These days, it's hard not to feel the pressure to get it all done for the holidays. As moms, we want to be all and do all for everyone. The media tells us that we need to be Martha Stewart, Marilyn Monroe and Mrs. Claus all rolled into one, or we are less of a woman/mother/etc. Do I need to explain that? Martha Stewart because we should all be able to bake 20 different kinds of perfect cookies without ever burning one and we should all be able to create a beautiful museum-worthy gift out of toothpicks and toilet paper; Marilyn because we should all dress sexy and be a goddess for our significant others; and Mrs. Claus because who else is going to buy all of the presents and wrap them in time for Christmas or Hanukkah. Certainly not - gasp - our husbands?
I am not immune from feeling the pressure of getting everything done. Every year around Halloween, I start to feel guilty because I haven't pulled the holiday cards out of storage and started writing them out. By Thanksgiving, I am breaking out in hives when I think about updating the address list for the cards. I start to keep lists of people to buy for and begin to wonder if my neighbors really like the cookies I give them. I ask myself if the gardener really needs a holiday card or will he notice if I don't send anything.
I tell myself that I will clean the house "next weekend" and get those decorations up. I put off calling the photo studio for a sitting time, believing that I will have time to get the girls showered and cleaned up and be able to take a few cute pictures before they crawl away and scramble off the couch. I worry that there is some long forgotten teacher's aid or school official that I will need to include in my gift giving and I fall asleep at night watching dollar signs float by instead of sheep.
This year was no different. If you look on my phone, you will see several lists in my Notes app of holiday gift ideas and people that I still need to find the perfect present for. If you look in my purse, there are several handwritten lists of things that I need to pick up at the store and cookies that I want to bake. My iPad has lists as well, people who need gifts and others that I want to remember this holiday season (including the gardener, the exterminator and the crossing guards at school.) In addition to B's teacher, I opted to say "Happy Holidays" with small gifts for the directors of Child Care at school (since B spends 1/2 of each day there) and the counselors who hand the first graders, and spent a few moments stressing over what to get each of them. I made up a cookie box for the crossing guard that we see each morning and have a few things tucked away for some of my neighbors. I'm still stressing about the holiday card address list.
Despite all of this pressure, I've also decided to scale back a bit. I read something on a post a few weeks ago, that part of doing all for all includes realizing when you can't do it all and being o.k. with letting those things go. I took that little bit of advice to heart and started to reevaluate what I could let go. First, the holiday cards - I am resigned to the fact that they will not get there before Hanukkah or Christmas. I am working on New Year's cards instead. As for the long list of people who I feel compelled to give gifts to, I've scaled that back as well. The gardener will do without this year and while I may send a holiday card to the exterminator, he will have to do without that gift card for dinner as well. The neighbors don't need 10 different varities of cookies to go with the festive bottle of (cheap) wine I got them. They might get 1 or 2 kinds of cookies and a fun tin of candy (on sale at Wal-Mart) to go with it. I also decided that the holiday decorations and lights that I had were enough. Maybe next year I can plan ahead and put more up, but at this point, no one is really going to notice or miss it if I don't have lights across my garage.
I really took a chance this year and left town the weekend before Christmas. Yes, that's right, I chucked it all and flew to Phoenix to hang with a few friends. We baked cookies and got to just hang out and catch up, something we haven't done in a few years. I came home to a massive pile of gifts to wrap but at least I was a little less stressed. I'm treating myself to a massage here and there (taking advantage of a few gift cards and credits that have piled up) and I'm working on being more accepting of my limitations. The kitchen may get a little dirty with flour and sugar and the floor may not get vacuumed as often as I'd like, but I'm o.k. with that.
As the day slowly turns to another night of Hanukkah, another candle to light and another present to open, and as the last few days before Christmas wind down, take a minute to stop and breathe. Ask yourself if anyone but you will notice that there aren't as many cookies. Does anyone but you really think that the neighbor's cat needs a present? Or are these pressures that you can do without, things that won't add to your family's holiday, but will cause you stress and remove you from the wonder and joy of the time. I hope that you, my friends, take a minute, or two, or ten, for yourselves. Sit down, have a glass or mug of whatever makes you happy, and just be. Enjoy the moments and revel in the peace that it brings you to let it all go.
I, in the meantime, will be cleaning my kitchen, wrapping the last few gifts, working on G.G.'s present which needs to be finished before tomorrow night, uploading pictures to various electronic gifts, baking 3 or 4 kinds of cookies, making chocolate candy, ... and oh wait. What was I talking about?