This year has been one of the simplest and easiest entries to the holiday season. I have found my December rhythm over eighteen parenting years, and my mind and body slip back into its rhythm like a comfortable shoe.
One of the main simplifiers is that I have made all of the holiday decisions.
I no longer entertain “new and cute” traditions. I don’t debate the amount of gifts that I give. Every child gets three and always has. I only make three kinds of cookies. I know the movies and Advent picture books we like to read. The Christmas tree has red and white lights and goes in the front corner of the living room. The outside of the house gets three wreaths and garlands on the porch rails. I put gold chocolate coins, clementines and candy canes in their slippers on the morning of St. Nicholas Day. We go see lights and eat at Krispy Kreme every year. We eat a lovely meal and open up new pajamas on Christmas Eve.
Keeping the same December rhythm gives the mother a way to build warmth, tradition, and simplicity to her home, year after year. She can shed the practices that no longer bring life and joy and only keep the ones that serve herself and her family well.
If December exhausts you, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Here are three others ways that make December sustainable for me:
1. I wrap as I go.
I order most gifts online, and as the boxes come in, they are opened and wrapped. I keep an under-the-bed storage bin that has wrap, scissors, tape, twine and labels so that I can easily pull it out, wrap a few gifts, and put it away. I keep each child’s stocking stuffers in an individual reusable shopping bag in my closet so that they are all separated and can easily be put in the stockings.
2. I make solid sleep a priority.
I keep my mornings as slow as possible. I nap if I need it. December requires much from a mama of many, so I work hard and rest hard. I have run myself ragged some years and gotten the flu twice. I now make sure that I stay as rested as possible.
3. On Sunday evening, I make 10 reasonable weekly goals, and then take two of those goals and plug them into each day of my week.
I head out of town for a wedding on Thursday morning until Sunday. I started feeling overwhelmed by the details of what needed to happen before leaving. Instead of emotionally downward spiraling into overwhelm, I problem-solved. I made ten goals that need to happen before leaving and broke them down into daily tasks. Guess what? THEY ARE ALL DONE! I can now pack and leave town without last-minute panic, sleeplessness and stress.
The same holds true for Christmas planning. Get out a spiral notebook, make a list for this week, and choose two a day. No more overwhelm about “all the things” but instead, daily, steady progress.
The best thing you can give your family for Christmas is a joyful, rested mother. If you are killing yourself to make it magical or special but griping and angry or sullen and sad, then stop. Really. Listen to Christmas music, throw the Jesse tree away, and sit with your kids. Light candles, buy some Trader Joe’s Candy Cane cookies and call it done. Choose relationship and positivity over Christmas “shoulds” or unrealistic activities.
Find your unique December pace. The slow and steady holiday pace of a planned, present mother who gives well to herself and to others with kindness and grace.