Experiencing Christmas as a child and experiencing Christmas as a mom, is extremely different. Besides lacking the overall whimsy I used to feel when we'd set up the tree, or the willingness to wake up way too early on Christmas morning, the two experiences aren't exactly comparable. Not even close, actually, but for different reasons. Over the years I've learned all the rules to surviving Christmas when you're a mom, and they're important ones if you want to get through the holiday season with any sort of sanity in-tact. However, if you'd ask my children which of the below I'm best at, they'd probably say, "None."
When my younger brother and I were little, we'd wake up at some ridiculously early hour in the morning, wide-eyed and ready to see the stash we so "patiently" waited months and months for. It was exhilarating to know some strange man crawled into our house as we slept, only to leave behind all the things we'd asked for. Like, what did we really do to deserve any of it? (Also, why are we not terrified of this man breaking into our house at night? But, I digress.)
As an adult, now in the role my mother had been in, I have to confess — I still get a little rush from it all. While all the build-up to Christmas can be a lot of noise, that feeling the morning of, when my sleepy-eyed children come down the stairs and their eyes light up as mine once did, is honestly the best feeling ever. I think Christmas morning is, dare I say, better as a mother. It makes all the stress worth it (sort of), if only for that magical Christmas morning (or until there's complaining about whatever they didn't get this year).
While "surviving" isn't the sole goal of the holiday, I prefer to take it on an hour-by-hour basis, because stress and life. With that said, here are a few of my rules to surviving Christmas when you're a mom (though, even before kids, I think these saved me).
Keep A Running List
Doing the whole Christmas thing as a parent means maneuvering all the lists. There are so many lists, you guys. I don't mean just the things you have yet to buy — meals or baked goods you need to prepare for the day of — but also (my biggest issue) remembering and separating the list of things "Santa" bought from the list "mom" bought. Believe me, I've flubbed this more years than not, but thankfully (so far), I've recovered without my children noticing.
So now, in order for things to run smoothly, I have different lists to refer to without breaking a sweat.
Don't Volunteer For More Than You're Capable
The holiday spirit is in the air and you may feel compelled to bake cookies for your daughter's class, sponsor a field trip for your son's, take your neighbor her groceries, and walk everyone's dogs every morning. Valiant of you, to be sure, but if you over-commit you'll be left too burnt out to enjoy Christmas at all.
Do what you can manage and delegate the rest. I know, as mothers we feel the need to do it all, but trust me on this one. You can't do it all, even at Christmas, and that's alright.
Take Time For Yourself
Those quickly fleeting days between Thanksgiving and Christmas can leave us all exhausted, stressed, and drained. You're trying to accomplish a significantly higher number of tasks, without a significantly higher number of hours in the day. It can take its toll on mental health, often spurring depression and anxiety. You can give your time to others, sure, but it's probably the most important time of the year for taking time to yourself (unapologetically).
If Something Goes Wrong, Try Not To Stress
You've burned the cookies for the holiday bake sale, bought the wrong gift for your special someone, or got an unexpected bill you really can't afford right now. It happens.
Actually, a lot of mishaps seem to do their thing around the holidays. We have so much to think about, like where we have to be, and who bought what for whom, that things can't go perfectly every time. I know it's stressful at the time, but it will pass. Do your best not to take it personally. You're no less awesome if you buy the cookies, instead.
Wrap Gifts As You Buy Them
I've made the mistake of keeping piles of unwrapped gifts in secret places, only for my kids to play hide-and-seek and accidentally finding the whole stash. Now, I wrap each one after buying. It's a lot less scarring that way (for all of us) and I don't have to stay up Christmas Eve night doing it. Also, anything not meant for our eldest child can be wrapped by her. She loves doing it and I have more time to taste-test all those cookies.
Make Giving A Priority
Giving is always a great thing, but I've found that in emphasizing with my kids how important it is to look to those less fortunate or in need, they're more grateful for their own presents under the tree and they're more willing to help out when I'm a little overwhelmed.
This year, we've focused on doing one Random Act of Kindness a day. Not only does it show my children giving feels as good as receiving, but in making them part of it, I actually feel less stressed with other things (like going to the mall on black Friday).
Remember What The Holidays Are About
It's easy to forget the holidays aren't about gifts, trees, cookies, and annoying in-laws you have to endure. Try to take those small moments — especially while you're kids are still young enough to believe in the magic — and hold them tight. Be as emotionally present as you can. It will pass and right after, it will be just another day.
When you're a mom, every holiday feels like work (because it is). If you want to "survive" Christmas, it's simple, really. No matter what goes wrong, be mindful of the memories you're creating with your children. One day, they'll be off celebrating with kids of their own. (I'm not crying, you are.)