Hate to break it to ya, but there is no such thing as a stress-free life. We all have work pressures, financial worries, parenting struggles, relationship issues, health problems… the list goes on and on. It’s on us to manage our stress in a way that works for our unique preferences, interests, and personalities. And when you have kids, there are greater opportunities for stress and soooo many fewer opportunities for self-care.
And then we throw the holidays into the mix. Some love them, some loathe them, and some love to loathe them. I can get very wrapped up and overwhelmed by the pressures and expectations the holidays bring, but I also love my family’s holiday traditions, Christmas music, the pretty lights, the yummy treats, and time with family and friends. In order to not fall into the “the holidays suck, I’m broke, and I can’t be at three places at once on Christmas Day” trap, I have to take care of myself. Here are some of the ways I’m attempting to not become the Mama Grinch who stole Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Because if I’m not having fun, no one else is either! I am determined to enjoy this holiday season if it kills me!
1. Everyone out!
I mean it. This fall and winter, we are getting outside on a VERY regular basis — rain, snow, or shine. It is miraculous what a little fresh air and nature can do for a cranky toddler and mama. I’m a homebody for sure, but long days in the house with a toddler can get pretty dicey.
I have a few favorite spots in the Boston area that have playgrounds as well as beautiful and mind-clearing elements of nature. When things are getting crazy in the house or up in my head, I grab a coffee and head out to get some air and, hopefully, some much needed perspective. Here are my go-to places:
Millennium Park in West Roxbury. This spot has beautiful views, two playgrounds, paved walking paths, hills for sledding, and tons of open fields to fly a kite or pull a sled — and a port-a-potty if you or your little need it.
Riverdale Park in Dedham. This is a quiet spot in Dedham right along the Charles River equipped with basketball courts, swings, a climbing structure, and tons of trees and space. Bring your coffee, have a seat on a bench, relax, gaze through the trees into the river, and breathe. Once you’ve gotten your zen back, go ahead and shoot down Route 1 and hit Legacy Place so you can lose it again trying to find a parking spot.
Francis William Bird Park in East Walpole. This little gem is out in the suburbs of Walpole but only a 20-minute drive from where I live in West Roxbury. The winding pathways, groves of trees, playgrounds, and tennis courts filled with rideable toys are totally worth the short drive. There is also a port-a-potty here.
2. No more gifts! (For the adults, at least)
This one is gonna feel strange, because I’ve always exchanged with my parents, siblings, in-laws, and close friends. The point is to eliminate the stress of figuring out what to get and the time and money required to get said gifts. The goal is to have MORE time to spend with the people I’d be running around buying gifts for. Spending time with people we love and taking time to enjoy what these holidays mean to our family is what matters most, especially now that we have a child.
It feels liberating to let go of the self-imposed expectations to get meaningful, thoughtful, and cool “stuff” for people. Now we will have more energy, time, and resources to DO things with the people we love, like seeing the Christmas lights at La Salette, ice skating at the Frog Pond, baking yummy holiday treats, enjoying all the tree lightings in the area, and watching our favorite Christmas movies while eating cozy dinners at home.
3. Eat, drink, and move your body
This season, I plan to enjoy every sip of pumpkin spice coffee and every bite of cake, stuffing, and whatever other deliciousness comes my way in my holiday travels. I will eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m sufficiently fed. I will continue high-intensity strength training in my living room three days a week for 20 minutes, and I’ll go out walking when I can. Getting back in shape or losing fat will NOT be my New Year’s resolution, because I plan to neither restrict nor over-indulge. I will not be obsessed with exercising, but I will not sit on the couch all winter.
This holiday season I plan to not only survive, but really take in and enjoy all that is wonderful and delicious. I will not be super mom, and I will not be mama Grinch. I’ll let go of the self-imposed expectations and pressures that simply do not serve me or my family.
I wish you all a (somewhat) relaxed and delicious holiday season!