Unless you're one of those curmudgeonly, Scroogy types, Christmas holds an ethereal, almost magical quality, no matter how old you are. The music. The greenery. The lights. The gleam of anticipation in the eyes of children. It's a joyous, delightful season!
So how is it that such a lovely time of year is almost always cram-packed with STRESS?
It's our own fault, moms. Let's face it. We're the queens of over-commitment. We over-plan, over-schedule, over-buy, and over-obligate! Saying NO to good times and good causes and good friends can sometimes seem to go against our very natures.
But, my dear friends, it's okay to say no sometimes. Really. In fact, learning to say no, especially during the holidays, can often save us boatloads of time and tears. So listen up, ladies!
1. It's okay to say NO to party invitations.
Sometimes the only way to make it to every party and event at Christmastime is to push ourselves to the very edge of our sanity, which only serves to make us exhausted, stressed-out, grouchy wives and mothers. So we've pleased all our friends and extended family by attending every single get-together! Yay for us! In the process we've also been utter terrors to those of our own household.
It can be difficult, I realize, but sometimes we have to make the tough decisions and pick and choose which invitations we will accept. Because of family or work obligations, some events have to be given greater priority than others and that's okay. And there's no need to gush with guilt-ridden excuses either. It's okay, (in fact, it's usually far better,) to kindly decline and let it go.
2. It's okay to say NO to requests for help.
If you've already committed to make the costumes for the Christmas play or to bake five pies for the Christmas benefit dinner, then I'm afraid you're stuck. I really feel like we need to fulfill our obligations when it is within our power to do so.
But taking on new obligations is another matter. Saying NO doesn't mean we don't want to help out or that we don't see the need. Sometimes we just have to stop and consider how much time the commitment will require and how much our peace of mind will suffer for it.
I know it can be hard to say no when we're put on the spot, especially when we're being asked to help with something that is a good cause, but long ago a dear friend told me she defers ALL such decisions to her husband. Granted, that's old-fashioned, but sometimes just responding with, "Let me talk to my husband about it and then I'll let you know," can give us the time to think it through more clearly before making a commitment that might be a mistake. And sometimes our husbands can see the pitfalls of such commitments far better than we can!
3. It's okay to say NO to organized gift exchanges.
So some well-meaning woman in your ladies group at church has proposed a gift exchange. But your son has one at school. Your daughter has one in her Brownie troop. Your husband has one at work. Where do you come up with the extra money for all these gift exchanges, not to mention the time to shop for them, especially when you're not even done shopping for your own children?
Rather than criticize the one who made the suggestion...Yeah, it's easy for her to talk about a gift exchange! She only has one kid! And her and her husband both work!...why not kindly and respectfully bow out? It's okay to be honest and, without whining about your financial status, just explain that you have other shopping yet to do and would rather not participate this time. (But then, of course, don't come to the Christmas party expecting to receive a gift. I've actually been there a few times when people didn't seem to get that.)
My holiday decorating varies from year to year, depending on how busy things are. I have the basics that happen every year--the Christmas tree and a few strands of holly garland--but the decorating beyond that is hit and miss. And if I didn't have one of those handy-dandy prelit trees that snaps together in three pieces, I might not even accomplish that much!
With the shorter season this year, my outdoor decorating hasn't happened yet and may not happen at all. And that's okay. I love Christmas decorating and I would love to have a house that looks like something in Southern Living magazine, but it just can't happen every year. As much as we love the decorating, the short window of time you get to enjoy those decorations sometimes isn't worth all the stress that goes into putting them out and later putting them away. Don't feel bad for limiting the decorating when doing so may save you a lot of time and stress.
5. It's okay to say NO to Christmas baking.
I love to make and give homemade goodies. I love filling my house with the aroma of pies and cookies and candies and I love passing them along to friends and family.
But Christmas baking often takes an incredible amount of time, not just in the baking itself, but in multiple trips to the store for ingredients. If time spent baking is a priority with you because it's something you enjoy, then by all means DO IT! But if you find it's something you're doing because moms are supposed to bake at Christmastime, then maybe you're stressing yourself out for the wrong reason.
And for those of you who feel like you have to bake because homemade gifts are far cheaper than store-bought ones...I have a dirty little secret. That's not always the case! One year I figured up what I had spent in ingredients for several different Christmas goodies and with the added expense of pretty tins to deliver them in, I could have bought some very nice store-bought gifts for less money!
But, Tanya, homemade is better! Maybe, but remember your time is worth an awful lot, too.
6. It's okay to say NO to gift wrapping.
I'm not suggesting you deliver your gifts in Wal Mart bags, but don't feel like you have to spend lots of time and money wrapping gifts or paying others to do it for you. I LOVE beautiful packages wrapped in velvet ribbon and accented with holly sprigs and jingle bells, but that stuff takes a lot of time, especially when you consider most of it winds up in the trash.
My dear moms, GIFT BAGS ARE OUR FRIENDS! Don't feel bad using them! And discount stores sell packs of lovely printed gift boxes that look very nice without any wrapping. Add some curly ribbon or a peel-and-stick bow and you have a perfectly acceptable gift without having to wrap!
And incidentally, I wrap my children's presents because I love seeing their excitement as they tear the paper open, but gifts for others don't always get the same consideration. And you know what? I haven't heard a single complaint yet!
HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! I want to make it very clear I am NOT against giving gifts! I realize that giving is more blessed than receiving and we should be more mindful of that at Christmas than at any other time.
But sometimes the gift giving can go too far. We all enjoy giving, but it's important to give responsibly and with the right motive. Spending more money than we have is unwise. Period. We also shouldn't feel pressured to give out of obligation or as part of some undesignated competition....They always buy for me, so I have to buy for them...She always buys the teacher a really nice gift, so I better do the same. Don't fall into the gift comparison trap.
And realize it's okay sometimes to stop buying within a family. When my husband and I were newly married, we bought for his parents and each of his siblings. Eventually his sisters all married, so we bought for the spouses. Then there were children. And then more children. Pretty soon the gift-giving was becoming more of a burden than a blessing, not just financially, but from a practical standpoint! When my sister-in-law finally suggested we stop with the gift-giving, I think it was a relief to us all! I believe all of us felt the same way, but we felt bad dropping the tradition that had been built among us. Interestingly enough, no one seems to feel less loved and appreciated because we're not buying gifts for one another anymore!
And don't forget to be a tough mom and limit your own childrens' present count when necessary. I think most of us would agree our kids don't need most of what they ask for, And if you're worried about the fit they're gonna throw if they don't get everything they want, then they definitely don't need it! But if you're buying because you don't want to look bad up next to your friends who are buying their kids expensive gifts, then you need to snap out of that thinking, too. Most of our children have more toys and games than they even play with and drawing a line at a certain number of gifts or a certain money amount is good and right and sensible. Don't feel about it, mom! Your child won't be permanently damaged because in the Christmas of 2013 you didn't buy them the latest game system with the ridiculous sticker price. I promise.
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Ironically, learning to say NO to some things can help us say YES to others. YES to more time with our own children. YES to some calmer evenings with our husbands. YES to a Christmas that is more focused on Christ than on our To-Do List. What a heap of stress we can avoid by using that two-letter word a little more often during the holiday season!
Are there some things you can say NO to this Christmas?
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