Passionate About the Community
and the Moms Who Live Here

5 Tips for Navigating the Holidays

I remember Christmas as a little girl. I’d wake up bright and early, tap my brother on the shoulder, and we’d sneak out to the living room to marvel at the bounty Santa left for us. We would wake our parents and get down to the serious business of opening gifts and playing with toys. We’d spend the day riding our new bikes around the neighborhood and eating turkey and dressing and pie. As teens, we’d even nap. My mother’s parents spent every Christmas with us. My father’s had passed. Some years we spent with aunts, uncles and cousins. They were carefree, glorious times, nothing short of magical.

The holidays have changed a bit since then. Fast forward 20-30 years, now I am a wife and mother. It’s my job to create the magic for my children that I enjoyed as a young girl. It turns out that there was A LOT of behind the scenes activity going on. Wow. I had no idea about the amount of gift planning, shopping and wrapping, food preparation, decorating, and thoughtful activities that my parents put into making the holidays so special for us. I’ve had some pretty stressful Christmases since I’ve become a mom. I’ve been up past midnight putting toys together rather than relaxing on the couch with my hubbie and a glass of our favorite Pinot Noir. I’ve spent entire days in the kitchen preparing the delicious meal that I always took for granted. I’ve upset and offended all of our extended family by not being fair enough with our time. Christmas has changed and as with most things in life, it’s all about being prepared and managing expectations. Enjoying these precious times with my family is very important to me and if I’m prepared, I get to see some of these magic moments. Here are the biggest sources of stress that I face every year and a few helpful tips.

5 Tips forNavigating the Holidays-2.png

  1. Budgeting– I love giving gifts and shopping so I can really get carried away.
    • Tip –  Every year, we make a list of all the people that we are going to give presents to. We set a budget for each one and try to stick to it. A couple of our families (we have three sets of parents/grandparents) do secret Santa, this relieves a lot of financial strain and general stress. I highly recommenced this strategy for larger families. It also allows you to give and receive a nicer gift. Making a list also ensures that everyone gets treated fairly.
  2. Present equality– Children must have the same number of gifts or it means you love one of them more than the other.
    • Tip – I have three kids, ages 1-6 years old. The older one’s don’t care how nice their gifts are, but they do care that they get the same number. I truly believe that Christmas is not about the gifts, but I’m in my thirties and I’d like to think that I’ve matured a little in the last thirty years. I hope to instill the magic of Christmas in them eventually, but for now, fairness is their language.
  3. Christmas Eve present prep-All the toy assembly, gift wrapping and stocking stuffing, you could be up until the next morning finishing these tasks.
    • Tip – Listen closely here folks, this is sage wisdom coming right at ya . . . wrap your gifts before Christmas Eve. Like Nike says, “JUST DO IT.” On Tuesday when you are sitting on the couch watching The Bachelorette or whatever guilty pleasure you allow yourself when the kitchen is clean (enough) and the laundry is done (well, some of it), bring out the wrapping paper, scissors and tape and get it done. Seriously, wouldn’t you rather be relaxing on Christmas Eve? I’ve found it helpful to keep all my materials in one place and/or set up a temporary gift wrapping station (that fancy dining room table that never gets used?) so that I don’t have to go looking for the materials every time I need them. Same goes for assembling toys – assemble them and put them in the attic, in the darkest corners of the garage or even take them to work – just get them ready so that all you have to do is pull them out on Christmas Eve.
  4. Food Prep – I had no idea that my poor mother used to spend the entire day (after the thirty minutes of whirlwind present opening) in the kitchen. Seriously folks, ALL DAY IN THE KITCHEN. That amazing food, someone has to plan, shop, prep, cook and clean it up. Considering the scrumptious dishes that are traditionally served at Christmas dinner, this is no joke.
    • Tip – We have made some pretty drastic changes in this department. I could bore you with the details of my first Christmases as a new mom, but chances are you’ve been there, you’ve cried your own tears and disappointed your own families. Here is my Christmas Eve and Day plan:
      1. Christmas Eve Dinner – I make and freeze a casserole early in December. I thaw it and pop it into the oven on Christmas Eve. If I have time, I might throw together a salad or toast some bread. Before bed, I prep a crock pot breakfast casserole and put it in the fridge. Here is one that my family likes.
      2. Christmas Breakfast – I usually wake up an hour early to pour the casserole into the crock pot and then tiptoe back to bed. I will usually bake some store bought biscuits too.
      3. Christmas Dinner – We no longer cook a big meal for Christmas dinner. I want to enjoy my kids, not my kitchen. We decided on Beaufort Stew because it’s delicious and easy. Chop a couple potatoes, ears of corn, kielbasa, toss in a few shrimp and some Old Bay and voila, delicious. I also pre-make a Key Lime Buttermilk Icebox Pie for Christmas desert.
  5.  Sharing our time equally – As a child, I spent every Christmas at my parents house. Easy peasy. All the people I loved were there. Now, throw in a husband who has his own family, mix in the family we have made together and things start to get messy.
    • Tip – We are lucky to have three sets of parents/grandparents that live in town or within driving distance. How to share our time with each of them is the biggest struggle for us every year. Even when we think we have been fair, someone is inevitably disappointed and many years, it has been us. Here are the questions we ask ourselves every year:
      1. Who are we spending Thanksgiving with? Does it make sense to see two families that day? Usually we rotate and spend one year with my family and the next year with his family. My husband has two families so this can get complicated.
      2. Who are we spending Christmas Eve with? We usually spend this time with just the five of us. 
      3. How are we organizing our Christmas Day? We try to get family time in the morning and then see at least two sets of grandparents during the day, in our house. We try not to have too much overlapping time so that everyone gets some one-on-one time with the grand kids. That’s a lot to consider, hence all the planning!
      4. Do we feel like we are being as fair as possible to all families involved, including the five of us?

We all have our own set of concerns during the holidays. Make a list of yours and work through them. It helps me to anticipate as much as I can and plan for it. After that, I do my best to adapt to new things as they come up and to let the rest go. It is important to me to pass along to my children the same magic of Christmas that I was lucky enough to enjoy. Being prepared enables me to do that.

Good luck finding your magic this season!

, , , , , ,

Comments are closed.