I spent the vast majority of my adult life running myself ragged trying to give my family perfect Christmases.
I went way above and beyond, because I thought that’s what good moms did. I bought different wrapping paper for each child. I made sure that everyone’s stockings were overflowing and that the gifts under the tree were plentiful. I baked enough cookies to feed an army, and I decorated every corner of the house.
I lived in fear that my kids would be disappointed, and that sick feeling stayed with me through all my Christmas preparations.
But, the weird thing was that my kids were not brats. They were not spoiled. We had always been honest with them about money issues and they knew that we didn’t have extra money to spend on frivolous things. They did not expect to be showered with gifts.
So, what went wrong?
ME! I went into “mom-over-drive” every single year.
And, of course after the holidays, there was the guilt over how much money I’d spent. And, I felt silly about the amount of stress I had put on myself to find the perfect gifts when everyone was perfectly happy with everything they received.
But, the following year, I’d start all over again, apparently learning nothing along the way.
My kids are actually the ones who retrained me. They started by gently saying, “Mom, you bought too much, you could have stopped with just this one gift.” And then I noticed that they were throwing away much of the goodies I bought them. “I don’t eat that much sugar, Mom.” And, this year it was the kids who suggested that we draw names for the first time. I was so against it. How was I supposed to show them all my Mom-love?
But, I have been amazed at the difference in my stress level this year. For the first time, I have actually had the freedom to enjoy the season without that pit in my stomach.
I’ve gone to the city and looked at the decorations without having to rush around and shop.
My son and I made Chex Mix and watched old Pink Panther movies.
My husband has made a fire in the fireplace every night and we sit with the lights turned low.
I let the grandkids decorate my tree (without redoing it later).
I bought holiday treats at the import store instead of baking them myself.
And, I’m using old wrapping paper to wrap the few gifts I did buy.
I love it when I hear of young moms who have already learned this lesson and are focusing on the joy in the quiet moments rather than the gifts under the tree.
It took me a lot longer to let go of the expectations that I put on myself. But, boy am I glad I finally did.