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The Mental Load of the Holidays

Recently it hit me: my husband does not share the same sense of urgency around the holidays as I do. Sometimes I truly think that he believes that Santa exists and that the house is surprisingly and cozily decorated just right and the gifts magically appear under the tree with just the perfect shimmery bow. Oh, and the holiday cards? That’s Santa too because how else did they arrive on time? Don’t forget the matching pajamas! It’s a Christmas miracle that he had a set ready for him in his perfect size! I want to say No, Buddy the Elf, Santa doesn’t exist. It’s just that moms are often the ones to make sure it all gets done.

A 2006 study by the American Psychological Association states that “holiday stress has a particular impact on women, who take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, particularly the tasks related to preparing meals and decorating the home.” While the research in this article was done 15+ years ago, the findings still ring true today.

Now that I have a family of my own, I, too, want to create warm, fuzzy, and magical feelings of the holidays in my home. But, I’m not willing to sacrifice my mental health for it.

While I want my family to feel loved and taken care of throughout the holiday season, I also want to enjoy them myself. While I figure out what that balance looks like for me this season and for years to come here are some tips I’ve come up with to help balance the holiday load. 

How to Balance the Holiday Load

Talk about the holiday expectations and needs ahead of time

There is nothing worse than to have high expectations and then not have them met. Talk with your partner and family about what everyone is hoping for this holiday season and see what comes up. It’s a great jumping-off point to assign certain tasks, especially if one person is particularly passionate about a certain part like wrapping gifts.

Ask for help upfront

If there are things you know you’d like to do or a tradition for your family every year, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are no heroes when someone ends up burned out by the end of it all. If the whole family loves baking cookies, see if the little ones want to help with placing them in the cookie tins. Or if there are presents to buy for your partner’s side of the family, ask them to gather the wish lists rather than you hunting them down.

Loosen the holiday grip

I love the holidays just as much as Santa Claus himself. But since I can’t do it all, I’ve learned to let some of the holiday things go. For example, rather than wrangling 3 small children to sit still for a holiday card, I’m going to gather up a few of their best photos over the last year and do a collage instead. This will save me time on finding matching outfits, making sure to avoid a tantrum before we start shooting, and so much more. Take a look at your holiday list and decide what’s crucial and what you can let go of this year.

Maybe you’re mostly the one making the holidays merry and bright for everyone or maybe you have a helping hand from your partner and/or family. No matter what your holiday preparation looks like, I hope you can carve out a little bit of time to actually enjoy the holidays too. You definitely deserve it!

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