small xmas tree

How do you "do it all," without losing your mind?

Being a mom around the holidays is no “holiday.” Once we cross the threshold of mid-November through the end of the year, it’s a frenzy of additional responsibilities and an added mental load that can feel daunting. Between school closures, holiday parties, babysitters, feasts to prepare, gifts to buy and wrap, decorations to hang, and magic to create, it can feel like a lot. Then, of course, add on top of it that it’s the time of year when kids are most likely to be sick and as we lose sunlight, when adults are most likely to feel drained and depressed. 

The weekend following Thanksgiving, we have traditionally cut our live tree from a quaint little farm in Loudonville. We’ve marveled each year at how quickly we’ve found and cut our tree and headed home, and relished this simple tradition as a family. This year, however, the tree farm announced they were no longer offering Christmas trees, so we ventured to a new farm. As we wandered through the acres of Christmas trees, we struggled to find one quite right. “Too sparse, too many dead branches, too wide, too short,” we all determined, tree after tree. 

As we wandered and began to question if we’d arrived too late to get something good enough, rather than enjoying the sweetness of my growing children and this fleeting moment, I was distracted and overwhelmed. Why was this taking so long? My to-do list was overwhelming. If we didn’t find a tree quickly, we’d have to find time to go to another tree farm, hours I can’t afford right now. And, even if we do find one, we still need to carry up decorations and deck the halls, so to speak. All throughout, time rushing like a cold breeze past me.

We found a slightly small but satisfactory tree a few minutes later and cut it down and took it home, where my stress came to a head and I snapped at my husband in the kitchen, who was rightfully taken aback. This is supposed to be a special family day, and instead of being here, I was drowning somewhere between my daughter’s birthday in early December and December 24th, by which all gifts would need to be purchased and wrapped.

My stress had spewed onto him to absorb, and I realized that all of this was absolutely pointless if I didn’t get my heart and head in check. If Christmas is a time to show the ones you love how much you love them, how can busy moms do that without losing their minds from the weight of it all?

It was in that moment I stopped myself and apologized. I stopped and observed my chaotic thoughts and realized that I often feel this way when I’ve allowed myself to carry the mental load in my mind without writing anything down into a list. So, after he forgave me, I asked if I could take an hour to make a list of everything that was on my mind and get it in order. When he agreed, I went up to my office and typed out the gift lists, the deadlines, the various things I was carrying around in my mind: babysitters to schedule, address lists to update, gifts to order, food to plan, and identifying people for whom we still needed to come up with gift ideas.

As I came downstairs, I noticed how adorable my girls are at this age, as they eagerly put their favorite ornaments on our tree, making it beautiful and perfect with splashes of color and memories of Christmases past. I looked at my husband with gratitude, thankful for the way he balances my frantic intensity with his deep sea of peace. And, I reminded myself that there’s never been a time he hasn’t helped me make it all work in these densely packed weeks leading up to Christmas. Maybe this year, we’ll be able to hang on to a little perspective and actually enjoy it.

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