For many of us as parents, the holiday season can feel both incredibly joyful and overly stressful — with an endless, selfless loop of to-dos playing out in our minds.
We are shopping and wrapping, cleaning and cooking or addressing holiday cards. We are thinking about the money, the time, the gifts, the drama and the unhealthy but delicious diet that will dominate our lives for six weeks.
At the same time, we all want to make sure our little ones remember this holiday as the best yet.
There is another way. Here are some helpful tips on avoiding parent guilt during the holidays and finding time to gift yourself.
- Let go of expectations. That perfect picture you saw in your feed? That was a filtered slice of someone’s life. Don’t let it ruin your day because you think their life is so much better and more fulfilling than yours. That perfect picture you have for the ’Gram in your mind? Let it go, because you probably can’t replicate it. Expectations are just predetermined disappointments. The sooner you realize the joys of living in the present and not chasing your perfect version, the happier your holidays will be.
- Be in the moment. You only get to live each day, hour and minute of the holidays once. And as those with older children will tell you (even if you don’t ask), these years with little ones are gone before you know it. So whenever you find yourself amid the chaos and about to lose it, just remember to cherish this moment. It will never happen again. How you choose to interact with it (with joy or guilt or anger) is up to you. Choose happiness.
- Be a kid again. As someone who did not grow up with a tight-knit family or strong holiday traditions, it has been wonderful to finally discover the joy of the holidays through my kids in my 30s. I went from not even wanting a tree to picking out our matching PJs. Seeing their genuine excitement over even the smallest holiday items and replacing my cynical adult view with their joy has grown this old man’s heart three sizes.
- Do you have to, or do you get to? One small tweak we have made over the past year is pivoting our approach to events during the holidays to this philosophy. If my wife is stressing over finding the time to get the perfect family photo or we have multiple holiday party invites, I simply ask: Do we have to, or do we get to? You will be surprised at what you can stop stressing over when you can cross the joy-draining “have tos” off your list.
- Combat your main stressor. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge what your No. 1 stress is during the holidays. Not three stressors, not five, but one. Statistically, you are more likely to succeed with a singular focused task. Select the one thing you think will be most likely to ruin your holidays and put your energy toward defusing it. Do you tend to grab that third dessert you later regret? Is it that one extra glass of wine? Toss out your other stresses this year and focus on beating one. You will be amazed at how much more in control you’ll feel.
- Give yourself a pass. The holidays are about forgiveness and trying to be the best version of yourself. There are going to come times this holiday season when things get tough, when you slide back into bad habits, overeat or yell at a family member. When these moments happen, we tend to beat ourselves up over them. So I challenge you to give your grace not just to friends, family and neighbors; give yourself some grace, even if you slip up.
This year, remember that you are in control of your holidays: what you do, whom you spend them with and how you feel. Give yourself a break. You worked all year to get this time off with your loved ones.
You deserve it.