Holiday Funk?

As the festive holiday season approaches, it can bring out many feelings and emotions.   Some are as toasty as hot chocolate and some are well….funky.

From the get-go of the holiday season, the race begins. (which is now, according to retailers, right before Halloween) Mothers feel the pressure to be at the top of their game. It began for me when I was packing away Halloween decorations with my 8-year-old son.  He was exuberantly bringing out Christmas decorations as I was trying to stuff the fall decorations in their boxes. In one crate he found all the Holiday CD’s, season scented candles, and THE Christmas book. No, not the Bible (although that should be what I’m talking about). It was my hardcover Martha Stewart coffee table book, appropriately labeled “Handmade Christmas.” It has a place of honor on my coffee table during the Holidays, you see, and it always adds the appropriate amount of extra pressure. It’s already probably over 10 years old, but its full color, it’s sleek, and it’s chock full of “ideas” on how to make the best wreath or swag, or crafting your own handmade scented gifts out of flavored sugars or making potpourri sachets.  My son reverently handed it to me. I took it, not quite ready for the responsibility that comes with this book every year.

Do my berry wreaths and orange clove scented project look like the samples in the book? Not by a long shot. But I keep trying. Trying for that beautiful, flawless picture in the book…and you know the ones I’m talking about.  Some years ago, when that book was brand new, it bothered this Mother that my picture didn’t match the book. Why did my gingerbread house look like something out of a Tim Burton film? Why was my hand made pinecone garland dropping cones on people’s heads as it hung over the front door? The pressure to make everything perfect for our families at the Holidays is an enormous one. By the time all the gifts are unwrapped, the tree needles start to slowly drop to the carpet, and that last Holiday CD is playing for the one-thousandth time, Mothers feel the burn – the burn out, that is.

Perhaps Moms need to sit back and slow down during the holiday season. There’s a news flash. Take a look at what we really have, and not stress out about the occasional imperfections of our holiday visions. It would make life more enjoyable, and there wouldn’t be such a post-Holiday crash at the end for both Mom and child. (or children) But cutting back on our perfect vision isn’t easy. We all have our ideal Holiday scene in our head. Don’t let go of that pretty visions altogether, but maybe be open to the vision changing as the season comes and goes. Flex-vision. There will always be circumstances outside of our control that pop up. That’s life. How we react to it is the key to our survival as Moms-who-do-it-all. If we sit down at the end of the Holiday journey and take a look at the vision that was created, we usually find that it doesn’t exactly match that Martha Stewart vision in our head. The Christmas snowman my son and I made with Grandpa and Grandma had deer antlers on his head. Son and Grandpa were thrilled. Mom and Grandma were mortified.. And that’s OK. Flex vision. It’s the key to making a pain-free transition from holiday season to post season

While Moms are busy trying to make the perfect Christmas, we bring our children right along with us for the ride. The aftermath of January can be brutal, and not just weather-wise.  After holding that perfect vision in our head for so long (and ultimately, the vision seeps into our children’s heads as well), when the Holidays end, it can feel a tad empty. Void. The whole family’s routine has been moved around to make way for this vision, now how do we get everything back on track? These tips can help. Some will be do-able for you, and some will not. Every family is different.

Four tips on gracefully returning to life POST Holidays

Spending limit

There’s nothing more Scrooge than talking about money during the Holidays, but in this economy, it’s a necessity. Financial pressures can stress Moms out faster than burning the Christmas cookies. Take stock of how your checkbook looks around October or November, before the madness starts. Knowing your spending limits can help take the stress out of buying gifts all on credit. And that credit card will be leering at you in January as you pay finance charges on those perfect gifts. After a divorce and becoming a single Mom some years ago, I had to eat some humble pie, and opt for more economical gifts for my family. But it taught me to shop smarter, appreciate what I had, and realize that smaller gifts are just as good. And more importantly, it taught my son a respect for money. You respect it more if it’s not there as often. Tell your kids to be realistic, and make sure they realize some sort of gratitude for it all. Heck, I told my son, even Santa has to operate on limited funds…look how long his list is. Which was followed with his question, “how much does Santa make”?  Moving on….

–       The return to School

Our children have been enjoying a holiday break from school, and are less than enthusiastic to return to the classroom. Holidays can disrupt homework and class assignments. Luckily the teachers, who are usually Mom and Dads themselves, take note of the craziness of the holidays and don’t load the kids with too much homework. But don’t take a complete break, even though it’s tempting. If there is an assignment, attempt to complete it at the beginning of the vacation holiday, and then circle back to it at the end to review. Board games with family and cousins can also be a great way to keep the brain cells sharp during the holidays, and they won’t even know their learning! Read Holiday books during Christmas, but then return to their favorites come January-they’ll be excited to return to some normally and routine, too, even though they don’t really understand why.  Although my son is sad to see Peef the Christmas Bear books be packed away, he’s excited to pick up where we left off with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or the next Harry Potter book.

–       Back to Sleep!

This one anchors all the rest. And we as Moms know it. Nothing makes Moms feel scroogier than a tired, whiny child. And while sleeping is the simplest, most natural thing our children can do, around Christmas time it can be down right impossible.

Regaining our children’s sleep schedule, as well as our own, will make post-holiday living much easier. And to help regain the control, we must attempt to do this during the season. Keeping a little slice of routine into your children’s schedule, even a sliver, will help with getting them back on schedule come school time. My second grader, on a school night, is in bed by 7:30 p.m. During the Holiday season, I attempt bedtime procedures around 8:00. (it does help if cousins are also on the same routine, or this one can bet sticky) If bedtime is pushed closer to 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. it’s not the end of world. Just try to keep the bedtime routine the same (bath, books) during the break. This helps with their familiarity of  bedtime, even if your at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  The transitions back to the 7:30 p.m. bedtime won’t be so tricky come January. Even though it’s difficult, this Mom also tried to hit the hay halfway early. Just because the kids are going to bed later, doesn’t mean they sleep in late. Especially during this season. So try to turn in earlier if you can, or make sure there’s strong coffee made in the morning.

–       Diet/Exercise?

Get real, right? The holidays are all about taking a break from the gym and savoring family time (as well as those holiday goodies). Kids, too. If there’s no down time to squeeze in a little work out, don’t sweat it. Frolicking with your kids in the snow, or building a snowman, pulling them on their sleds, works for a cardio work out, too. Moms are usually going 100 miles an hour anyway during the Holidays, so bottle up a little of that Martha Stewart energy and look at it as “you” time…with your kids. They naturally have that energy bottled up, and amazingly, never seem to run out. Take a page out of their book, and move along with them. Get some fresh air. Those cutout, frosted cookies taste so much better after coming inside from the cold! Reminder: try to slip in some healthy snacks in between all those goodies…for both Mom and child. It will help with that bottle of energy- it’s tough to get my son to eat some orange or peach slices when he’d rather grab some chex mix. But he’ll do it. And so will I. Santa is watching.

Be flex with all the tips above. Do what you can, when you can….and don’t let Santa catch you berating yourself for falling short. Regaining even a little routine during the busy holiday season will help everyone transition into the New Year.

And by the way, that horned snowman has a place of honor in my son’s memory. He didn’t match the fancy snowman example in my Martha Stewart book, but he was just as good if not better. Go figure.