On the heels of my pursuit of peace post, I thought today I’d chat a little more about that and how HARD it is to just, well, chill out. I’m a bit of a ‘wound up’ person, I’ll readily admit it. Let’s just say there’s a reason my family lovingly refers to me as Scrat (Ice Age anyone?) Sitting around and doing nothing legitimately stresses me out, but if the holidays bring anything they bring times of extended sitting and visiting with family and friends. Which is a beautiful thing, but for me personally it’s hard. Like, WAY hard. My mind and body were always ‘on the go’ before kids, it’s just my personality, and now that I’m a mom I’ve gotten even worse. I come by it honestly, my mom is the same way. I used to (and still do) tease her that she is allergic to sitting still.
I think our culture really contributes to this mindset of having to always be doing something. I mean, being busy is the norm. If you’re not busy, you just must be doing something wrong, right?! And life is busy, especially with kids. That’s just the way it is. But, at least for me, I feel guilty if I’m not accomplishing something almost constantly. Sitting with coffee? Well I could/would/should be folding laundry/picking up toys/cleaning something at the same time. Babes sleeping on my lap?! Time to crunch work emails! I mean, there is always, ALWAYS something to get done and heaven forbid I stare out the window for five minutes while I drink my coffee. The only time I don’t feel pressured to be doing something is when I’m sleeping (which as you mamas know, with little ones, sleep isn’t exactly something that’s overflowing in my life at the current moment).
Many other cultures emphasize the importance of those moments of nothing, accept them and even celebrate them. And I think that is SO beautiful, and I wish our own culture was like that. So, while I cannot single handedly change our entire culture, I can start to work on my own mindset. Thus, in addition to my pursuit of finding peaceful moments, I’m going to actively work on fighting the guilt and stress that inevitably comes along with those peaceful moments of doing ‘nothing’. As parents, we aren’t exactly overflowing with opportunities for ‘relax’ practice anyway, so the holidays feel like a good time to start. Who’s with me?!
On the heels of my Ten Reasons I’m Dreading the Holidays post, I thought it only fitting that I also write a positive list of ten things I try and do to not only survive the holidays but actually take pause and ENJOY them. It’s SOOO easy to get caught up rushing from one thing to the next and before you know it the lights and tree are coming down and you never got your snowy walk with hot chocolate or sitting for five minutes by the tree. I find the end of the holidays sad enough without having to feel like I missed out on the few little things I really wanted to do. I hope some of these help you, and please comment and share tips you find helpful to not only surviving but enjoying the holidays!
- Prioritize prioritize prioritize! It helps me to actually write down a list of things that are important to me, even the silly things. I love to sit with a glass of wine by the tree, and it’s shocking how easily it is for that to not happen. So take a minute to think about what is important to YOU and write it down. Then make a point to let some of the other things go so that you can make the important things happen. It doesn’t matter what it is, taking a walk, getting coffee, going to see holiday lights, petting the cat, what matters is it’s what YOU and your family want to do.
- Let go of the perfection expectation. I know it sounds like a cliche but this one is a biggie and ties into prioritizing. It’s also sooooo hard for me! I want the house to be perfect, the meals made, to be on time to every event. I hate being late, and when it matters I’ll make being on time happen. But, having baby twins taught me a lesson in humility. I cannot control everything, try as I might. I’m admittedly a control freak, so being a mom has really taught me that I have to let go sometimes. Sometimes we can’t leave the house until I’ve changed diapers AGAIN, or maybe they’re sleeping in today, or despite pinning every single easy cinnamon roll recipe known to mankind and buying ingredients far in advance, we eat leftovers for breakfast. But it’s ok, because while I might not have succeeded in making a holiday breakfast, my husband and I did sit and play with the babies while having coffee together, and we chose that as our priority.
- Say. No. This one is without fail my Achilles heel, and has always been a battle for me, even before babies. I so want to be able to do everything, see everyone, make everyone happy and just be Superwoman in general. But again, lessons I’ve learned through motherhood also include the realization that I cannot be everywhere and do everything, and now when I try I’m not the only one who pays the price. My babies pay the price as well, they get worn out and stressed and when I’m worn out and stressed too, it’s a recipe for anything but happy holiday memories. And saying no can be especially hard if you have people who might not understand why you can’t do it all. Even those who have children can forget what it’s like to have super little ones. It’s just harder with kiddos! Trust me you’re not doing anything wrong, it’s just HARDER. So remember you’re not letting anyone down by saying no to things. You don’t have to say no to everything, but don’t feel bad when you choose to decline.
- Take breaks at events! This is easy for me right now since I’m breastfeeding my babies, it’s an excellent excuse to go hide in the guest room and let all three of us reset for a few minutes. No matter how much you love your group, that many people can be exhausting especially on little ones. (If you watched my last video post I talk a little bit about frazzled kids, click here if you haven’t watched it yet). Oh and lock the door when you do, just trust me on that one. If you’re not nursing, and don’t need to do a diaper change but still need to step away for a moment, don’t be afraid to do so. And honestly you don’t owe anyone an explanation, but feel free to say whatever it is that helps you feel ok to walk away a moment and no you don’t need to take Auntie Nosy with you unless you really want to. It’s ok to take a moment! Hide in the bathroom if necessary!
- Remember you and your spouse are a team. I think this one is SUPER important. I don’t know about you all, but holidays always seem to turn into a competition among family members of who spent more time with who. First of all, my husband and I decided that especially since we have kids now, we have to put our little family first. No more running around to seven different houses in one day. That stunk before kids! We also realized how easy it is to take out frustration on each other. Vehement accusations of ‘Your mom said’ and ‘your sister did’ help NO ONE. We decided on a ‘safe word’, (no not something bondage related!) but something we can say to each other to pour water on the fire and lighten the mood when things get heated. Sometimes in marriage you do have to remind yourselves that yes, you do still like each other and are both on the same team. Not every moment will be glamorous and full of happy feels, but it’s really important to remember you’re not mortal sworn enemies and that the person who currently seems to be infuriating you is still the one you fell in love with. Honey does go further than vinegar, especially for resolving spousal disputes.
- Remember it really is about the memories not the gifts. I know it sounds cheesy, but this is especially true for us right now. My husband is headed to medical school, we have one year old twins, we are currently living with my parents, suffice to say we aren’t packing the cash right now. I’d love to shower our families with gifts but it’s just not feasible at this time. And while I’d also love to make everyone cute jars of cookie mix or soup, I also quite literally don’t have the time. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. When my husband and I first started dating in college, we decided we wouldn’t do gifts, we would do something together instead. It works GREAT for us. That might not be the solution for you, and that’s of course ok, but for us it’s been huge. We go on a coffee date together or take a walk instead of frantically trying to find a Christmas or birthday gift. Since family members don’t always get that, we’ve had to (lovingly!) explain we do not want to participate in gift exchanges. Just because they can and we can’t doesn’t mean they’d understand that, or understand that while we want to, we just can’t right now. So we make memories for gifts. Now I’m not saying you cannot ever do gifts! Just try to remember that’s really not what it’s all about and take the pressure off yourself.
- Breathe. Seriously though. Try to pause and literally tell yourself to take a breath. For me sometimes that five seconds of stopping and purposefully breathing while possibly staring at the snow can make or break my survival of an afternoon.
- Don’t eat what you don’t want to. I love food. My husband loves food. We are hardcore foodies in every sense of the word. But we also are pretty diligent about what we eat and what our children eat. Now I’m not suggesting you put yourself under a strict law of never eating something you don’t normally, but don’t eat that gluten filled cake even though you know you’ll be sick later because you’re afraid of hurting Grandma’s feelings. I’m glutenfree, and every year without fail people ask me in shock, ‘you’re STILL gluten free?!’ Yes, indeed I am, and still stomach ache free too. It took me forever to not feel bad about not eating things people thought I should because I was afraid of causing offense. But put bluntly, if someone is making you feel bad because you don’t want to get sick, THEY are the ones causing offense! I’m not suggesting you ask everyone to accommodate your dietary choices, but don’t expect yourself to accommodate theirs either.
- Leave the event when you need to. Go home! Just because the party is five hours long and your kids are done after two doesn’t make you a bad person.
- This is pretty much a reiteration of the above suggestions. Basically, decide what is best for you and your family and stick to that decision. Don’t feel bad about it, or let anyone else make you feel bad. For example, if you decide that staying home and watching Pooh Bears Christmas is better for your family than going caroling tonight, that’s ok. Again, it doesn’t make you a heartless Cretan. It makes you wise, and prevents you from resenting whoever it is that wanted you to go. Alternatively, if you decide to go caroling make sure you’re doing it because you really want to, not out of guilt, and know that while it might be cold your kids will be ok. Bundle them up and sing loud!
Alright mamas, I want to hear from you. What do you do to help yourselves enjoy the holidays and stay sane?