As a mother of a large family, I know a thing or two about holiday burnout. Let’s be honest, between the Christmas music recitals and cookie exchanges, the handmade gifts and ward Christmas activities, most moms feel the pressure of the upcoming holiday season on or about the day after Thanksgiving (if not sooner). Here are few tips to ward off the holiday stress and increase the Christmas joy:
Less is More
I always find that kids get overwhelmed with lots of gifts or lots of activities and the items or events lose their significance. In our family, things have always gone much more smoothly when we limit both the presents under the tree and the Christmas get-togethers we choose to attend during the holiday season. In fact, several years ago a friend shared with me the tradition of giving each person three gifts to represent the three gifts the Savior received. In our family, everyone receives “something they want,” “something they need,” and “something to read.” While this is practically a requirement in my family with 8 children, it would work just as well in a family of three children, reducing entitlement and encouraging appreciation for the gifts.
Experiences over Items
Along the vein of simplifying, choosing to gift experiences rather than tangible items can help moms feel less overwhelmed at Christmastime. Going skiing will not accumulate more clutter in the toy room. Taking a train ride is a memory that young children will hold on to for years. Visiting out-of-state family and reducing the amount of gifts to allow for this type of trip shows children the importance of relationships over things.
Pick and Choose
Experiences make amazing memories and during Christmastime there are plenty of events to fill the calendar. Nutcracker performances, light shows, concerts, cookie exchanges, white elephant gift parties, and potlucks can literally take up all 25 days before Christmas. But moms will hardly find time to take a deep breath and enjoy the season if they are toting kids here, there, and every where in order to comply with every family member’s particular Christmas-event schedule. A better way to approach the crazy December calendar is to sit down as a family and decide which events are a priority and which might be postponed until next year, or eliminated all together, in order to make time for a simple family game night, popcorn and a movie at home, or hot cocoa by the fireplace.
Music, Music, and More Music
Whenever I am feeling the Christmas frenzy settle upon me, I tend to use music as an automatic way to relax and stay focused on the true meaning of the season. Try Pandora’s Tabernacle Choir Holiday channel or even just a Christmas Classics playlist. Whether soothing or upbeat, holiday music will put you in a better mood almost instantly. It’s a great background if you are sitting down to wrap 52 presents or if you have to spend the day baking 200 sugar cookies for the ward Christmas party. Here’s one of my very favorite songs found on Latter-day Saint artist Paul Cardall’s new Christmas album.
Don’t Try to Keep Up with the Joneses
With social media at our fingertips, it’s very easy to compare the way we celebrate the holidays with the way our neighbors are. And seeing their awesome light display, their family outings, their amazing Christmas traditions and their shopping sprees might make us feel pressured to do the same. But that’s the beauty of family traditions. You get to create your own and they are yours alone. Your family might do things a little differently, you might simplify Christmas more than Fanny Facebook or Isabelle Instagram. And that’s okay. Burnout is going to be just around the corner if you are constantly trying to keep up with everyone else’s family.
I’m going to tell you a little secret: the very. best. way. to keep from getting holiday mom burnout is to SERVE OTHERS. I know. It sounds counterintuitive. But it works. Really. Whether you follow the calendar published on the church website, or you simply pray each day that you will be able to serve your fellow man, being more Christlike at Christmastime is the real key to surviving the holiday season. And rather than burning out your candle (on both ends, as many moms tend to do) your flame will become brighter, because it will be connected to the reason for the season, the “life and the light of the world,” the Savior Himself.
Comment below with your techniques for fending off holiday burnout and a very merry Christmas from all of us at Third Hour!