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Motherhood Matters: How to avoid the Christmas craziness and stay sane this season

Are you feeling overwhelmed by Christmas craziness yet?
Are you feeling overwhelmed by Christmas craziness yet?
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We have a strict policy in our home of waiting until after Thanksgiving to start celebrating the Christmas season: no Christmas music, no Christmas decorations. Nothing resembling Christmas can touch our home until we have fully celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Why? Because I want to bask in the simplicity and gratitude of that holiday for as long as I can before Christmas craziness sets in. Thankfully, my entire family has adopted my philosophy. In fact, this year my teenagers declared that for every home that puts up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving Day, a reindeer dies. It’s true.

The only problem with this strict policy is that it gives us much less time to cram in all of that Christmas craziness: all of those traditions and activities available through family, community and the wonderful world of Pinterest.

Just for fun, because none of us need to sleep during the month of December anyway, let’s take at look at a few of the things many of us feel like we want to or should do during the Christmas season, and then we’ll talk about reality.

Decorate: The tree, the front door, the roof, the bannister, every flat surface in the home. No biggie. It just takes a day or two (or three).

Bake: Gingerbread, caramel corn, toffee, sugar cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, cinnamon rolls, treats for teachers and neighbors, and, of course, Christmas breakfast and dinner. Easy peasy. It’s just another few days' worth of cooking and cleaning.

Shop: You can either fork out the $100 for the Amazon Prime account or who knows how much in gas, time and sanity sitting in your car looking for a parking spot at the mall. Either way, you’ll have several hours (days?) of shopping to do for your spouse, children, parents, in-laws, teachers, boss/employees and whoever else may be on your list. (Because Christmas is about giving and not getting, right?) And don’t forget the time spent wrapping and delivering those gifts to the post office or your loved ones.

Party: Family parties, work parties, church parties, neighborhood parties, school parties. What fun!

Play: Attend a tree lighting. Go to a Christmas concert. Get tickets for a holiday play. Visit Santa for photos. Go sledding or ice skating. Line up for the live Nativity. Drive around to look at the lights. (Stop and pick up some Advil.)

Serve: Just when you thought you had your shopping done, the PTA reminds you of their “Secret Santa” tree. Between that, caroling at the nursing home, taking treats to the neighbors and writing letters to the troops, you should feel plenty of Christmas cheer!

Craft: Oh, boy, there’s no end to this one. Homemade cards, homemade ornaments, homemade presents, homemade treats. Just search “holiday crafts” on Pinterest and watch your day disappear.

Photograph: Ah, yes, the annual family photo. What color scheme this year? Where and when to shop? How to accessorize? Who to take the picture? What backdrop? What pose? What filter? Shutterfly, Costco, Etsy or Tinyprints? Letter or no letter? Who to write the letter? What to include in the letter? What font and paper for the letter? Order the cards. Print the letter. Stuff the cards. Address the envelopes. Stamp the envelopes. Go to the post office. Go to your room and cry.

Create a new tradition: Go to a tree farm and get a live tree. Wrap, open and read a different Christmas story every day of December. Watch all 25 of your favorite Christmas movies. Purchase “The Elf on the Shelf,” and come up with a new and creative ways to pose him or her after everyone has gone to bed each night. Do the “12 Days of Christmas” for a neighbor. Organize a neighborhood cookie baking party. Make gingerbread houses as a family. Get Christmas jammies for everyone to open and wear on Christmas Eve. Start an Advent calendar. Begin a holiday village display. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Make reindeer food to put out on Christmas Eve next to Santa’s cookies. Go absolutely. out. of. your. mind.

All sarcasm and joking aside, can you see how the Christmas season can become so crazy so fast? Between our own expectations from childhood, our spouse’s, the expectations of our children, and the sheer quantity of options and ideas screaming at us from the computer, TV, billboards and smartphones, it’s absolutely necessary for you as the mom (aka head activities coordinator) to make a deliberate plan for how to do Christmas each year or you really will go out of your mind trying to make everyone’s wildest Christmas dreams come true. And for me, the most important part of that process is deciding what not to do.

Just like when we declutter our homes and discover all the gems beneath the junk (and that we really do have more than enough to make us happy), the same principle applies to our holiday traditions. So before you get too overwhelmed by all the options and expectations facing you in early December, take a few hours to de-junk your holiday lists and schedules and find those gems. There really is more than enough to make your family truly happy.

I really like the idea of taking some of that simplicity and gratitude from the Thanksgiving season and extending it into December — instead of the other way around — because getting what we really want out of Christmas (wonderful memories of fun, love and family bonding) shouldn’t require the health and sanity of the mother of the family. So in the name of all things bright and merry, I propose we all make a vow to keep Mom (and all the reindeer) alive and well this Christmas season.

QUESTION: Are you feeling overwhelmed by Christmas craziness yet? What’s your plan to stay alive and well through January?

CHALLENGE: Help for Christmas Craziness is on the way! Check out April Perry’s guide to planning your ideal Christmas.

This article is courtesy of Power of Moms, an online gathering place for deliberate mothers.