Have a less-stressful holiday with the following hard-won advice:
One of my friends, with three kids under the age of five, recently commented that an article she had read about banishing stress stressed her out.
Because “eat every bite slowly” isn’t possible when you are spoon feeding a baby, picking food off the floor, catching a glob of yogurt mid-fall and, yeah, also trying to stab your own fork-full of spinach during this chaos.
Having kids is wonderful—I actually love eating lunch with my girls, too—but eating mindfully is just not the same as even my most hurried lunches while working outside of my home.
Other tips, like my friend pointed out, that don’t translate well, or at all, with the lifestyle of parents are suggestions like “take an hour each day to plan the next day”—ha!—and “let go of stressful situations.” C’mon, this advice is almost a load of crap for any adult, but for parents with young kids, this is absurd.
Instead, parents can do these things to feel less stressed out regularly—especially with the holidays ahead.
Laughing at the absurdity of the situation helps immensely.
For instance, when my husband and I were driving and smelled poop in the car, and we pulled over to find the baby sitting in a car seat literally filled with poop, we didn’t laugh. No, we hurried home, with me trying to yoga breathe in the passenger seat, but that only making it worse because each inhale reminded me clearly of why I was attempting to breathe deeply in the first place. I got a migraine, but couldn’t take anything for it as a breastfeeding mom, and it goes on. Later, however, we laughed. A lot. We still laugh about it.
Sometimes, this is all we can do to relieve stress in the middle of near-crisis level parenting situations.
2. Ask for help.
This one, though, is a serious helper. More, it’s good for children to witness adults asking for help. Everyone needs help—everyone.
I don’t have family nearby and I don’t have many helping hands around me at all, so when I ask for help, I mean it. And I usually get it. I’m feeling more stress-free just thinking of how my parents are coming tomorrow to help with an appointment I have scheduled.
This also is true if you, like I, will be the one hosting a holiday dinner. If you need someone to bring the pumpkin pies or an extra side, then ask! Narrowing down the menu and asking those attending to bring something—anything!—like the wine, or even extra chairs, is essential.
Sure, how I exercise as a stay-at-home mom is not the same as how I did before. Still, even the 20 to 30 minute Pilates breaks I give myself when one kid is watching a show and the other is playing on a mat next to mine, are stress-relieving beyond words.
Just yesterday, when I felt like I was going to tear my own hair out at the baby being fussy all day long, I ran down to the basement, grabbed a few free weights to bring back up, quickly pressed out a couple sets on my bench press and—boom!—half an hour later my husband is walking in the door and I felt ready to comfort him when an hour later it was he who wanted to tear his hair out.
4. Keep it simple.
I would love to go back to where both my husband and myself are from—our families live five minutes apart, us having been high school sweethearts—but we don’t.
After moving a few hours away and having two kids, we welcome those who want to visit us, but we stopped creating an environment of stress that is, for us, how traveling and not having our kids’ routines, beds, etc makes us feel.
I want our kids to look forward to holidays, not dread them because mom and dad are freaking out.
5. Be less anal-retentive.
I had this revelation the other day that I am the worst at being a Type-A personality of anyone I know. Seriously, I get an F at being anal.
Nope, when company comes over, like will happen next week when the holidays officially start at our house, I won’t care if every toy is in its place, or even if my consistent pile of clutter in the kitchen is perfectly cleaned up. Yes, I’ll definitely give the bathroom a quick once over, with some fresh towels, but gone are the days when I worry about a single hair still in the sink.
My house is messier, but my sanity is much more intact.
6. Choose your battles.
This is a tried-and-true saying for a reason.
So my kid wants to wear something different than what I had in mind? Who cares. It’s not the end of the world if her dress is worn with neon yellow socks instead of white frills. Actually, I largely always let my daughter pick out her own clothes because—repeat after me—pick your battles, and feel the stress trickle away. (I’m looking at you, other Type-A parents.)
7. Have a kids’ menu.
There’s this argument out there lately, that I keep seeing on Facebook and in articles, that kids’ menus are ridiculous, and that children should be eating what the adults eat, or not at all. This is completely and utterly not true.
Anyone who says this has either never been a kid themselves (unlikely), doesn’t remember being a kid (possible), doesn’t have kids or has kids who will eat anything and everything (in this case, fuck you)—all of these kinds of people are officially excluded from this conversation.
Will I be placing a plate of our famous brined and buttered turkey with a side of potatoes and green-bean casserole on my daughters’ plates this year? Yes. Will I refuse to grab some cheese and hummus—their typical staples—if they refuse to eat? No. I am not a martyr and I want to enjoy my own plate of turkey.
8. Take social media breaks, but for the love of God, don’t announce it.
In case the world has forgotten, we can do things like unfriend people on Facebook and take social media breaks without announcing them. Just a heads up.
That said, we should take breaks from social media during stressful times, like the holidays.
For one, social media can stir up upsetting emotions and thoughts, and taking a short break—even an afternoon—can be hugely rewarding. For another, what are we really doing using social media when totally stressed out? No good can come of this. This is when we get irritated easily or, worse, we become one of those drama-filled posts that no one wants to see. (The kind of thing we’re taking a break from.)
So take a break. Quietly.
I think I’ll leave my little list of tips here because, frankly, parents only have so much time to read an article without, you know, getting stressed out.
Do you have a tip that other parents could benefit from? If so, I’d love to hear from you in comments.