We all have a lot going on, and the pressure to make the holidays merry and bright for everyone can become overwhelming to mothers very quickly. In 8 years of marriage, I have had 4 children, and lived in 10 different houses. Yes, that said 10. In fact, we just moved again 2 weeks ago. I have learned first hand how to pull off the holidays without melting down, even during transitional times. There are ways to do this while keeping your whole family happy, and still giving kids memories to last a life-time.
Last week, I wrote about 10 easy Advent traditions that involve little to no prep work. Today, I’m writing a post about simple Christmas survival for mothers, and I’m going to share all my secrets with you.
What is the key to surviving holiday burn-out? Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
There’s always a hundred things going on, but if you can’t handle bringing cookies for your kid’s program, don’t volunteer. I know, I know, the guilt of not volunteering. It’s in my personality to sign up for everything. But sometimes, the answer just has to be “no”. Because sometimes saying “no” is actually saying “yes” to our bigger responsibilities. Yes to having the energy to be a good wife and mother. Yes to having time to do my own dishes. Yes to having time to get enough sleep. Mostly yes to having enough evergy at the end of the day to to be patient and loving to my family. These things are more important than having a house covered in Christmas lights, sewing matching outfits for all 8 of your kids to attend Christmas Mass in, or making 6 different flavors of Christmas fudge.
So, where can we say “no” and still achieve a holly jolly Christmas? Here are some of my stress-free secrets.
- It doesn’t all have to be done before Christmas day. There are 12 days of Christmas- TWELVE! We keep celebrating for all of them. I use this time to do the fun-but-not-necessary things such as building gingerbread houses, making Christmas crafts, etc. Make yourself a bare bones list of what actually has to happen before Christmas day. For our family, these things are preparing for Christmas dinner, getting the tree up, going to confession, and getting the presents bought and wrapped. I’m not going to let these things fall through the cracks, but it’s actually nice and relaxing to do the “extras” after the big day during the Christmas season.
- Buy your presents online. I ordered all of my presents this year, and they came straight to my door. I don’t have to hide them because they’re already in boxes. No shopping with kids and trying to hide things under coats in the cart. No standing in line. No going from store to store looking for something particular. Shopping online rocks! I personally love shopping on amazon, but to each his own.
- Decorate the Living room only. Yes, it’s awesome to have all your halls totally decked out. Some years I have the energy for tons of decorating, but other years I don’t. You don’t have to put everything out every year. Just decorated the tree, put out at least 1 nativity set, and the rest of it will still be in your boxes for next year.
- Pare down on the light display. It is a lot of work to string up outside lights. It involved ladders, staple guns, light bulb checking, and those co-pays for the ER visits are a real bummer. However, you don’t want to look like the neighborhood grinch with a heart that’s 2 sizes too small. We have some light up wreaths that hang on the inside of the windows. They’re super simple to hang, and plug in inside the house. It takes about 5 minutes to hang them as opposed to an entire afternoon. Even if this is too simple for you, consider some easy bush nets, or other “free standing” yard displays that are easier to put up. When in doubt, skip the outside lights all together and just make sure your tree is in front of a window that shows from the road.
- Slice and bake cookies. I just lost a bunch of you, didn’t I? Seriously! There are years that I make homemede saffron buns with yeast and everything, and then there are other years. Years like these. Years where I buy the already-made sugar cookie dough in the tubes. If your’e feeling particulary energetic, you can roll them out and let your kids cut them with cookie cutters rather than just slicing them. Go ahead and invest in some religious cookie cutter shapes and ditch your snowmen and penguin cutters. You only have a limited amount of energy, and you’re going to squeeze in the true meaning of Christmas everywhere you can. Skip the messy colored frosting and opt to decorate the lazy man’s way- with colored sugar. Serve on a paper plate.
- Stress-free Christmas dinner. I may loose even more of you here than I did at the slice and bake cookies. lol. Here’s my confession. Soemtimes when I’m particulary overwhelmed, I make a very very simple holiday dinner. I’m trying to help you guys out, so don’t judge. Here’s the list for Lacy’s easy holiday dinner: Turkey, boxed stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, instant gravy, can of cranberry sauce, beverage of choice (our family likes punch), and a 1 “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake that you’re welcome to make from a cake mix in a bread machine. And yes, I have made almost this exact meal for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter in the past, usually around times of moving or new babies. If I want to step it up I make the mashed potatoes from scratch and add a green bean casterole.
- Ditch the homemade presents, or find a way to main-stream them. Yes, homemade gifts are from the heart, but you need to be honest with yourself as to what’s a reasonable amount to accomplish during this time. In stressful times, I fall back on ordering ornament kits from Oriental trading. Have the kids make a bunch of them, wrap ‘em up, and voila! You don’t have to cut anyone from the “present” list. On super-duper crazy years, I’ve been known to make cuts from the present list. I try my best not to cut my own children or husband from the list. But on a really bad year, my friends are lucky to get a shout out on my blog as their Christmas present. Hi, ya’ll! There. Now I’m done.
- Simplify, simplify, simplify. Sometimes you have to let go of some of your grand Christmas plans. Last year I wanted to make hand-made stockings for my whole family with figures from the nativity embroidered on each one. Great idea, but again, I’m only 1 person. In the end, I bought stockings from the Dollar tree, and wrote our names on them with fabric paint. I find that my husband and children don’t mind when I cut these kinds of corners. I don’t think anyone enjoyed our Christmas stockings any less. In fact, we usually just hang actual socks. (And you wonder why I’ve never posted a picture of my Christmas mantle on here…)
- Remember that kids are easily impressed! This goes along with the “simplify” thing. Kids are going to be just as happy with hot chocolate straight from the microwave as they are with a fancy hot chocolate bar from pinterest with marshmallows in the shape of snowmen.
At the end of the day, we all know what the Advent season is about- preparing for our Savior, Jesus Christ. So don’t forget what’s important. Slow down, take the time to pray, take the time to love, take the time to enjoy your family, and remember that you are not Martha Stewart. After all, Martha, you are worried about way too many things.
PS. As my husband was watching me type up this post over my shoulder, he told me that “do less” is not a tip. lol. I hope you guys think he’s wrong. Sometimes, us mommies just need to hear it, don’t we? I absolutely loved the chance to share some of my less-than-magazine-worthy-photos of my family with you today. Please share your tips on surviving the holidays without stress in the comments. I would love to hear them!Pin It