I have heard so many moms recently tell me that they don’t like December. I’ve heard:
“I hate December.”
“It’s all too much.”
“I can’t wait until December is over.”
My kids on the other hand are repeatedly telling me, “I can’t wait until Hanukkah starts!” Oh, to be a child with little holiday responsibilities. As you know, us moms are the magic makers. We are the magic makers that make all these holidays special for our families. I don’t know about you, but this magic maker is tired. I haven’t even jumped into the 8 night Hanukkah marathon yet. I can do it. I can do it. I repeatedly give myself pep talks if you didn’t know that.
Whenever I feel stressed, it motivates me to figure out ways to do things differently and to think differently. I don’t know about you, but I want to enjoy the month of December. I know you are trying to fit in extra stuff into your already busy schedule. You are buying gifts, wrapping, baking, making lists, addressing cards….the list goes on and on. I laugh at the fact that I keep remembering people to buy gifts for, which brings me to the first way we are going to change things together.
- We don’t have to buy gifts for everyone. I am talking to myself here. I LOVE that my friend is busy making cookies with her mom. I am watching dozen after dozens of cookies that she is posting on Facebook. What a perfect way to show a lot of people that you care about them. She will package it all up and hand it out to friends and family members. I know that you probably don’t want me to add baking to your to do list. My point is that we don’t have to spend a lot to make people feel special and everyone does not expect an expensive gift. Most people don’t expect a gift and if they do you don’t have to comply either.
- Discuss gifts with your family members and buy for less people. My friend told me there are so many of them that they draw names for kids and adults. I love that! Don’t be shy. Make a helpful suggestion. Everyone wants to buy less. My friend suggested that we do one white elephant gift card for our book club instead of buying everyone gifts this year. I love buying them all gifts and being creative, but less work is not a bad thing!
- Just because you did a holiday tradition last year does not mean that you have to do it this year. My family laughs at me and tends to say things like, “Do we have to do this again?” Sometimes my answer is yes and sometimes my answer is no. Yes, you have to look at Christmas lights with me because I absolutely love them. Yes, you have to light the menorah with me every night. No, I don’t need to make homemade donuts if I don’t feel inspired to do this. My family is happy with Paula’s delicious donuts. Last year I made an amazing challah menorah. That sounds fabulous and delicious but that doesn’t mean I have to do it again.
- Sit down with your family and discuss what is important to everyone. If no one wants to make gingerbread houses together then take it off your list. If everyone is excited to go see the Nutcracker then go as a family. I took my girls to see the Nutcracker and it was magical. It was even more magical because our friends were in it. I love taking Ella every year and Lillie joined us this year and loved it too. This is a special tradition to keep as long as we enjoy it. My family never wants to go see Christmas lights so take it off your list if no one cares. I care so I make them go with me. Which brings me to the point that:
- Mom’s matter. I mean this sincerely from the bottom of my heart. What you want to do for the holidays and don’t want to do is important. Don’t be shy! I tell mothers everywhere not to be shy with their requests. I have learned over and over again that if I don’t ask for things that my family can’t read my mind. I asked my husband for jewelry (I usually do). It is important to me that we light the menorah and sing the blessings together every night of Hanukkah. What we want matters. You are important so don’t lose sight of yourself and:
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. This will reduce your stress! I realize that I get so busy that I forget my healthy diet and exercise. I am more inclined to grab unhealthy food when I’m out shopping. I’m more inclined to drink more coffee because I’m tired. I may not make my exercise a priority because I am so busy getting my to do list accomplished. If we remember to drink water, exercise and eat healthy, then we feel less stressed in general. I always feel better after a long walk. I always feel better after a good healthy meal. I am starting to ask myself: “How are you going to feel after you eat that?” That question has helped me a lot!
- There is no set amount of gifts. My friend told me that she does four gifts for Hanukkah. One gift that her daughter wants, one gift to wear, one gift to read, one gift she needs. I almost fell off my chair when I read this. I am SO impressed with my friend. Do you know how many gifts I bought my kids? I don’t want to count them. If you are Jewish, you don’t have to give your kids a gift every night. There are plenty of other things to do. Have a game night. Have a Hanukkah party. Have a give back night. If you are Christian, you don’t have to give your kids a ton of gifts for Christmas and Christmas Eve. You don’t have to fill the whole room with gifts. My friend is taking her family on vacation instead of doing gifts this year. That was my suggestion, but my kids looked at me like I had ten heads. I think we need to buy less. Maybe I will take my own advice next year!
- It’s okay to say no to your child. After a long list of gifts, my daughter Lillie came downstairs last night asking me if we could do some decorative things to her room for Hanukkah. Is she kidding me? Does she know how much I already spent on her. The answer is a big NO. It’s okay to say no to anyone in your life and the sooner we all learn this the happier we will be.
- Build in some down time in your days. Don’t laugh at me when I write that. Don’t tell me that you don’t have time for that. I sat down to watch a tv show last night and I did not feel guilty about it. Was there a list that I could be doing? Absolutely! However, I know that I need to build down time into my days to keep myself sane!
- Change your state to gratitude. Stress brings on more stress. Gratitude brings on more gratitude. It is very hard to continue your stressed out state if you are counting your blessings. I am so thankful for my family and our health and our ability to provide our children with a fun and meaningful holiday season. If you can’t afford a lot, be easy on yourself. Our children need to understand finances. As they ask me for more things, I tell them that I have already spent enough. Our children need to learn that the holiday isn’t just about gifts. The meaning of the holidays isn’t about gifts at all. You do what you can afford and don’t feel badly about that for one second.
- Less materialism! How have the holidays become all about gifts? I was telling my husband that I don’t really remember gifts that my parents gave me. I remember celebrating Hanukkah and being together. Every year when I ask my kids what their favorite part of Hanukkah was, they never say the gifts. They usually say things like time together because it brings us together as a family for eight nights in a row. I’m also finding that I would so much rather spend money on an experience vs. a thing. I do like that my kids now enjoy clothes and pajama gifts which feels more useful to me than all the toys. Make special memories and teach your kids what the holidays are about. The more pressure we put on materialism the more stressed out we become.
- Last and certainly not least, maybe you feel stressed because of your grief. Maybe you wish you could skip the holidays so that you didn’t have to think about how much you miss someone. We could have a whole new conversation about grief during the holidays. First, always honor and respect your feelings. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s not only okay, it’s also very normal to feel sad and miss important people during the holiday season. My advice would be to push yourself to celebrate the holidays for your family. It will never be the same, but your children deserve to have holidays with you. Make a new tradition to honor whoever you are missing or maybe you can do a special tradition with your family that you used to do with your loved one. My grandma loved elephants, so I tend to buy elephants in honor of her. I have given my daughters elephant gifts and it makes me smile. Remember that your loved one would want you to enjoy the holidays as much as you can.
I feel so much better after writing all this and I hope that you feel a little better after reading this. I feel like I just took a lot of pressure off myself. It is like we impose these unrealistic high standards onto ourselves that we have trouble achieving. I do that on a daily basis but add the holidays into the mix and it’s over the top.
I’m very motivated after writing this to feel better about this month. I am deep breathing as I type this. Take a big deep breath and take a step in the right direction towards less stress. Let me know how you make the holidays less stressful. Let me know which tip resonated with you. I would love to hear!
I hope that this is a wonderful month for you. I know how hard you are working. It is okay to feel sad and stressed. Acknowledge your feelings and think about what is stressing you out. Once you identify the issue you can then take helpful steps in a less stressed direction. Let’s all feel less stressed out this month.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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