Being a mum during the festive season can be totally overwhelming. We're usually charged with the majority of the emotional and physical labour that comes with this extremely busy time of year. If you're anything like me, you're the one who has to plan and buy everyone's gifts, organise the get-togethers, do the majority of the cooking and navigate the family politics that inevitably occur when everyone is in the same place!
It's really important to make sure you look after yourself and prevent burnout during the festive season. After all, it's the festive season for you too! You deserve to enjoy the festivities, have a glass of wine (or 5), open some thoughtful gifts and eat way too much delicious food. Of course, spending time with your family is a great part of this time of year too, but sometimes you may actually need a break. And that's okay! It's sensory overload and your mind is whirring with micro-decisions and remembering all the things. Here are some tips for staying sane and taking care of yourself this Christmas.
1. No toxic people!
This is your official permission to cut out the toxic people this festive season. Yes, even if they're a family member. If you've got an aunt that always complains about how you cook the ham, or a sister in law who always ignores your rules around your kids, you have FULL permission to not invite them this year.
The thing is, toxic people are draining. They're draining at a time when you don't have anything left to be drained. You're busy trying to bring the magic of Christmas to your children; you don't have time to deal with Aunty Karen (sorry aunties named Karen, just an example!) and her opinions on your parenting.
Now don't get me wrong, this is SO hard. Excluding people from your festivities can feel like you're just being mean. But try to reframe it in your mind to look at how everyone will enjoy themselves the most. If you're having to ward off nasty comments, you're certainly not going to have a good time now are you? And chances are, that person is toxic to everyone and they'll all breathe a sigh of relief and thank you later.
2. Let go of the perfectionism
I know, I know, easier said than done! Cut yourself a little slack though, mama. Christmas really doesn't need to be perfect to be a special and magical time for everyone. I've had to deal with this in the past few days since we put our Christmas tree and decorations up. Turns out, those Christmas decorations and that tree are SUPER exciting to a two year old. So my beautiful displays and carefully decorated Christmas tree are getting rearranged on the daily. And you know what? I've decided that's okay. This house, that Christmas tree and those decorations are hers too. She lives in this house too, why should she not be allowed to move the decorations around? So maybe my tree isn't Instagram worthy, but it's still magical to her and that's what matters.
Letting go of the perfect vision of Christmas can be hard, but it's so rewarding. You'll enjoy yourself so much more if you're not stressing about how beautifully the presents are wrapped, or how Pinterest-worthy your Christmas table is. Remember, that Pinterest post you saw with that stunning Christmas table? Yeah, that person didn't have three kids and a dog running around. It probably wasn't even Christmas when they staged that up.
Use paper plates if it means you won't have to do dishes - nobody will remember what plates you used, but they will remember how yummy the food was on it. Put the gifts in gift bags instead of painstakingly wrapping them. The paper would just get ripped off anyway, and gift bags can be reused next year!
3. Delegate wherever you can
Are you sensing a theme here? That these are all easier said than done? Seriously though, you've got to delegate. Even if you think you would do it best (and let's face it, you probably would), giving someone else a chance to do a specific task takes the pressure off you and makes them feel more involved. Which then means they're less likely to attempt to skate through the festive season next year and do nothing (I'm looking at you husbands!).
Make a list of all the things you need to do, and prioritise it. Once it's prioritised, you'll be able to decide if each task is something that must be done by you, or if you could delegate it. This is a largely personal decision on what you feel comfortable delegating, but most of the time you can send your partner to the supermarket to buy all the food (perhaps with a very detailed list) for Christmas Day and not have it go spectacularly wrong.
And when it comes to gifting? When you married your husband or got together with your partner, you didn't automatically become the chief gift planner and buyer. It's okay to ask your partner to buy a gift for their own parents. It's NOT your job, and if they forget to buy something it's not your fault. You delegated that task, right?
4. Take some time out
Taking some time out during the festive season is crucial to my sanity. During this time of year I usually have a hair appointment, or an eyebrow appointment or SOMETHING that means I get at least an hour to myself. If beauty treatments aren't your jam, head out "Christmas shopping" and sit in Starbucks and read a book for an hour. Honestly, it sounds silly but having a bit of time to yourself listening to some uplifting Christmas music and sipping on a coffee can give you a chance to breathe and feel ready for the stress of Christmas Day. You can do the Christmas shopping once your gingerbread latte is finished.
"Yes Jess, but I can't get rid of the kids!" I hear you cry. This can be pretty difficult if you're like me and your partner works through a lot of the holiday period. Daycare is often closed for a couple of weeks and you just need a moment to yourself. At this time of year, try to slow down a little when your kids are asleep or doing a quiet activity. Don't worry about rushing around to do the laundry or stack the dishwasher. You can always do it later. Just sit down with a cup of tea and scroll through Instagram for a while. Or, get totally engrossed in watching Frozen 2 (guilty) with your toddler and just relax for a bit. There's always a way, I promise.
5. Be present
It seems odd to go from suggesting giving your kids screen time so you can have a break to talking about being present, but I'm talking about in the precious moments. On Christmas morning, put your phone on the dresser and enjoy the excitement on your kids' faces when they get up and see their presents under the tree. At Christmas dinner, engage with the family (because nobody toxic will be there, right?) and soak up the precious moments.
Christmas only comes once a year, and for so many of us it is a time for family to get together after long periods of time apart. Heck, especially this year! By being present you're filling your cup of emotional connection with the ones you love the most. Let your joy reservoirs be filled by your kids' enthusiasm for putting out cookies and Milo for Santa.
They're only little for such a short while, and no matter what we do at Christmas it's going to be special for them because we did it. When they're older, it's us they'll remember, not the toys they got. They'll remember how their mum was covered in flour from making Christmas biscuits together, or how the gingerbread house fell flat because you didn't hold the pieces together long enough.
Those are my top tips for taking care of yourself during the silly season. Do you have any other tips I've missed? Join the conversation over on Facebook.