Friends, forgive me. I fell down the discombobulated mama hole when school and work resumed in September, hence the echo-y silence of This Lovely Chaos since then.
I am still deep in that hole as I write today – as discombobulated as ever – but through the noise of my ever-thrumming to do list and low grade anxiety, a little voice managed to break through and remind me that writing always brings a sense of calm to my (lovely) chaos.
So here I am!
As is the case every November, I’m dumbfounded that it is this time of year again, already. Who keeps hitting the fast-forward button? Before Halloween was even in the rearview mirror, the stores were setting up their beautiful displays of Christmas swag, reminding me that the season of stress is upon us once again.
That’s right, I said season of stress. Ho Ho Ho.
Call me a grinch if you want, but let’s face it, the Mama hustle is exhausting under normal circumstances – and that’s with a partner who takes on a fair share of the load. Throw in the holidays, and it is amazing that any of us are still able to function by the end of it. The mental load is so…heavy.
Immediately following Christmas a few years ago, when I was running on nothing but fumes and Toblerone, I wrote myself a letter. Here is the start of it:
Dear Tired Mama, Aaannnnd.....exhale. You made it. You not only survived your first Christmas with two kids - you killed it. Well, no, that sounds really harsh. You didn't kill Christmas. That would be horrible. What I meant is that you did a really good job of all the Christmas things. The decorating. The baking. (Not the decorating of the baking...that looked quite juvenile for a 40-year-old's efforts, but hey ho.) The buying of the 'right' presents. The sending of cards. The planning. The organizing. The celebrating. The creating of magic for your little ones. Now here you are on December 26th, and your brain is one decision away from short-circuiting. You want to go to sleep for a very. long. time. You want everyone to go away. You want to put all the decorations in a big bag out on the curb for garbage collection tomorrow. You're not a grinch. You're just a tired mama who's 'to do' list for the past 6 weeks was a tad on the long side. But here's the thing: You're on maternity leave. How on God's green earth are you supposed to get all this Christmas stuff done when you are back at work next year? In an effort to make next Christmas easier for you, let's make a list of dos and don'ts based on your experiences this year. Then we'll set a reminder alert on your phone for you to read this post next October with the hopes of setting ourself (not a word, I know) up for maximum mama enjoyment of this beautiful, chaotic time of year. Quick! Before mama-brain kicks in and makes you forget everything and you have to re-invent the wheel next year!
It was to be a voice from Christmas Past, guiding me in how to crush it for Christmases to come without leaving myself depleted and cranky – without needing to recover from what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
It would have been a brilliant idea were it not for the fact I never finished the letter. It has sat in my unpublished posts folder for nearly three years.
My friends, the time has come.
It’s finally time to
get this damn post off my to do list share the wisdom gleaned from Christmases gone by and hopefully – hopefully – eliminate some of the holiday overwhelm and fatigue.
After reflecting hard on my past few Christmases, I generated a lengthy list of very specific suggestions that I intended to share here with you. But then I heard Husband’s voice in my head, telling me how boring my list was. Or maybe he was reading it over my shoulder and said it out loud. Anyway, he was right. (Enjoy the moment, Husband.) And who am I kidding? I’m no expert. I’m no more qualified to give you advice on how to win at Christmas than I am to teach you how to stuff a turkey (I have to put my hand where?).
So instead of a trite list of do’s and don’ts, I’m simply going to tell you what I’m doing differently this year…how I took that tedious list and distilled it down to the three keystones that will serve as my North Star as I navigate this Covid Christmas, and all the Christmases to come. Maybe some of it will resonate with you…especially if you’re an over-functioning Type A with perfectionistic tendencies…(and if you are, we should hang out).
I’m saying no (thank you). To anything that depletes my time and energy without filling me up. Take, for example, the cloth napkins last year. Those stinkin’ things came out of the dryer in tightly wadded balls. There was no avoiding it; they needed to be ironed. There went 30 minutes of my time. Ironing napkins!!! No thanks. This year, it’s paper all the way.
I’m saying no to Black Friday because, without fail, I work myself up into a frenzied state over all the deals…on things that were never on my list in the first place. And then, when my common sense kicks in again, I end up schlepping most of the things back to the stores to get my money back. No thanks, Black Friday. To use Jay Shetty’s words, I’d rather hurt the pocket and save the mind.
I’m saying no to gatherings because…effing Covid. We have to do our part, folks. I’m saying no to cranberry sauce. No one – and I mean no one – eats it and the sound that stuff makes as it slides out of the can makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I’m saying no to matching family Christmas pajamas. (You’re welcome, Husband.)
I’m getting intentional. I think a lot of mamas – myself definitely included – go through the motions at Christmas. We do all the things because we have always done all the things. But this year, I’m going to stop doing things just because they have always been done, and I’m going to make sure that the things that I am saying yes to make sense, both for my family and for myself. This means approaching Christmas shopping with a list that has been thoughtfully curated in advance, instead of succumbing to impulse and temptation and ending up with a lot of meaningless
crap crap. (It’s really the right word for the sentence.) This year especially, it also means selecting activities for my kids that will make wonderful memories…at home. I’m thinking a hella-lotta baking is in our future, my sweet cherubs.
I’m showing myself grace. Like a lot of women, I am very hard on myself. I envision the holidays a certain way in my head (perfect), and then I say a lot of mean things to myself when the reality looks different. I feel horrendous guilt if I neglect to send a Christmas card to someone who has sent one to my family. I feel like the WORST. MOTHER. EVER that I didn’t book pictures with Santa by the end of August, because now even the waitlist is booked solid. I feel like I am behind in the decorating department because it seems like everyone I know has already decked their halls and trimmed their trees.
This year, though, this mama is going to accept that she.is.human and that perfectionism does nothing but detract from the enjoyment of the holidays. I have never been miffed that I didn’t receive a Christmas card from someone, even when I sent one to them. If not at Santa’s Cottage, we’ll find another fun way to memorialize this Covid Christmas in pictures. And my halls will be decked. Eventually.
There you have it, friends: No more hustle, no more frenzy, and a whole lotta grace.
The freight train that is Christmas is picking up speed, Dear Reader. You have time and permission – albeit from a stranger on the internet – to ease that mental load and change how you do Christmas.
Now, can anyone recommend a good YouTube video on decorating sugar cookies? Last year I told people my 22-month-old daughter had decorated them.
Everyone believed me, too.
This was an amazing article and no kidding moms truly make this world go round. If it wasn’t for you guys there would be a lot of children and partners missing out on a lot of amazing memories. Speaking of the holidays I’m actually reaching out because I am trying to help a single mom from Vegas who ended up losing everything due to covid. The newspaper down there did an interview with her and I was hoping you could email me email@example.com and I could chat with you more on what I’m doing to try and help them and see if you have any thoughts or might be able to lend a hand. I look forward to hearing back from you and hope you have an amazing day and hopefully enjoy this year’s holidays with a little less stress 😉
the happily anchored nomad
Hi Joseph, Thanks for taking the time to read my post. That’s awful about the mama in Vegas – the kindness of people like you will surely help her through these tough times. If you’d like to share more about your idea, there is a ‘Contact’ tab on my blog. Thanks again!
I will most definitely reach out via your contact tab thank you so much for responding to my comment.
Were you able to receive my email I sent you through your contact tab?
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for putting into words what I, and likely SO MANY OTHER moms, dads, and parents already know…but need to read. It is so refreshing. This year is one of giving GRACE to others, and especially ourselves.
Being together (even if only immediate family), being healthy, and being happy is what matters. I believe some of the best memories are made when simplicity is our guiding light.
Thank you for leading by unapologetic example. As Santa likes to say, “You never knows who’s watching!”.
the happily anchored nomad
Thank you, Laura, my steadfast reader and friend! I am glad this piece resonated with you! Aside from the obvious changes you’re making due to Covid, what other tweaks are you making to your holidays this year to show yourself grace? (Maybe it’s a conversation for the sandbox 😉 )