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!