Christmas is this Saturday. December has been flying by. I celebrated Chanukah with my family and moved on to finishing buying Christmas gifts. My friend said she thought I was done after Chanukah. That’s funny. What about friends, teachers, principals, neighbors? Today I bought gifts for people at the elementary school and middle school where my children go to school. My children are in three schools this year. My oldest started high school and he didn’t ask to bring any gifts to his teachers. I should probably discuss this with him after school. Anyway, I am still buying gifts. As my friends text me that they are finished, I giggle and keep buying gifts. I’ll be done soon. I can’t tell you how many times I have said that line. I think that is one of my ways of coping.

I don’t ever want to discount all that fathers do when I write topics like these. My husband Seth has a lot on his plate too. I just sat him down last night to go over all the staff he needs to give gifts to. I wrote all his cards and got him all organized. That is important to me too. His team is important, and I want them to feel appreciated by both of us. I want to make sure it’s all done and yes, I can be way too controlling. I know this and this is one of mom’s biggest issues that we will discuss. This blog is about moms and the mental load that they carry. Let’s dive into everything that is on your mind today as you read this:

  • I want to make this holiday magical. Moms are the magic makers.
  • I have to wrap all the gifts.
  • I’m not finished shopping. I have a few more gifts to buy.
  • Where is my package? Why is it late?
  • I have to address the cards and send them out.
  • I am way behind on the laundry.
  • The dishes are all piled up.
  • What are we going to have for dinner?
  • I didn’t bake yet.
  • I forgot someone. I better run to the store.
  • I didn’t put up all the decorations.
  • I need to work less this week.
  • Do I have time off I can use?
  • I can sleep after Christmas is over. There is no time for sleep right now.
  • The house is a mess.
  • What time does the store close? Will I make it in time?
  • Why are they out of the poinsettias I wanted? I didn’t buy them quick enough.
  • Did I buy enough gifts?
  • Are they going to like my gifts?
  • How did the cookies turn out? Are they good?
  • I need some help.
  • I need some me time. There is no time for that right now.
  • Why are the holidays so stressful?
  • I better plan my menu for Christmas dinner.
  • What are we going to do for New year’s?
  • Can I just take a nap?
  • I better plan a date with my husband. When is the last time we went on a date? Who am I kidding? I barely have time to sleep.
  • I have no friend plans. I better get on that. I’m not socializing enough.
  • Am I balancing it all? Family, friends, work, gifts, holidays, parties, exercise, nutrition, the house….How am I doing? I never seem to be doing enough.

I’m sure I didn’t even list some of the things on your mind. I have been talking to moms for weeks now about their holiday stress. I hear the same stories from every mom. In my blog Managing Holiday Stress I talked about some tips to help: delegate, continue healthy habits, get sleep so you can get the mental load accomplished, problem solve, avoid competing, be planful about your days, ask for gift requests, make a budget. Those are some of the tips I am utilizing to help reduce holiday stress. Let us not stop there. I have some thoughts on how us moms can reduce our mental load. Keep reading and see if you find something useful to help you.

Let’s talk about that big culprit of perfectionism. Are you expecting to buy the perfect gifts? Are you trying to decorate your house perfectly? Are you trying to have a perfectly neat house? Are you expecting your cookies to turn out perfectly? If you remove that word from your vocabulary, you will feel your mental load go way down. We do this to ourselves! Your gifts don’t have to be perfect. Do you remember the saying “It’s the thought that counts.” That saying is true.

Do you think that you can be too controlling? Moms hold a lot of the mental load because they want things done a certain way. They ask for help and then they don’t like how someone else does it, so they do it anyway. I realized I was doing this, and I have really challenged myself to change. My husband challenges me too. He may not put the dishes away where I want them all the time, but did he get it done? Did he help me? He may not wrap the gift the way I want, but he got it done. He may not have ordered the right gift, so I ask him to return it and get the right gift. Lol. I made you laugh. This is true. This actually happened. When we are too controlling, we make more work for ourselves. Loosen up and lower your standards. No one cares if your package is wrapped perfectly.

I want you to take the help. I know this is hard for you. I know you think you need to buy every gift. I know you think you need to bake every cookie. If you do everything yourself then you are carrying it all and that isn’t going to help you. Your family is your team. Use your team. Be a team player.

Enough is enough. Just stop. You did enough. Know when to draw the line. Lillie asked me to buy a few gifts today for people at her school. If she comes home asking me to buy more gifts, then I will draw the line. We have to stop somewhere. Every year I say I will buy for less people. The good news is next year I will be down one school so that will help me.

Ask yourself what is important to you? What is fun? What can you cut? What does your family not enjoy? I have had a few friends tell me that they cut holiday cards this year. I had another friend tell me she was baking less this year. What do you actually enjoy doing? I love to bake. I love sending out cards. It is my way of sending out a hello and a hug. What can I cut? I can buy less gifts. I can do less cleaning. I don’t enjoy cleaning. I want my house to look clean, but I don’t need to obsess. Find something you don’t enjoy that you can cut out. Maybe you don’t like food that you make for dinner every year. Make something else. Change it up and change the rules.

Find shortcuts! This is something that my friends are teaching me. I didn’t know that I could buy a premade gingerbread house for Lillie to decorate. Do you know how much easier that was? I’m sure there are shortcuts that you can take. Do it! Make your life easier!

We are in charge of the thoughts in our head. Please read that again. That is the most important line of the blog. I explain this to my children all the time. If your thoughts aren’t working for you, please change them. You can do this. With practice we can do anything. “I have to do this. This is so hard. This is endless. I don’t want to do anymore. I don’t like the holidays.” All those thoughts are leading to you not enjoying yourself and feeling more stressed. I walked through Target today thinking about how much I love buying people presents. My thoughts are not perfect. I just work on them a lot. You can too! It helps reduce your mental load.

In summary:

  • Lose the perfectionism.
  • Loosen up and stop being so controlling.
  • Take the help.
  • Enough is enough.
  • What is important? What can you cut or change?
  • Find shortcuts!
  • Change your thoughts!

You have the power to reduce your mental load. Take charge of yourself and make the holiday season as enjoyable as you can for yourself. You deserve that. I would love to hear something you changed or cut out this year to make the holidays more enjoyable. I would love to hear which tip was the most helpful to you.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R


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