The expectations of the Christmas season for moms is often a soul sucking stew of June Cleaver, Mrs. Claus, and your mother. Somehow, once a year, in the rapid pace of the 21st century we are supposed to pile on the expectations of women 70 years ago, and make it all work. In March we buy some cookies at Trader Joe’s, in December we are supposed to whip out our mother -in-laws thumbprint cookies she insists your husband loves. In June, we sent Aunt Marge a text and video clip of the kids at the pool. In December we are supposed to have a perfectly arranged family photo card with a heartfelt personal message to her. The reality is that work, school, laundry, and dishes never let up for us to take on these June Cleaver endeavours.
It’s no wonder that many moms walk through the holidays with more dread than joy.
I believe this stew of pressures and unrealistic expectations is no accident. Moms are the emotional thermostat of the family, so is it any wonder that Satan would attempt to steal our peace when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace?
But momma, can I tell you something? You have choices this month. You can pull on your big girl panties and tell Satan, “Not this year!” You can choose a joy-filled Christmas for yourself. I want to share five little steps that can make a big impact this December.
- Cull your gift giving list. CULL. Yes, with all the brute force that word instills – cut the list of people you give to, and the quantity of gifts given. Have honest discussions with family and friends, you may be surprised at how many people are grateful to take your family off their shopping list. In lieu of gifts, suggest each family make a donation to their favorite charity, or enjoy a family meal together in February. When all else false, order a family gift off Amazon (pre-gift wrapped) and be done.
- Streamline your Christmas season activities. This year so much is cancelled! Hooray! (Sorry, was that Grinchy?) While outside activities have been cancelled, the expectations of building gingerbread houses, making Christmas ornaments…. Fill in the blank… just with your nuclear family can feel overwhelming. Call a family meeting and ask what one thing matters most to each member of the family. Everyone gets ONE thing. You may be surprised at all the rituals and activities you have been striving to keep up that no one is passionate about doing. One year my youngest asked if we could play cards, with wonder and joy in her eyes. Play cards! We literally do that three days a week at our house. It’s what she wanted, so we did it, and I skipped the planned Christmas crafting night.
- Be honest with your spouse if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is so much healthier to admit your feelings in advance than let your holiday stress load come out in a fit of holiday crazed grumpiness. I have never met a husband who would pick the trappings of Christmas over a happy wife. Pete has been an amazing support over the years helping me think clearly about what really matters and what does not. Together we have scrapped Christmas cards, homemade cookies, and 75% of our December social lives. He has ordered pizza more nights in Dec than I can remember.
Now that you have generated a little breathing space, and lightened your load of expectations can I suggest you give yourself the following two gifts?
The gift of His Presence. One of the most delightful movements I have seen in the last few years is the growing embrace of Advent. Advent is the 4 weeks before Christmas. This is a great time of year to settle in for some daily quiet time with the Lord. Whether you get an Advent specific devotional such The Greatest Gift by Ann Voscamp, or follow along with a Christmas focused reading plan on Bible.com, spending time with the Lord will restore your peace, and fuel your day with His joy. Now don’t get caught up in feeling like Advent already started, or you don’t have the right resource. Start today. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, today is the perfect day to start.
Twelve Days of Christmas. Every year I gift myself 12 days of Christmas. Ideally what this means to me is that I am done with the “work” of Christmas by Dec 13th. Gifts are wrapped, cards are sent (if I did them), gifts are distributed. I am done. I also deserve a holiday. I also deserve JOY in this season. I also deserve the wonder and peace of Christmas. Ladies, no one is going to offer that to you. You can test me, or you can take my word. I spent years testing this theory. You have to choose it for yourself. Now every year I may not be done by the 13th, that is okay. Traditionally the 12 days of Christmas start on the 25th anyway. If you are not done with the “work” of the holidays until late on the night of the 25th could you plan now to carve out your holiday for the following 12 days? This gift to myself has dramatically shifted how I enter a new year, and how I view the holiday season. It also gives me a deadline. As I approach that deadline, I am much more likely to cut unnecessary spending and fluff, as I call the “work” of Christmas done.
One of the greatest outcomes of me choosing a simplified Christmas, that prioritizes my own joy, is I am giving my girls permission to not enter the holiday martyr mindset when they start their own families.
I want my daughters to feel free of June Clever Christmas expectations, and the trap of Satan that takes away women’s peace this time of year. I pray in their homes they will celebrate Christmas in a way that leaves them anticipating this season year after year, and experiencing the full Joy of the true reason for the season.
Merry Christmas mommas – May it be a great one!