Is it funny or ironic that I see a lot of memes and posts this time of year reminding people to slow down and don't be stressed? Seriously, how exactly is someone supposed to do that when there is SO much to do? Think about it - how many things do we try to cram into the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas or New Year's? Let's make a list of what the typical family has to do, using a family with two parents and three children:
First, let's figure out what the family dynamic is. How many sets of grandparents are there? When I remarried, our children gained extras. I had an extra parent too. Just juggling the different households is a lot.
The season gets off to a start at Thanksgiving. How many meals do you attend or host? How far do you travel?
Next up - office parties. Odds are both spouses work which results in at least two office Holiday parties. I personally have three this year, but I decided to only attend two, plus Jeffrey Walter's (or JW going forward) office holiday party.
It's not just the party - you have to make sure you have the right party clothes. Sure, you might be able to recycle a dress or suit you wore 15 years ago, but does it still fit? Not if you've been eating all those holiday cookies in the office break room.
School concerts. Think about this - I had three children attending three different schools at one point - one in elementary, one in middle and one in high school. One was in the orchestra, one was in the band, and one was in chorus. JW and I had to figure out how to attend all those holiday concerts. Some years were easier than others, but it still added to the busy-ness of the season.
School class parties. The parents don't actually attend these, but they are usually expected to send supplies for the parties. This could be anything from cups and drinks to cookies and cupcakes - that typically means a special trip to the store.
Then there's the secret Santa gifts. This could be at school, work, or church. It could even be all three. What about the teacher gifts?
If you're a member of church, you may also have special services to attend or participate in there.
Family reunions can happen this time of year too. Honestly, these are my favorite gatherings during the holidays. I LOVE getting together with the cousins, especially when it's a pot-luck meal. I get to try all the different dishes from the various parts of the family - some traditional holiday dishes and some totally different. Ham roll-ups are quite yummy! I have missed having these in the last few years.
Family traditions - when I was growing up, my family tried to go see the Nutcracker performed by the Atlanta Ballet for several years in a row. I know other families that have similar traditions.
Decorating - somewhere in all this, you're supposed to decorate your house. When? How? I've recently heard and seen where people are hiring companies to do this for them. What?!?!?
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be super busy too. When our children were little, JW and I tried really hard to make sure we were all at home for Christmas together. As we were both remarried, the other parents also had "Christmas" time with the girls. Definitely not the easiest of things to accomplish, but we did our best. We settled into a Christmas Eve tradition that has continued into our girls' adulthood. My Dad chose to host his family for Christmas on New Year's or New Year's weekend - hoping to reduce stress for his children and grandchildren.
Birthdays can happen this time of year too. Between December 7th and January 10th, there are at least 8 birthdays to celebrate. We have always done our best to celebrate the birthdays separate from Christmas and this started when I was a child - my oldest brother's birthday is in December, so we never put the tree up until after his birthday.
New Year's Eve - I can honestly say I've only spent a few New Year's Eves not in my PJ's in front of the TV. On those few that weren't, some were much more memorable than others.
Shopping - somewhere in all this, you have to find time for shopping, if you don't get it all done throughout the year. Even then, there's always something that comes up at the last minute - like the food or a school gift.
All this said, that's a minimum of 8 events to attend or be a part of between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. And in my case, this is all done while working a full-time job. How exactly is a person NOT supposed to get stressed or rushed? I'm still not sure, but I can say that it gets a little easier as you get older. Your children are grown and don't have all the school functions anymore; you and your spouse have figured out that you don't have to attend every function; and you have finally realized that your presence is way more important than any gift you could ever purchase.
How do you reduce and avoid holiday stress? Is it possible or do you have more to do than any one person can imagine?
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