Mondays for Moms: 7 tips for surviving the holiday season with sanity
‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.
The children are nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
Me in my nightgown and hubs with his nightcap have just settled in for a long winter’s nap …
Well, at least that is not the case at my house.
At my house, the kiddos will be out of school in a few weeks, meaning their beautiful little eyes will be peering into mine each morning with the same loaded question: “What are we doing today, mommy?!?!?!?!” As if mommy doesn’t already have 1.57 billion things to do with family coming into town, gifts to wrap, parties to attend … the list is so long I’m beginning to sympathize with Santa having to check his lists twice for goodness sakes!
After we scarf down some breakfast, it’s that super fun game of:
“Don’t touch that!”
“Get down from there!”
“Please don’t pull on the ornaments!”
And, what about the fact that then there will only be like two rooms they can even go into (you know, because a big guy in a red suit will have stopped by …)
So then, the game becomes:
“Nope! Can’t go in there!”
“Please come back!” “Don’t peek under there!!!!!”
Shout out to all the moms! The time is near, friends. And we are all teetering on the brink of Fa La La La Losing our minds.
That’s right. The day is coming when school is either half-day or out for weeks, toddlers are running amuck and we won’t give a care about the new Christmas tree flavored drink at Starbucks anymore because we will all be driving our Hot Mess Expresses all over town to the [insert anywhere in the world that will entertain children] and back 1,478 times a week.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re kinda, not so secretly freaking out about it. I mean, nobody loves Christmas more than a momma, but the struggle is real when it comes to keeping the kiddos pacified until the 25th.
So, I have decided (on behalf of all of us) that we will not take this invasion of toddler tyranny sitting down. We refuse to be unprepared. We will get up off the couch, shed our mermaid blankets, toss our coffee mugs in the sink and take back our homes. One. Momma. At. A. Time.
In my weekly love letter to you beautiful ladies, here are seven tips for surviving the holiday season with sanity:
(1) Set boundaries – I promise you right now that this will be the most important thing you ever do for your family. Regardless of the season, boundaries are key. Fourteen holiday parties? No way. Fifty-seven kid functions after school? Nope. Family Christmases dominating the entire month of December? Not up in here.
If no one has ever told you this, please allow me the pleasure of being the first to share it with you: you and your family’s sanity is priority over your schedule. All the party invites and family functions will start to stack up this week. And with each one will come a little higher level of anxiety and a little larger pit in your stomach. Let this be the year of “no” to the hustle and bustle, and the year of “yes” to family time at home. You will never regret staying in and soaking up time with your little ones, so making them a priority is your call and your right as momma. Prayers now for you to be bold. You’ve got this, momma!
(2) Team up! Find a fellow mom (preferably one that you get along with and/or that your children adore one another) and set up some standing playdates. Kids crave interaction. They need it socially and honestly, they’ve gotta have it to get the silly billies out. Heavens knows we want those dang silly billies out …
Get a head start. Draft your team. Heck, get four or five mommas together and agree to trade off hosting once a week or designate a kid-friendly location in town to meet up. (Side note: if this location also serves adult beverages, you’re the winner in my book… #JustSayin…)
(3) Be prepared – Prep yourself with some creative activities – Girl, listen. I love Pinterest like the rest of you. But ain’t nobody got time to stalk the whole site and come up with umpteen activities for each day. Because let’s get real — we’re normal and runny noses don’t wipe themselves.
So, I came up with some ideas that we can do for free, without overworking our creativity and/or maxing out our credit cards at Hobby Lobby (Side note: All the feels for Hobby Lobby all day, every day)…enjoy:
* Put together a family time capsule – We are loving this idea at our house! Fill a shoebox with a few toys, photos and other memorabilia of whatever is going on currently with your family. We have decided to write little notes about what is going on with our family as we are making each capsule. Then, we hide it in our basement closet and will return to it years down the road, peek inside and relive the memories. This is such a great sentimental craft but it is also an awesome way to eat through four hours of a day without even realizing it! Cabin fever be gone!
* Go on a scavenger hunt – Turns out you can set up a scavenger hunt in under 10 minutes. Simply select five to 10 items to hide, jot down quick clues and set out on the adventure to find them! Pro tip: Utilize your elf-on-the-shelf knowledge to help make your hunt even more fun!
* Put on a family talent show – Get the family together in the den, turn off the TV and let each family member have their own 15 minutes of fame!
* Build a fort and watch movies from inside – This is an all-time favorite for me. My brother and I used to build forts as kids and I still remember those times as some of my most favorite memories of childhood. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that will stick in your kids’ minds forever!
* Host a cookie/cake decorating party – Pro tip: Buy some premade sugar cookies, lay out some icing and sprinkles. Congratulations. You’ve just bought yourself at least an hour of sanity, friend.
* Recreational bath time – We can’t get in an actual pool due to cooler temps, so let the kids splash around in the tub. Since bathtime is focused on cleanliness, let this time be all about the fun! Consider pouring in just a bit of bubble bath to take the fun factor up even more notches! Plus, don’t forget to capture all those shampoo mohawk hair moments on the camera to laugh at for years to come!
* Storytelling session – Encourage your kiddos to explore their imagination! Consider giving them a character, a scene and a plot. Then, let them fill in the rest of the story.
* Make a homemade pizza – If you have time to plan ahead, make sure to stock your fridge with pizza ingredients for a super fun treat with your kids. Allow them to pick their toppings, assemble them and watch as you pop it in the oven! Fun fact: my kids are much more likely to eat all of their meal if they took part in the prep. Just like with adults, there is something “cool” about feeling like you cooked a great meal!
* Have a dance party – There is nothing that relieves stress faster and more effectively for me than turning up some music and just bustin’ a move ….
Let the kids pick the music and consider even throwing together a quick routine! P.S. Our family fave is “Some Nights” by Fun. (don’t forget the period.)
* Put on a fashion show – Encourage the kids to dig in their dress-up baskets and strut their stuff! Make it fun by giving out prizes for “best smile,” “best outfit,” “best walk,” etc.
* Host a family room camp out – Gather sleeping bags, pillows and lots of blankets to form a campsite in your den. Snuggle up and tell stories until time to go to sleep.
* Have a puzzle/game championship – Put out a bunch of puzzles and games for the children to select from. For extra fun, keep score as you compete as a family!
(4) Raid the Target dollar bins – Make this a sport that you attempt to win the gold medal in finding the greatest items. I am in a relationship with the Target dollar bins. It’s borderline unhealthy. Moving on … Heads up, you can walk in Target any day of the week and find a fun activity (or 10) for you and your little one(s) to do for under $10. Seriously. Locate your dollar bin section and have a ball. Heads up, they ramp it up even more during the holidays, but make sure to stock up early because once it’s gone, it’s gone, y’all!
(5) Plan some inexpensive day trips – No matter where you live, there is bound to be a park, museum, attraction, zoo, aquarium, etc. that would provide hours of enjoyment! Pack a picnic lunch and set out on a family adventure.
You don’t have to spend a bunch of money. If you live in a bigger city, you could even pack two attractions in for one day. Or, spread them out over the holiday season. The key to remember: the holidays are marathon, not a sprint! Don’t feel like you have to wear the hat of a professional cruise director day in and day out. Spread the activities out and give yourself a break!
(6) Look into classes and camps offered in your area – Did you know that churches, local colleges, zoos, museums and schools offer day camps/classes for children … even during the holidays?!? In fact, gyms, dance studios and theaters offer classes as well! You would be amazed at how many different organizations make an effort to give kids fun activities while school is out!
Here are some ideas of what’s available:
Indoor swim lessons
Science camps (at children’s museums and schools)
Photography classes/camps for older kids
Ice skating classes/camps (this is an interesting one that most people don’t think about …)
(7) Give yourself (and those sweet babies) grace – When the goin’ gets tough, remind yourself of three things:
(1) You are enough. You are doing the best you can. And that’s enough. Heck, it’s better than enough. It’s awesome.
(2) You’re the one. God picked you to be the momma to your little ones. Out of the entire universe, God picked you. Wow. You are a star!
(3) You are so loved. God loves you. Those babies love you.
You’ve got this. Chin up, momma! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get down about the things you can’t control and focus on the ones you can. Junior is not gonna go on and on about his mother’s perfectly ironed duvet covers one day. But, he will brag about all those super fun, late night dance parties before bedtime.
Let’s love those babies like it’s goin’ out of style. And, most importantly, let’s give ourselves (and each other) grace.
Whew. This was a long one. Ha! What are your tips for surviving the holidays with sanity? Please share in the comments!
To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.
Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis.