As I look at my calendar for the remainder of the year, I see nearly every weekend is filled. From Saturdays spent cheering from the stands while my husband coaches to weddings to birthday parties, fall and winter are busy before they happen — and a full schedule of activities seems to be the norm for everyone these days.
And let’s not forget that amidst sports schedules, dance classes, and work events, there are a number of holidays that occur between now and the end of December. Add Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, to name a few, and the gaps of white space you may once have seen on your planner slowly start to disappear. Each celebration comes with the opportunity for parties, gifts and a loss of sanity. That shouldn’t be the case, but when we forget to take a step back and enjoy the moment, it is easy to slip into the chaos.
If you are like me — a mom, trying to navigate the holiday season while maintaining a sense of normalcy — you need to be reminded every now and then of what’s truly important: the gift of time. Time with the people we love. Time to capture the sparkle in your child’s eye when they unwrap that gift they’ve been hoping for. Time to laugh and celebrate and ignore the dishes for a little while longer.
I asked the amazing MKE Moms Blog contributors, as well as some of my dearest friends, for their tips and tricks for an enjoyable holiday season. Their advice?
- There will inevitably be a dinner party or an unexpected visitor that calls for a small gift. Plan ahead, and you’ll save yourself time and stress: “Last year I found my “favorite thing” (it was under $5) and bought 40 of them online. I also bought 40 cheap gift bags & tissue paper. When the box arrived, I threw the items in their gift bags and stored the wrapped items in our front room. A sweet and simple Christmas/hostess gifts done and taken care of.” – Meg
- If you’re sending holidays cards, try to accomplish this task before the season begins: “I get my holiday cards ordered and in hand by Thanksgiving. Then I try to do a few a night (if I’m handwriting addresses or adding extra notes). The majority get printed labels to keep things simple!” – Jaclynn
- Accountability can help stir those of us (me) who put things off until the last minute: “Have a present-wrapping day/night with other moms. Not only will you get to enjoy great conversation and stories, but it’s much easier to check this off your list when you have a group of people trying to accomplish the same thing.” – Lisa K.
Streamline and Set Boundaries
- When it comes to gift-giving, a large list of people to buy for can be overwhelming. Try to find an alternative approach: “Create a gift exchange with family members or friends instead of buying one present per person.” – Aliya
“This year I am creating a handmade gift and giving one set to each family. It’s really the thought that counts.” – Mandy
- Instead of a full meal, opt for smaller dishes: “For our gatherings, we just do appetizers (everyone brings one or two). It is less stressful for whomever is hosting – and if you have a picky child, there’s likely something they will eat. It also means you’ll all get to spend more time hanging out.” – Kari
- Do what works for your family, in the stage of life you’re in: “We have created our own Christmas. We do Christmas Eve at our house and basically spend all day in our pajamas and let the kids leisurely open gifts and play with them as they open them. We take breaks to eat and drink and be merry. But we spend the whole day engaged as a family, playing and celebrating together. It is so nice to just BE HOME.” – Heather
- Share your expectations with the people who are part of your celebrations: “Be clear about plans. We communicate about number of gifts, times for meals, etc. ahead of time. This allows us to have any disagreements before the holiday. Then we can just enjoy the day.” – Abby
- Everyone agreed that it’s ok to say “no.” Set limits and schedule the things that are important to you and your family.
Fill your bucket
- Family is important – and so are friends! “Spend time with your girlfriends. They can help bring levity to every stressful situation, especially the holidays.” – Molly
- Seeing the holidays through your child’s eyes can bring so much joy. Find time to create a new holiday tradition: “This is your family, so incorporate some of your own childhood traditions, but allow your kids to create their own traditions as well.” – Kristin
- Find something to be grateful for each day, and spend time in prayer or quiet reflection. It’s good for your mind and soul – and your health!