I love the idea of the holiday season.  Home decor, yummy food, family and friends. But come mid-December and I am a straight up Scrooge, y’all.

I try to keep the reason for the season in my mind and all that, but the hustle and hurry and stress of all the commitments we have bears down on me right about the middle of the month, and I have a harder time enjoying the things I was looking forward to.  Between working full-time, being pregnant and eternally exhausted, and being the ringleader of our household’s holiday plans, it all loses its luster and becomes more of a hassle than a joy.

Over the last few years since I have learned to juggle being a mommy, wife, and full-time nurse, I have come across some tips that have helped me stay slightly more sane and able to enjoy the holiday season with less stress.

  1. Plan ahead:  Between mine and my husband’s families, we have 4 Christmas gatherings, and approximately 18 (legitimately–this is not an exaggeration) kids to buy for.  Needless to say, my planning starts far before the holiday season.  I start texting family members on November 1 every year to determine when and where our holiday get-togethers will be, because there are only so many weekends in December, and they fill up fast for us.  (I’ll also note that I used to text before Halloween, but my cousin forbade me from asking Christmas-related questions until November 1).  I need to be prepared and have a schedule of where we are supposed to be and when.  Planning ahead is essential in this.
  2. Buy Smart:  We are definitely not the family members who win prizes for the best and most exciting kid gifts each year, and I am okay with that.  In the realm of gifts, ours lean more on the practical side, which has become more appreciated by parents than kids (think PJs, hats, gloves, clothes versus toys).  Since we have such a large group to buy for, I never go with the easy option of gift cards.  Sorry kids, no free money here.  Mama is a discount shopper and there is no way I’m spending what you think I spent on that gift.  I search sales, apps, websites, and social media for the best deals on the gifts we give.  Starting early and shopping smart allows us to give good quality gifts that kids and adults like, while also sticking to our budget. I’ll also note here that this is why my husband has very little part in Christmas shopping.  He is a “run in and grab it and get out” kind of guy and that means he is never looking for a good sale or coupon.  He’s pretty good at carrying things to the car and transporting gifts from one family gathering to another, so I keep him around.
  3. Throw in some self care:  One thing I do for myself year round, but especially appreciate during the busiest seasons is hire a housekeeper.  She comes every two weeks and cleans the bathrooms and baseboards and blinds that I hate and I worship the ground she walks on.  Seriously, we will eat Ramen and go without toilet paper in order to keep her around.  Obviously this isn’t doable for everyone, but if there is something feasible that you can incorporate to take the stress and anxiety off of your plate, DO IT.  Even if it’s grabbing a coffee while you’re out shopping for the 4000 kids in your family that you only see once a year, DO IT.  Even little things can make the busyness of the season a little easier to bear.
  4. Ditch the Elf:  I did get some flack last year for my blog expressing my pure dislike for the Elf on the Shelf, and now that I have a child who is old enough and understands the holiday and fully believes that a huge white-bearded man is going to somehow get into our house in the middle of the night, I 100 percent stand behind my decision.  Who needs one more thing to do every night before bed, especially if it involves “Cookie” or “Unicorn Glitter” having to be set up to fish marshmallows out of the toilet? Nope.  I won’t budge on this one, and my to-do list is the better for it.  It’s creepy enough that a jolly, fat old man is going to bust through our front door Kool-Aid-Man style.  I’m not making up reasons why a stuffed elf is sipping syrup through a straw on the kitchen counter too.
  5. Remember you don’t have to do it all:  School parties, work parties, family parties and the like always put a little pressure on me to be the best or bring the best or do the most.  But guess what?  If I bring that bowl of fruit salad instead of the Santa hat banana and grape skewers, guess who is going to care? NOBODY.  If the cookies I signed up for on the school party list come with the safety seal still on them, guess who cares? NOBODY.  The holidays can sometimes feel like survival of the fittest and guess who survives?  The mom who doesn’t have a mental breakdown trying to make reindeer fudge brownies the night before the school party.  Do what you can and what you enjoy in preparation for your holiday events, and let convenience do the rest.  (For the record, I always sign up for drinks for the parties–2 boxes of juice pouches? Check!)

So take it easy on yourself this season, Mama.

Enjoy the Christmas morning faces of your kids, big and small.  Spend time with them and laugh and play games or watch movies or whatever feels the best to you, but don’t stress over the small stuff.  Remember that not all families are able to be together during the holidays and don’t take the time you have for granted.  Eat the second piece of pie and bring the vodka if you need it.  Tis the season!