Maybe it’s just me but the holidays are stressful, no?! Especially since becoming a parent. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore this time of the year, at least in theory; magic, miracles, the spirit of giving and everyone sitting around a cozy fire, roasting chestnuts. I mean, c’mon, it’s picturesque. Okay, maybe I’ve watched too many corny, low-budget Christmas specials and does anyone actually roast chestnuts? I don’t even know what that would entail. I could probably google it, but then I’ll have lost twenty minutes of my life down the internet-Wikipedia-YouTube rabbit-hole only to learn about something that barely interests me.
I wholeheartedly believe that stress is the theme of the season for me because my idealism about what Christmas is “suppose” to be and my passion for over-the-top grand gestures overrides my sanity, for one, and my need for solitude and simplicity for another. I notoriously take on way too much and all of it is in service of others’ wants, desires and feelings. By the time New Year’s Day rolls around, I’m dead in the water. Exhausted. Irritable. Mildly Depressed. And the worst part is, I’m well aware of these tendencies I have and how it impacts me and yet, I do it anyway. It’s self sabotage.
Maybe if it all felt worth it, that would make it okay?! I dunno. But the holiday imagery I get stuck in my head is never how it goes down. The reality is, the hustle and bustle that is referenced so joyfully in carols only brings about rage, tension and burnout. Of course, there are those surprising, unexpected magic moments that can and do happen, all year round. You know the ones that make you feel all the warm and fuzzies feels and help you to forget all your troubles. And really, don’t we all just want more of these. More happy, cherish-able memories. The thing is, if you’re hustling and bustling to the point of insanity and self-destruction (like I so often do), well…you miss out on the good bits.
So this holiday season, I’m consciously fighting, with every fibre of my being, the incessant urge to hand-craft or painstakingly hunt for every bloody gift I give, spend hours baking glutinous goodies that I can’t eat or obsessing over how to make everyone else’s wishes come true. I mean, I’m no fairy grandmother. I need to do more to make this holiday pleasurable for me. I need to be my own fairy grandmother. Damnit.
Keeping self-care top of mind this Christmas is a big undertaking for me and it will require constant prompting that “good enough is good enough”, especially in terms of the efforts I’m putting out.
Are you with me?! Great!
To help us in getting what we need out of the holidays, I’ve made a list of things (and checked it twice) to help us relax, replenish and fuel up with enough energy to intermittently hustle and bustle (when required). So here it is:
- Book a girls night with your momma friends. They are your allies and you need each other. Don’t isolate yourself (which is what I tend to do when my life gets busy). Schedule something casual, low key that inevitably involves wine and food. It might be the first time you’ve all gotten out in a while so keep it simple. In other words, no one should have to wear a push-up bra, heels or apply lash extenders to take in this evening (unless of course that is what everyone is wanting). I am fully in support of a gathering of women that encourages stretchy pants, unkept eyebrows and day “who knows” of unwashed hair. For me, I crave outings with my girlfriends where we can sit comfortably drinking wine and devouring copious amounts of cheese, chocolate and carbs. Inevitably, we spend the time swapping war stories and then gush about how much we love and appreciate each other (this usually comes shortly after the second glass of wine).
- Stop pinning on Pinterest. Shut it down ASAP (at least until New Year’s). Trust me. Maybe you’re not a peruser of Pinterest, in which case, you’re good, disregard this item. And, may I just say, congratulations for not getting sucked into this world where best intentions go to die and hundreds of pinned projects congregate, never to be looked at again. Crafty folk, such as myself get sucked into the smoke screen that is diy-ing. “But look how simple this little project is!” and “I can whip that together in no time”. [PIN, PIN, PIN, PIN, PIN]. Speaking from experience, whipping anything together is a falsehood. It’s based on this Mary Poppins view of domesticity and homemaking that is nothing short of bullshit entrapment. Every single time I’ve taken on a Pinterest project, it takes triple the amount of time that I think it will, quadruple the amount of money than if I just went out and bought the thing in the first place and rarely do I look back on the result and think “Geese, I’m so glad I did that!” No. Typically, I’m cursing and rage crafting my way to done. So heed this caution and Pinterest at your own risk.
- Schedule a date night/day with your significant other (if you are part of a couple). It doesn’t have to be elaborate or uber romantic, just do something you would enjoy together. Drop the kids off at a sitter (aka grandparents) and take in an afternoon movie, go bowling, take a walk or visit an art gallery. Resist the urge to “shop talk”. I feel like I’ve barely looked at my husband in a week so I know we definitely need this time to connect. And we’re not the only couple that suffers from this. Having children propels your life into chaos, a beautiful, rewarding kind but it’s messy and stressful nonetheless. It’s not always easy to do but when we manage to steal some time alone, we are reminded of why we like each other and this enables us to return to our co-parenting gig with a little more patience and empathy for one another.
- Schedule dates nights/days with yourself. Literally get it on the calendar. It might feel ridiculous to do but we all need this “me time” and it’s so easy to overlook it. Don’t burn yourself thinking you can marathon through the holidays without coming up for air. Have a bath, read a book, drink tea, or slather your skin in lotion. Pamper yourself in whatever ways work for you.
- Preemptively order yourself a Winter Oh Mother Care Kit to support your holiday self-care or as recovery support for January. When you’re a mom, the holidays are bound to be at least a little bit hectic and stressful no matter what you do to buffer that. It’s just the nature of the season. So plan to take care of yourselves as best you can. Be kind, gentle and forgiving of your humanness.
- Say “no” more than you say “yes”. Keep your social calendar sparse. Don’t overcommit yourself to a slew of events. Practice the art of saying “no”, especially to the things that are non-obligatory. It’s incredibly liberating to do so and you will be relieved you did when your plate is overflowing with a thousand little “to-dos” that will inevitably pop up when December 1 hits.
- Keep meals and food prep simple (and if applicable, cooperative). We always like to host and gather friends and family to eat epic amounts of food over the holidays. Obviously, this can become extremely daunting and stressful when you have children. But this is where a good ol’ fashion potluck is your friend. Everyone attending contributes something delicious and perhaps complimentary to a main food item (i.e. roasted turkey, beef, ham, etc). I have a tendency of complicating the hell out of food over the holidays. I somehow believe this is the best time to try out new recipes, and elaborate ones at that. And this is how that goes. Every. Friggin. Time. Neglect to look at instructions. Do not account for sitting/soaking/marinade time. [Insert expletive]. Delay 24 hours. [Insert expletive]. Revisit recipe. [Insert expletive]. Realize do not have necessary kitchen gadget. [Insert expletive]. Delay another 48 hours to go out and buy said gadget. [Insert expletive]. Follow recipe closely. Feeling really positive. Somehow overlooked purchase and/or inclusion of one ingredient. [Insert expletive]. Debate whether to throw it all away and start from scratch. Only have enough ingredients to do once. [Insert expletive]. Hope that it will still turn out okay. Feeling positive. Looks delicious upon first emerging from oven/stove/crockpot. Tastes…okay. Vow to never make again. So, elaborate doesn’t work. The best plan of attack for getting you and your family fed over the holidays is to rely on the tried and true. Don’t waiver on this. Batch cook when you can and try to head into the holidays with some freezer meal stock. Also, plan on take out meals because you know you’ll need a few of those to get you through.
I know it’s a challenge Mommas and there’s certainly no shame in locking yourself in the bathroom with a bag of chipits and a bottle of creme de menthe. No judgement here. We all get by in our own ways and you gotta do what works. Sure, it’ll pass and weirdly, you will be sad when it’s over. But please know that you can be selfish and make the holidays a little bit about you. It’s a matter of survival.