I have these warm fuzzy memories of Christmas as a child. My mother always had the house looking festive with decorations, delicious baking and savoury meals being cooked, holiday music playing and fun activities that lasted for days. It seemed so seamless and shaped a deep love of the holidays and the associated family times for me.
Now that I am a mother, my appreciation for all of that has truly grown ten-fold. My first few christmas experiences as a mother were valid attempts to replicate what I wanted my children to see, smell and experience through the holidays. An honest confession though, it was not seamless, I was exhausted and really did not enjoy much of it.
This will be my 5th holiday season as a mother, and so far its been the smoothest and most enjoyable! Here a are a few simple thoughts on what I’ve been trying to place as my focus and a strategies for not only survival but true enjoyment!
What Matters to Whom? Mid November as we sat around our dinner table I posed the question to our children and my spouse “ What do you look forward to about Christmas? Are there special activities or things you want to do over the holidays?” Carefully listening to their answers and jotting down some notes we have been able to really pay attention to what each member of the family wants to do and make some decisions on what we do not “need” to do this year. Just because we “always have done it” does not mean we have to this year, or that anyone even WANTS to!
Shopping & Saving The two things that both my husband and I find the most stressful about the holidays are shopping and spending money we can't afford to. After these being the point of contention our first few holidays together I decided this year would be different. Throughout the year I made a point of buying some of the gift “staples” as I saw them on sale. You know, the favourite stocking stuffers, other regulars like new warm socks and pyjamas ( tip: great sales the week after Christmas, buy next years size for the kids!). I dedicated a bin in the storage area to this and just popped my purchases in there as I got them. Come September I shifted focus to the larger gifts. By buying them through the fall I had all my shopping done by Dec. 1st and had spread the spending in smaller increments over 3 months, versus compounding it over two weeks. It took a bit of planning but I have absolutely loved not feeling the pressure to shop in December!
A friend of mine cleverly set up a savings account that she put an automatic transfer for each pay day of a small amount, specific for Christmas. By the time December rolls around she has a fund ready for shopping (she likes the christmas shopping experience) that doesn't hit too hard on the rest of the monthly budget.
Divide & Conquer I have a bit of a list of christmas baking and savoury things that I like to have in the house over the holidays, for us as well as entertaining. Its also one of the things that my hubby really likes and is nostalgic about when it comes to the holidays. But it was too much for me to do on my own. The last three years I have asked my sisters, mother and a couple friends to do some baking swaps. I find it much easier to do a double or triple batch of something and then split it up, receiving other great items in exchange. We have shared recipes and I love having all the items, with only a portion of the work!
Know your limits We have found it increasingly hard to go to all the parties and open houses, take in all the community events and were just spending far to much time in the car and hustling around. We now view the holidays as a season, and not just one or two days. We alternate the years that we spend Christmas dinner with my side and my husbands side and use the days leading up to christmas and New Years to do other visiting. It was a mutual decision for us to spend more time in our own home, where the children could enjoy unstructured play, we could both relax and put the focus on family quality time. We go for lots of walks, play board games, snuggle, read holiday books, eat, laugh and truly enjoy one another. We are all happier for it!
Contributor: Kristy Martin Hale, Mother/Writer