If your family is anything like mine, then perhaps you find yourself feeling overwhelmed when it comes to the holidays. In addition to having FOUR Christmases (which is perhaps 2 more than anybody needs), we are invited to office parties, friends’ parties, holiday shows, and seasonal events. And it starts earlier and earlier each year! The “most wonderful time of the year” can quickly become the most stressful time of the year, if I am not careful. Add in the fact that we're moms of multiples, and the holidays can get downright chaotic! I have had the privilege of learning some great holiday tips and traditions from others, and from experience, and would love to share them with you all.
Because we have four Christmases, and always travel in December, my family has decided to never travel for Thanksgiving. We will always be home on that Thursday in November, because we realized we need a holiday for ourselves. This is our opportunity to make our own traditions, do our own thing, and not be on the road on one of the busiest travel dates of the year. So come Thanksgiving day, you will always find my family at our home, with the juiciest smoked turkey, all the fixin’s, and the game on TV. We decided we will always invite our families to join us, because the purpose of staying home for this holiday is not to exclude anyone, but rather to have family time in a stress-free environment that allows us to really enjoy the holiday and each other’s company.
After Thanksgiving, December is upon us. This seems to be the busiest time of the year. I have found that I must do some prep work if I want to also make it the happiest time of the year. When I say prep work, I don’t mean a to-do list a mile long, or a shopping list for gifts that includes everyone I’ve ever met. I mean TWO simple lists: (1) what NOT to do, and (2) my priorities.
First, when deciding what NOT to do, I like to use this simple test: Does it bring me joy or does it cause me stress? Here's what I know about myself: I will NOT send out Christmas cards. It’s just something that I find very stressful (what if I forgot someone, what if I don’t send them out in time, etc.), and have decided not to do. I also will NOT buy too many gifts for my kids (even though I really want to give them everything!!). I have adopted a really cool idea I heard about - to intentionally give your kids four gifts: (1) something they want, (2) something they need, (3) something to wear, and (4) something to read. This gives me a clear list of four different things I can gift my children with, and keeps me from going overboard with the toys (because, let’s be honest - we already spend enough time cleaning up the toys they have now but hardly play with).
Secondly, when it comes to setting holiday priorities, here’s what I’ve accumulated over the years:
Feel great about saying, “No.” When adding something to the holiday schedule, I try to ask myself if it will add stress OR if it will add joy. If it doesn’t bring us joy, I feel good turning it down. There simply isn’t enough time to do ALL the things. I must choose what’s best for our family.
Make FUN memories by doing something out of the ordinary. We like to "put the kids to bed" early one night, only to go right back in and surprise them with hot chocolate and a family car ride to go look at Christmas lights. Other ideas include: having a special treat for breakfast, chasing the kids all over the playground, playing whatever game they ask to play, and putting my phone away for the entire day.
Be of good cheer. Playing festive music and singing along can do wonders for bad attitudes. Impromptu dance parties also provide a great mood-boosting break. I also love to turn on a cheery Christmas movie and grab a bowl of popcorn to enjoy with the family. Whatever it is, make time to keep your spirits bright.
Do something for myself. I need time to breathe and relax, and some of my favorite ideas to choose from include: taking a walk around the neighborhood, enjoying a chapter of a good book, soaking in a hot bath, sipping on a mug of coffee or tea, taking a nap, or making time to hit the gym. Investing in yourself is important, because you cannot give of yourself when you are empty. You must first be full!
Enjoy time spent with family and friends. This season is all about thankfulness and joy, and some of my greatest blessings are my husband, children, family, and friends. Get rid of the distractions and simply enjoy the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.
Have high hopes and low expectations. I try to hope for the best and be optimistic, yet at the same time be understanding when things don't go to plan. If I spend all my time planning for the holidays, I find I am very easily disappointed when any little thing goes wrong - and something almost always goes wrong! Instead of stressing over the schedule, I try to enjoy the preparations. I particularly like to make a family fun night out of decorating the tree and baking cookies.
Beware comparison. If I start to lose focus on what really matters to me, or start looking around at what everyone else is doing, that’s when I start to stress. Am I doing enough? Can I rearrange my schedule to attend that event? Everyone else has taken all their decorations down already... Are they going to think I'm rude if I don't send them a Christmas card? If you start to compare, remember your priorities!
I've shared my list with you. I know it may not be the same as yours (remember, no comparing!), because my priorities are what I am choosing to pursue. Whatever your choices, feel good about your decisions this holiday season. Don’t let the fear of missing out steal your joy!
Please comment below and share your favorite tips for a stress-free holiday season.
Author: Ashley Hughes is a twin mom to 4 year olds, James and Timothy. She is a wife, baker, artist, and the President of Fort Worth Mothers of Multiples.