It’s that time of year again. We are all crazed with endless holiday obligations. There’s so much to remember in addition to our regular commitments, that it is surprising our brain synapses haven’t imploded under the pressure.
Every year I make a conscious effort to do less. I am trying to find that balance of making the holidays special for my family while actually slowing down a bit and enjoying them myself. I haven’t quite achieved this. My biggest obstacle is my own self-created guilt. Guilt that I’m not doing enough to ‘wow’ my kids into a holiday of a lifetime. Then there’s the fear. Fear that I am letting down teachers, various charities and the world-at-large if I don’t lend a hand and say ‘yes’ to every event, donation opportunity or volunteer slot. For example, my nine-year old has an upcoming holiday breakfast this week that I am unable to attend. If I had rearranged my already packed schedule, I could have done it. I kept thinking of various ways to reconfigure my life to squeeze it in. The more I did these mental gymnastics, the more stressed out I felt. Then, I had a revolutionary thought: “say no”. As soon as I had this thought my body flooded with relief. So, that’s what I did. While I felt good initially about it, there was a tinge of guilt that sat deep in my gut and it wouldn’t leave. I went so far as to quiz my son. “On a scale of one to ten, how important is it that Mom be there for your breakfast?” He gave a half-hearted shrug and said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a one?” A ONE!!! Seriously! He knew a one was NOT IMPORTANT AT ALL. He wasn’t confused about the rating system or anything like that. He genuinely DOES NOT CARE. You would think that this would make me feel better. Oddly, it did not.
Here’s the thing, some kids are really going to care, some are not going to care and some are going to fall anywhere along this spectrum. Even if our kids really care, we aren’t going to be able to say ‘yes’ to everything unless we want to sacrifice our own sanity and well-being. My point is, do you really care about YOU? On a scale of one to ten, how important is it that you take care of yourself? Let me answer that for you, it’s a TEN!
When I think back over my favorite holiday memories with my Mom, they are always when I got to spend one-on-one time with her. I liked it when we made cookies together, when she read me Christmas stories or we watched a holiday movie together. My boys are not the cookie baking type, but I have made it a priority to spend time with them as the holidays approach. I hope that by saying ‘no’ a little more to outside obligations, I have a bit more of myself to share with the people I care about. I wish you the same this holiday season.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent