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Tips for Parenting Despite Holiday Stress

How do you manage holiday stress? Drink more eggnog, or lower the bar?

Tasha Schlake Festel

How do I handle holiday stress? One word: Eggnog.

Pour what you like in it to do the trick. I prefer Cognac. Others like rum, perhaps a little bourbon, possibly brandy, even amaretto. Ah, good stuff. There are days when all that gets me through the day is the thought of that sweet and creamy treat with a satisfying kick. Sure, it’s not great for the diet, but is there anything about the holidays that is good for the waistline?

Sadly, this is a temporary and fleeting fix, only available after 5 p.m. So, what can you do when it’s not appropriate to marinate your holiday stress in Cognac? I do the same thing I do to handle stress the other 11 months of the year. I exercise. No matter how busy things get during the holiday season, exercise must remain a part of my life or it all falls apart. I squeeze in that run, a little kick boxing, some weights, whatever I need. Heck, I’ve even started running hill sprints to take the edge off! (Fridays at 5:30 a.m. at my house if you want to join me!) I make sure to give myself that physical outlet at least four times a week. It is a priority, like getting my kids to school, and keeping the fridge stocked with eggnog. I make time for it. No excuses.

Not all stress is bad stress. I thrive on some of the positive stresses of the season, like seeing friends and family, baking and finding just the right gift for someone on my list. When I get overwhelmed – which isn’t hard, since I live my day-to-day life on the edge of Overwhelmed-ville – I try to remember that the reason I am so busy is because my life is filled with friends, family and joy. Without those things, I’d have nothing to do. So when I think about it that way, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Another thing I try to keep in mind is that it’s all totally temporary. Take a deep breath. Eat too many cookies. Have at least one eggnog a night, with or without “the good stuff.” Take a few minutes every day to take it all in – notice the little things and enjoy them. Shoot lots of pictures and videos. Come January 1st, it’s just a memory. Well, except for the credit card bills that will serve as souvenirs for months to come.

Peggy Barresi
Through the years I’ve learned this: You can’t do it all. That’s right. There’s no perfect work/life balance, nobody’s house is always squeaky clean without piles of laundry waiting to be washed, and Martha Stewart’s holiday reality is fake. Fake, fake, fake. This is a difficult realization for Type A people like me. Me, not flawlessly execute the holidays? The horror!

My solution has been to streamline what I can, based on what I actually feel like doing during a particular holiday season. Not in the mood to create the family Christmas card? I’ve skipped it. Don’t feel like baking? Forget the cookies. I love throwing parties, but not always during the holidays when there’s so much else going on. If I’m in the mood, I’ll go for it. If not, well, skip that too. I don’t have an “annual” anything.

Of course, some things are required. For example, the kids need presents on Christmas day, right? The best invention for stressed holiday shoppers is The Internet. Point and click, my friends, and take advantage of free shipping deals. You will find the item you want in the size you need and color you desire. No bopping from store to store to find those boots the teenager must have. I do at least 80% of my Christmas shopping online, baby. Mark, the UPS man, loves me.

I like pretty things during the holidays. I enjoy decking the halls. I really love to make my presents look beautiful. I pick a different wrapping color scheme every. This year, I even made my own gift tags. This gives me pleasure, not stress. For others, wrapping might be pure hell. So stick everything in a gift bag, people, and save yourselves the aggravation.

The point is, do what you absolutely need to do as efficiently as possible so you can spend time enjoying the parts of the holidays that bring you joy. And recite the holiday mantra to yourself as often as needed: I cannot do it all, so I will do what I can. Happy Holidays!

Regina Martine
The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and good cheer. Happy, rosy-cheeked children singing carols, sparkling lights and candy canes. Fa la la la la …

Yet somehow, the whole month of December seems like a blur of to-do lists that don’t quite get done. So here we are, a week and a half ‘till Christmas, and this is where I stand: My husband left on a three-day business trip, we have a new, semi-housebroken puppy, I am probably not halfway done with my Christmas shopping, we don’t have a tree yet, and every day I want to crawl into my PJs as soon as it starts to get dark at 4 p.m. Oh, and I can’t remember which wrapping paper I am supposed to use for which gifts. 

I did manage to get my Christmas cards printed, but I haven’t sent them out because my printer is out of ink and I can’t print the address labels. (Yes, I know I can write them by hand.) We have one set of grandparents coming before Christmas and two coming after. I need to figure out what to cook for all these people. I need to shop for food. Not just the regular food shopping that I do all the time, but the fancy food shopping. I need to bake cookies. Lots of cookies. All my pants are too tight. My eight-year-old daughter needs to build a scale model of a native American dwelling by Friday. I bought the makings of lots of Christmas crafts that I plan to give as gifts, but I haven’t started working on them. I still need to work and go to the gym and help the kids with homework and take them to all their activities and feed them and do tons of laundry. And the whole time, that friggin elf keeps watching me from up on the shelf. Humbug. I am not feeling very jolly.

Every October, I plan on getting organized well in advance so I’ll get all my Christmas stuff done early. I’ll be done shopping by Thanksgiving! Yay! I plan on spending December baking cookies and drinking eggnog and a-wassailing, whatever that is. It has never happened. Not once. Online shopping has made it easier to buy gifts and having all my kids in school allows me to shop when the stores are less crowded, which is good, since I have been known to start hyperventilating and have a near-anxiety attack whilst shopping. I think it is a combination of wearing a heavy winter coat in a crowded mall, constant Christmas music and those Salvation Army bell-ringers.

Anyway, I do enjoy the cookie making and the gift giving and the smiling, happy children on Christmas morn, and I know in the end, all the craziness will be worth it. For now, I just wish that elf would help me get it all done.

Laurie Hunt
I’m really not sure when we women decided that Martha Stewart was someone to aspire to be, even though most of us don’t have a staff helping us out behind the scenes. 

I think it’s important to take a step back and decide what the holidays really mean to you and how you want your children to remember them. Do you want the kids to remember having fun making crafts, baking cookies and decorating the tree – without you moving all of the ornaments around and having meltdowns because things are not just so? 

You can do it!

Some things I have done that help are being better organized at shopping and setting aside one day to do the bulk of it. Several years ago I started doing the majority of my shopping on Black Friday, this year I did most of it on Small Business Saturday. As far as baking for Christmas I learned if I have time I bake a lot, get fancy and give lots away as gifts. If I don’t have time I bake less for giving away - a bottle of wine is always a nice gift too. If someone comes by unannounced to say “Merry Christmas” I say welcome them and move the basket full of clean clothes waiting to be folded on the couch to offer them a seat and don’t go into panic mode. They stopped by to see you not judge your housekeeping skills.

I guess what I am getting at is rather than trying to fill your home with “perfection” this time of year, focus on filling it with love. 

Jonathan Pickering December 15, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Great article! Does anyone else have some insider parenting tips on how they are going to survive the holidays that our authors didn't tackle?

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