Christmas can be a wonderful time of year for some, but if you are the head “magic maker” in the family, it’s an exhausting time of year.
As a child, I loved the Christmas season. I loved the food, the smells, the lights, the decorations, and most importantly, the presents. It was a time to relax and soak up the joys of the holidays.
But once I started “adulting”, got married and had kids, I noticed a huge increase in workload around Christmas, and somehow it all landed on my plate…
I found myself creating the Christmas present list, budget, buying most of the presents, getting a Christmas photo done, staying on top of the kids Christmas concerts/outfits/rehearsals, decorating the house, making the donations, baking the cookies, doing Christmas cards, shopping for all the food, cooking the holiday meals, getting the house ready for company, arranging babysitters for Christmas parties, co-ordinating family get togethers, wrapping the gifts till 1am, planning “magical” family activities….are you getting the picture?
The real reason you are so exhausted at Christmas time is because you are doing all the things.
And all the things are creating extra work for you and no time to kick back and enjoy the season.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, only a quarter of women say they actually get to relax during the holidays (44 percent of men said they did feel relaxed), and 44 percent of women reported higher stress levels between Thanksgiving and Christmas (only 31 percent of men reported more stress).
So I asked myself, why are women so wrapped up in making Christmas such a big deal? I asked my husband about Christmas and what he feels is important and his list was impressively short:
- Decorating the Christmas tree as a family
- Watching the kids open their presents
- Enjoying eating the Christmas dinner
- Spending time together as a family doing fun things
It seems to me that there is a big difference between what men and women want for the holiday season. There also seems to be unrealistic and outdated expectations placed on women because of how our moms and grandmothers “did Christmas”.
In order to survive the holiday season and make it enjoyable for everyone (including you!) we need to sit down and discuss our priorities and expectations for the holidays:
- What aspects of the holidays are important to each partner
- What is the budget for Christmas spending and activities?
- And most importantly, how will we divide up the workload fairly?
I challenge you to grab your partner and a festive beverage and plan out your holiday priorities and tasks. Focus on what is important to your family and forget the rest!
Here are just a few suggestions to streamline your holiday preparations:
- Wrap all the presents together with your partner over several evenings (don’t try to do it all at once).
- Invest in reusable gift bags to save time wrapping gifts. Bags are so much faster!
- Record all your holiday purchases in a shared document to keep on top of spending. Overspending can create extra stress that you really don’t need.
- Skip sending out Christmas cards or send out e-cards or a Christmas email
- Make family gatherings “potluck”
- Recruit help for cooking the meals, don’t try to do it all.
- Create a “task jar” for large family gatherings/meals with assigned tasks for each guest (i.e. help serve dessert, dry the dishes, carve the turkey).
- Avoid the mall. Buy presents online or at smaller local shops or markets.
- Replace gifts for “experiences” where you can
- Decorate minimally for the holidays. The less decorations, the less time setting up and taking down.
- Only do family “rituals” that you really enjoy. If a ritual creates stress, then scratch it from your list.
- Make things ahead: think about certain things that you can make ahead of time to free up some time.
- Schedule some relaxation time just for you (like a lunch date with an old friend, watch a Christmas rom-com, try out your new bath salts, or a massage).
- Ask for help. If you know you have a busy day ahead, ask someone to help you. Don’t be martyr. It’s OK to ask for help.
Lastly, I encourage you to laugh more over the holidays. Laughing is an incredible stress reliever and mood booster. You could listen to a podcast, watch a comedy or play a goofy game with your family.
Happy holidays to you and your family. May it be relaxing and magical!
p.s. If you are a fan of Stuart Maclean’s Vinyl Cafe, or just need a good laugh over the holidays, you might enjoy listening to “Dave Cooks A Turkey” (found at minute 24:25), it’s a hilarious story about Dave being asked by his wife Morley to help out with the Christmas preparations and things go a little sideways.