When I was a little kid, the holiday season was my absolute favorite time of year. It started with Halloween when my mom would take us shopping to get our costumes and help us get dressed on the big day. She'd whip up her famous chili and cornbread and make sure our bellies were full before taking us trick-or-treating.
During Thanksgiving, my aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother would come to our house the night before turkey day to cook. My cousins and I were tasked with peeling sweet potatoes or snapping off the ends of green beans. We loved it because we were all together.
For Christmas, my mother would go all out. Decorations were strung up in every nook of the house. Holiday music played throughout every room. She even got my brother, sister, and me our own little Christmas trees, which were decorated individually for us and set up in our rooms. We'd excitedly head downstairs on Christmas morning to find a football field worth of presents just waiting for us. Our parents beamed joyfully as they watched us tear open perfectly wrapped gifts.
These traditions still continue even though my siblings and I are all in our 30s. For my mother, the holidays are an Olympic sport, and she is a gold medalist.
But, can I admit something to you?
Now that I am a mother, and one that lives across the country from her family, I'm in charge of creating holiday magic for my family and I don't love it.
There is so much pressure as a mama to create perfection during the holidays. From the best costumes to the juiciest turkey to that hard-to-find Christmas gift, a lot of the responsibility for making dreams come true during this season falls on women, and it's exhausting.
It feels like the job I'm already doing as a wife and mother goes into overdrive. In my case, we're traveling to be with Shep's parents for Thanksgiving, but I'll still be cooking a big chunk of the dinner. And as far as Christmas presents go, who knew that you also signed up to be the default gift purchaser for your in-laws once you got married?
I find myself caught between wanting to do everything in my power to make this time of year as special, loving, and memorable as my mother did (and continues to do) for me, and also trying not to drive myself insane with unrealistic expectations.
I know I'm not the only one.
During this season, it's easy to put yourself last to bring happiness to the ones you love. It's a beautiful sacrifice, and who wouldn't want to see the smiling faces of their spouse or children because of the effort put into making the holidays joyful? But, the ones who often suffer are us mamas.
I'll fall short I'm sure, but this year, ahead of the craziness, I'm really making an effort to slow down, take care of myself and ask...is this thing something I want to do/give? Or something I want Shep/Nola/extended family members to have because I feel like I should?
I want to give Nola the world, but will she remember that I stayed up until 4 a.m. wrapping gifts so she could have the perfect Christmas? No. Will she have to go to therapy because I didn't get her the playset we simply couldn't afford this year? No.
It's easy to get caught up in the image that other people put out around the holidays and feel like a shitty wife/mama because you haven't or aren't able to do whatever someone else does.
No holiday magic is worth your sanity, funds, or happiness. This year, I'm going to focus on a few essential things to me and let the rest go.
That means splitting the responsibility of cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner with my brother-in-law. It also means getting Nola two gifts maximum (don't worry, my parents will be spoiling her rotten) that I know she'll play with for years to come.
I want to avoid getting so caught up in creating magic for everyone that I forget to take some for myself. This holiday season, I encourage you to slow down, savor this time of year, and only do what brings your spirit joy.
You've got this, mamas! Happy holidays.
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