forget to automate your payments—the more automatic and effortless you can make the debt repayment process, the better.

Working From Home – A More Permanent Solution

There’s so much more you can do to become debt free. Getting discounts on your car insurance, cutting back on your lifestyle, and meeting with a financial advisor are all smart steps to help get you on the right track. However, if you want to permanently and quickly leave your debt-filled days behind you, then becoming a work-at-home-mom is an excellent option.

Ultimately, your ideal situation is having an ever-increasing income. And if you’re in the corporate world, you know that a traditional job doesn’t offer immediate financial growth.

Working from home has that earning potential. As a work-at-home-mom, you have the power to double or even triple your earnings from one month to another! You can take an active step towards becoming debt free—for good!

Our goal at Moms Making Six Figures is to give moms and their families the freedom to do what they want without feeling tied down by financial burdens. For more details on how to live a permanently debt-free life, visit our website at momsmakingsixfigures.com or call us at (858) 837-1505.

Family Holidays Work at Home

A Mom’s Guide to Being Present During the Holidays

The holiday season can be overwhelming for many of us as we juggle our various commitments to work, family, and hosting. After all, as working moms, our daily schedules are already never ending! While some of us are lucky enough to have helpful kids, spouses, and in-laws, chances are that mom’s still doing more than her fair share of the holiday prep.

With so much on our plates, it’s no wonder that some of us get a bit overwhelmed during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

Take a deep breath and remember: Your time and love is the most valuable gift of all. The best thing that you can do for your family and other loved ones during this holiday season is to be present as much as possible and take care of yourself. It’s hard to accept that no holiday will be “perfect,” but it really is true that the little quirks and imperfections are what make each of our families unique and loveable.

Follow these tips to help you be more present during this especially meaningful time of year and ensure that this season will be fun, joyous, and truly memorable for all—especially you!

1. Set Your Intentions

It’s particularly important to prioritize things during the holiday season. After all, there can be so many fun events to take the kiddos to, so many gifts to buy, and so many meals to cook that it’s impossible to do everything! Instead of trying to fit it all in, take a few moments to figure out the three events and/or traditions that your kids, spouse, and you enjoy the most.
Whether it’s the community holiday parade, the school Christmas pageant, caroling with friends, or just a fun night of Christmas cookie baking, try to make sure that there’s at least one thing that each family member enjoys. While it’s likely that no one will get to do everything on their list, chances are that by considering each family member’s wishes, no one will end up dissatisfied.

As for gifts, while you will likely put more thought and money into gifts for your immediate family, there’s no rule that says you can’t institute a White Elephant gift exchange or even a Secret Santa system for groups of friends or extended family. This practice can add a sense of whimsy to your holidays while helping all of us avoid the post-Christmas credit card hangover.

2. Keep Up With Healthy Routines

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a Christmas cookie (or two!). However, by keeping up with some healthy routines – or modifying routines to maintain some health benefits – you ensure that you (and the kids!) can physically and mentally handle all that the season has to offer. Your usually healthy practices may change dramatically this time of year, especially with holiday breaks for the kids, which is perfectly fine!

The good news is that there are fun ways to modify your healthy routines in moderation so that you and your family don’t get completely off-track during these fun-filled weeks. Take these scenarios, for example:
• Do you usually run to the gym after dropping the kids at school? Instead, let yourself get your exercise sledding or ice skating with the family over winter break.
• Used to eating salad and avoiding having sweets in the house? Don’t deny yourself that slice of pie, just make sure to eat a few extra veggies to even things out.
• Not sure how to handle all the down time with the kids? Go for a family walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights – you’ll tire them out and get a little exercise at the same time!

This commitment to your holistic health will not only keep you feeling good (and ready for New Year’s resolutions) but also show your kids that health and wellness are consistent family values.

3. Give Yourself Free Time

Even if you need to literally write it into your day planner, make sure to allow yourself some “me time” during this busy season. Maybe just decide to spend an inordinate amount of time “wrapping gifts” in front of the TV or enjoying your favorite podcast. Or head out shopping but treat yourself to your favorite holiday drink on the way home.

Many of us may initially feel selfish by taking such time to ourselves, but remember that you don’t do your family any good if you’re grumpy and burnt out! Simply being well rested and energized will make you more fun to be around and elevate the mood of your loved ones.

4. Nurture Gratitude

In her classic novel, The Color Purple, Alice Walker offers the perfect remedy to frustration and gloom. Two of her characters cross through a field of flowers every day on their way to work until, one day, one of them suddenly realizes that these blossoms are actually a beautiful purple color. All throughout their lives, they had seen this gorgeous detail without ever really noticing it.

This story reminds us that we are surrounded by wonder and beauty. There are so many things to be grateful for, and this is especially true during the holiday season—whether it’s a classic Christmas song on the radio, some ridiculously cute wrapping paper, your child’s delight at holiday decorations, or even the joy of indulging in hot cocoa with marshmallows, there truly is infinite beauty in the details.

5. Find Joy in the Imperfections

As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, no matter how far in advance we plan and no matter how hard we try, something is bound to go wrong this holiday season. Someone is going to bring up politics or religion at a family event (I’m looking at you, Dave!). One of the gifts will likely get tagged for the wrong person. And, in our rush to cook everything, we may even forget to add eggs to the Christmas cookies.

Chances are, this holiday season is going to be far from perfect in a million tiny ways because, after all, to err is human! Allow yourself these small failures—that is, allow yourself to be an imperfect mom. Because, in reality, no one really remembers the disappointment of burnt turkey five years down the road when they have the memory of everyone laughing the mistake off and ordering Chinese afterward (a new holiday tradition?!).

Take a moment to think back to your favorite holiday memories. While, sure, they may involve a fabulous new bike or an adorable puppy, chances are that you cherish the moments spent learning to ride that bike with your dad or taking the dog for a walk with your mom more than the object itself. You may even remember the look of pride on your parents’ faces—joy from the fact that they were able to make you happy.

The fact is, we really can’t buy or cook or decorate our way to happiness—the real present lies in simply being present for our families and loved ones. Spending time together is what makes this season truly magical. Happy holidays!