The Christmas season is upon us, and if you’re like most moms you’re both anticipating it with joy and approaching it with a bit of dread. After all, the weeks from Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S.) through Christmas and New Year’s Day tend to be some of the busiest and most stressful weeks of the year.
And if those weeks typically create a lot of stress for you, I want to encourage you to do something different this year. Before you think about food or decorations or the presents you might buy for family and friends, consider giving yourself and your family six special gifts this year. I can almost guarantee that these gifts will bring you more joy during the busy holiday weeks than anything you will buy in a store.
1. Give yourself and your husband the gift of deciding. Instead of just letting things happen this year, work with your husband to decide what the holidays should look like for your family.
Figure out what you really want. What does an ideal Christmas look like to you? What does it look like to your husband? Talk about it openly and honestly, and listen to what he has to say.
Establish your priorities. Make a list of the two or three things that are most important to each of you and use that list as the basis for planning the busy holiday weeks.
Let go of things that don’t fit your priorities. This is where things start to get difficult. You’ll have to let some things go because you can’t do everything (warning: some people won’t like that). This year, focus on the things that will make the season fun, relaxing and memorable.
Plan the activities you really want to do. Choose one or two activities that each family member loves and schedule them now. Put them on your calendar, because that’s the only way to make sure they happen.
2. Give your children the gift of a mother who can relax and enjoy the season. Your children don’t care if everything is perfect; they want the time and attention of a mother who is relaxed and happy.
For example, when our children were very young, I stepped back from the Christmas dinner preparations (even though they were taking place in my kitchen) and let my mom and sisters who didn’t have children do the bulk of the work.
I felt guilty, but I also thought that enjoying our children on Christmas day was more important than spending the entire day in the kitchen.
3. Give your husband the gift of your time and presence. Make plans a couple of times a week to enjoy spending time together.
Do some of the Christmas errands together and turn them into a date, like doing some shopping for the kids and then going out for coffee or dessert. Or do something fun or relaxing that has nothing to do with the season (sometimes you just need a break from it!).
If you can’t get out of the house, put the kids to bed and watch a Christmas movie or another favorite movie. Make time for sex regularly, remembering that sex is about you too, not just your husband, and that it can be exactly the stress reducer you need!
4. Give yourself the gift of “enough.” At some point in the season (long before December 24!) decide that you have done enough, bought enough, planned enough and prepared enough. Trying to check off every last item on your list, or to make everything “perfect,” won’t add to your enjoyment of the season. But it will make you stressed and will probably steal some of your joy.
5. Give your family the gift of outdoor activity. Go outside almost every day as a family and walk, bike, hike, skate, sled, play soccer – whatever makes sense in your part of the country. Few things are better for kids or parents than time spent walking, running, jumping, or riding in the sunshine (or just natural light) and fresh air. And if nothing else, it burns up some of that excess Christmas energy!
6. Give yourself the gift of relaxation. Take time regularly to do something that really relaxes you such as take a long bath, read a book, take a walk, drink a glass of wine, watch a Christmas movie, or meet a friend for a cup of coffee. Don’t let the season become an endless cycle of tasks and chores. Instead, be intentional about taking a little bit of time, every day or almost every day, to relax and unwind.
The Christmas season will always be a hectic and bustling time of year. (And that’s part of what makes it fun.) But it doesn’t have to be overly stressful, and it certainly doesn’t have to be chaotic. This year, to make sure you get plenty of the bustling and little or none of the chaos, decide to give yourself these 6 gifts that will mean more than any gift you can buy in a store.
And if want more practical ideas that will help you make a plan that will allow you to slow down and enjoy your life, marriage, and family this holiday season, check out my holiday planning ebook, Peace. Love. Joy. – 75 Simple Ways to Take Care of Your Health, Happiness, and Marriage this Holiday Season. Use the code FRIEND50 to get it for 50% off the regular price.
Originally published on The MOPS Blog.