There are three kinds of women who flawlessly execute The Holiday Season: celebrities with a paid entourage, women living in the Antarctic, and Mrs. Claus. For the rest of us, the approaching holidays can feel like the onset of menopause, causing severe hot flashes and headaches.
But this year is going to be different. This year you have decided, nay, you have vowed, to enjoy the holidays. This can happen but requires that you, Queen of the Holidays, relinquish your crown and instead replace it with three wise gifts to yourself.
1. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
You’ve heard it, you’ve said it, you’ve crocheted it — but this year you will do it. Brainstorm stressful holiday obligations, i.e., making fruit cake doilies. Number them in priority, starting with the No. 1 for the top must-do.
Tip: You will be tempted to ignore this little exercise. Remember, five minutes now could save your season, girlfriend, so start numbering. The top five are the Untouchables and the next five are the Doables. Anything left over are the Unnecessaries — as in “lose them.”
Caveat: Eliminating these items should remove great stress but this may bring guilt. The solution is your new mantra: “Not this year.” When the neighbor lady who hand paints 600 Christmas cards asks about your pressed wrapping paper, smile and reply, “Not this year.” Keep this phrase handy and use it often.
Now look at the top 10 and ask, “How can I further simplify?”
JoAnne Larsen, author of “I’m a Day Late and a Dollar Short and it’s OK,” tells of a woman asked to bring a few pies to a holiday party and instead spends days creating a literal vegetable forest. Utterly exhausted, she is unable to attend the party. When holiday food toting, freeze food ahead. This is not novel but it works. I found a great freezer cookbook, Joni Hilton’s “The Once-a-Week-Cookbook,” and it sits next to my Bible. For gift-buying, consider alternate years of bought gifts and charity donations. When we forego gifts we donate charitable money in someone’s name and the children send homemade ornaments commemorating their contribution. Our other mantra? “Simplify in simple ways and simply enjoy the holidays.”
2. Actually involve your family.
Don’t groan. Let go of your Country Living Christmas expectation and allow a family adventure. Say something like, “Mom, aka The Grinch in Heels, wants to lose the fangs this season. Got tips?”
Let the children decorate the tree (I heard the gasp). We let our 5- and 7-year-old boys do this with great success (we had 10 ornaments). Prepare family newsletters Lucille Ball style — one folds, one stuffs, one stamps and one eats the bon-bons (that would be you). We deliver our newsletters as a family, six of us on the four-wheeler, caroling/cajoling our children around the neighborhood.
For chores, keep simple rules: Each child has a station and knows its requirement (living room — pick up all dirty socks and unpaid bill statements. After visitors, DO NOT be the only one to clean up. The next day before play, before breakfast, before breathing, each person takes care of their station. And age is no obstacle — remember, if they can read, they can do laundry.
3. Take time for self.
OK, laugh hysterically, but you are doing things differently this year. The first weekend in December take a Mom Weekender, a hotel overnighter for shopping, wrapping, writing newsletters and eating hot meals uninterrupted. The relaxing effects of such a tradition make it one my family heartily encourages. Schedule events with down time in between; meaning the next day wear a bathrobe and sip cocoa with your kids after school. To make down time, you will have to say “No,” “I can’t,” or “I’ll check with my spouse.” You will have to practice saying, “We aren’t able to make it this year but thank you so much for the invitation.”
The holiday season is a time to celebrate the wonder in deity, the joy in family, and the best in all. This year, step down from the throne and relax on the couch with those you love. Give yourself three glorious gifts — simplify, involve your family, and take time for yourself.
Connie Sokol is a full-time mother of four and is president of The Teleios Group, an organization to strengthen families. She is the author of “Life is Too Short for One Hair Color” and is a dynamic motivational speaker of 10 years, presenting self-development/relationship classes at Thanksgiving Point. For more information, call (801) 420-2330.