The Chief Homemaking Officer

More Than "Just" a Housewife

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The holiday season is officially upon us! I am sure there are many out there like me who are equal parts excited and stressed over what the coming weeks are going to be like. Women in all seasons of life put a lot of pressure on themselves to make each holiday memorable. But in all the chaos and micromanaging many women lose sight of the important things and don’t enjoy the holidays.

Unrealistic Expectations

So many women have unrealistic expectations of what the holidays are going to be like every single year. And every single year there is some level of disappointment. As much as I love them, I blame these expectations on Christmas movies…especially the Hallmark movies. They are so wonderfully cheesy, but almost every woman wants an experience like they see in those movies. Whether they are single or married, have children or don’t there is something about those movies that so many women strive for. Some women want the romance with their special man like the movies have. Others want to make magic for their families that we see in those movies. Some want all of the above. I know I would love to vacation in a Christmas movie town.

Men Too

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The men also fall victim to unrealistic expectations. And again, Christmas movies are the culprit. For men, I see their motivation is slightly more competitive than women. Most of the men in my life use this time of year to outdo themselves in decorating and installing Christmas lights. They want the latest and greatest technology and want to make the best display in the neighborhood. They also strive to give their families the holidays they wished they had growing up.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I hear story after story from women who complain how much they dislike this time of year. They always describe how stressful it is for them. Single women want to make it the most epic holiday season with their friends with parties and vacations (is hot girl Christmas a thing yet?). Ladies with boyfriends plan all kinds of special moments they want to have. They might even plan every detail of certain days with the hopes of being “gifted” with a ring. Engaged ladies also plan every minute detail to make the holiday season the most special one yet.

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Once women are married, they put so much effort into wanting to start new traditions with their husbands. Then there’s stress of incorporating family traditions from both sides. Then figuring out schedules for when to visit family. Once kids are in the picture, the chaos just gets even crazier! And women push themselves to the brink of insanity to do everything they can to make the holidays special for their children.

I hear from women today who wonder how their mothers were able to do all of this. It didn’t seem to phase them at all. These women always say their mother is the Queen of the Holidays. But, I think I have found the way for you to also become a Queen of the Holidays and stay present the whole time.

Childhood Experiences

As you already know, I was a military brat growing up. I was also a commander’s kid. Because my dad was a commander, the holidays were a very busy time for us. When we were stationed in Missouri, I remember every Thanksgiving we would have our usual family meal where we would also host single Airmen. But, we also had to make our rounds at all the chow halls and other facilities on base. One year we made four different stops and you couldn’t not eat something while you were there. This did not include the dinner we were having at home. Then there were other years where there would be football games and other activities to do all Thanksgiving Day. But then, we would still have to be home to host dinner. Somehow my mom was able to get it all done with little to no issue.

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Then, there is Christmas where we would do toy drives for Toys for Tots, run gift wrapping booths, office Christmas parties, parties for the Airmen, events with the church, and the list goes on. Then, some years we would have family visiting, so we would also be entertaining people from out of town. It got crazier when we lived overseas too. We would host people from our host nation, and we would incorporate their traditions into our events too.

 And don’t get me started on the Christmas tour of homes! Participating families would decorate their entire home and have all kinds of people walk through their home to look at all the effort put into it. We would also have snacks and drinks for anyone coming to visit. We would half kill ourselves to clean and decorate our house so that Mrs. Colonel So-and-so didn’t have anything to judge us on.

They were busy times but made for amazing memories…even when dealing with the Mrs. Colonel So-and-sos. It also made for a high standard that I always feel like I have to meet.

Recent History

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The past few years I have struggled with post-holiday blues. And some of those blues hit on Christmas Day! At first I was shaming myself for being upset at the gifts I received or that we didn’t do enough festive outings. But, with reflection, I realized it had nothing to do with gifts or lack of gifts, activities, etc. It just struck me that there was all kinds of anticipation for the big day. Then when it was over, it was just over.

Now, I know the holiday season ends every year, but the past few years seem so abrupt, and I just wasn’t prepared for it. I’m sure you are wondering; how could you not be prepared?! Well, I am guilty of wanting things to go so well for everyone else. I also focus a lot on documenting the holidays. So, it seems like I am experiencing the holidays through the viewfinder which creates a level of separation between me and everything else that is going on.

But this year, things are going to be different, and I am going to share with you some tricks I am going to try in order to have a fulfilling holiday season and remain present the whole time!

How to Reduce Stress

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is so important to do for the holidays. Especially if you see yourself hosting family and events. Things might seem crazy or overwhelming when looking at what all you need to do for upcoming weeks but taking the time to plan will make things so much easier.

Identify Your Goals

The first thing you need to do is identify your goals for the holiday. Do you plan on hosting a Friendsgiving? What about a vacation? Party? Are people coming to visit? Do you want to go to an event your town is throwing? These are all things you have to think about and write them out. Are there things you MUST do and things you would like to do? Be sure to prioritize what is most important for you.

Figure Out Your Family’s Goals

Be sure you meet with your family to know what they would like to do as well. Would your kids like to see the lights at the zoo this year? Does your husband want to host a football game on Thanksgiving? Does anyone want to go to a Christmas market? It is also important to talk with family out of town. If they want to visit you, you need to know when they are coming and what they would like to do. If you are visiting family, you need to talk with them and ask if THEY have anything planned yet.

Do Your Research

I know from so much experience that not taking the time to do research leads to a lot of stress once the holidays come around. We have showed up to places we thought had events going on and then find out they were closed that day. That leads to a lot of tension with the family.

So, it is important to know the dates and times of all the events you would like to attend. Will there be an entrance fee? Do you need to purchase tickets ahead of time? Are there alternate dates in case there is a conflict?

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When it comes to traveling, you need to look into hotels if your friends or family do not have room and decide before everything gets booked. You also need to find hotels or rentals for anyone wanting to visit and you don’t have room for them. Then if you book a vacation, you need to find where you want to go and what your budget will allow.

Then if you are cooking or baking at all during the holidays, you need to look up some recipes that will be great for the crew of people you plan to feed. Are there any diets or allergies you need to be aware of? How many meals do you plan on preparing? Do you want to try anything new?

This type of research should be done a few weeks to a few months before the holidays. There is so little that can allow you to wait until the last minute to do.

Figure Out Your Budget

Most people do not have a lot of disposable income. So, it is very important to have a budget figured out. Some people set money aside all year for Christmas presents and/or money for a vacation during the holidays. Others do not and that is okay. But it is very important that a budget is created for the holiday season so that no one ends up broke by the new year.

You do not need to have a lot of money to have a wonderful holiday season. There are areas where you could splurge here and there, but you really have to be realistic on what you can afford during the holidays.

Things you should budget for include plane tickets, rental car, hotels (if you are traveling), the cost for tickets or admission to holiday events, holiday parties, gifts, food, décor, etc.

Create a Game Plan

Once you have identified your goals, done a solid amount of research and have your budget finalized, it is time to create a game plan.

 What I recommend doing is getting a dry erase calendar out or a large wall calendar and write down events that will be happening in the coming weeks. You will need all your notes from your research, so you know when everything is going on. If something goes on during several weekends or several days, you will need to decide which days are the best to make it work with everything else you want to do.

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Be sure you write in pencil in case changes or made. The dry-erase board is helpful too. Your children might have a holiday party or recital you didn’t know about at the time of initial planning. So, you need to be able to stay rather flexible in the early days.

Stay Organized

Keeping the calendar easily accessible is really important, but so is keeping all your paperwork organized. Did you plan a vacation? You need a folder with tickets, confirmation numbers and anything else you will need for that upcoming trip.

Have you decided on menus for the holiday meals? Be sure you have the recipes printed and ready to go for when you need them. You will also need a list of the groceries you will need for those days.

Prep Ahead

If you are hosting a meal, there might be a few recipes that can allow you to do a lot of the prep work the day before. I know we do that with the dressing and green bean casserole every year for Thanksgiving. It is just so helpful on days where you are going to be in the kitchen a lot. For us, prepping those two side dishes makes a world of difference.

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You can prep ahead for all kinds of things during the holiday season. Once you have decided on when you want to go to an event, you can purchase entry tickets ahead of time so you do not have to stand in line that could cause stress for so many.

You can also wrap all of your gifts ahead of time, so they are ready to go when friends and family come to town to visit.

If there is something you can do ahead of time, do your best to do it. It will help make your holiday season so much more enjoyable.

Have Backup Plans

Plans will change, so be sure you are able to move around some activities or events or have some ideas to be able to entertain either more or fewer people on those important days.

You might also have some grumpy people on the day of the event, so it will be good to have some more low-key activities to do at home while others can still go out and everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy the day.

Assign Jobs When Possible

One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of ladies do is try to control every little thing and put all the responsibility on themselves. This is probably the biggest reason why women are so stressed during the holidays. Most everyone has some kind of support system to help them in a lot of ways. If you are hosting events, or are the designated Holiday Queen, it is really important to find ways to take some of the burden off of you…even if it is just a little bit.

This is also why planning ahead is so important. Say your parents are coming to town, do you have other family in town that could pick them up from the airport for you while you are preparing the meal?

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Whatever it is you are hoping others would take over, make sure your expectations are clear. During the holidays, I often tell my husband I will need him to take the garbage out more than normal since we will be making a lot more trash. I also tell him that I will need help with dishes.

The menfolk in our family usually have the same jobs every year, so they know what it expected of them. We just remind them either the day before or the morning of an event what we need from them during the day.

Learning to delegate has been a lifesaver!

Schedule Down Days

In my house, the holiday season starts in like mid-October. We do a lot of activities and bake a lot for Halloween as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas. But from mid-October until mid-January, it seems like we are jam-packed with things to do. Something we get so bad about is not planning for time to just sit down and relax. And not doing that often leads to me getting sick. I can be down for a week or more after the holidays because I just wore myself out.

So, this year, I will be planning days where absolutely NOTHING has to be accomplished. These will be days where we can maybe sleep in a little bit, have a slow morning, and just enjoy the day. These days will allow us to absorb the holiday spirit and maybe even binge on some Christmas movies.

Now, if I bake cookies, that is because I want to, not because I have to. But allowing myself the time to just pause for a while will allow me the time to just enjoy myself.

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Let it Go

The last thing that will help keep the stress to a minimum during the holidays is to just go with the flow. Not everything will be as perfect as a Hallmark movie and that is okay. You could have every moment planned out, but that doesn’t mean everything will go as planned. You might have planned the ultimate holiday outing with friends or family and on the day of everyone decided they wanted to stay in their PJs all day, bake, and watch movies. That could be disappointing because you put effort into planning the day, but don’t let that get to you. Don’t get angry at the change. Holding on to that anger and disappointment will keep you from enjoying the time with the people you care about. Who knows that day in the PJs could end up being a new tradition because you had so much fun!

How to Stay Present

I have given you 11 tips on how to reduce stress during the holidays. The ultimate goal of those tips are to help you plan ahead and prepare for these very hectic weeks to come. All that effort will allow you to unwind and enjoy every minute of those special days. If you follow those tips, you should have much less stress than someone who didn’t take the time to plan ahead. The reduction of stress alone will help you remain present on what are most people’s favorite days of the year.

Even though reducing the stress is so important to remain present, there are still some other things you can do on the days you are celebrating with family and friends to remain present.

Reduce or Remove Technology

I love to take pictures and record events that we attend. I was in Yearbook in high school and even was the Editor in Chief my senior year. All throughout high school, I was taking photos for the yearbook. I was documenting other people’s experiences. And years later, I am still doing that. Like I stated above, I find that one of the biggest reasons why I do not feel like I am getting them most out of the holidays is because I am watching everything happen through the viewfinder of my camera. I am not experiencing the holidays; I am merely observing them.

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So, this year, I will put the camera down more. Or I will hand it over to someone else for some time. This will actually allow someone to take photos of ME…what a novel idea. I have struggled with the way I look for many many years, but it is important that I am seen in photos for special days. So, it will be really good to have someone else responsible for photos, even if it is just for a little bit.

Smart Phones

The camera isn’t the only piece of technology that will be put down during the holidays. Smart phones are great pieces of technology that keeps us connected to each other and all the information of the world is at our fingertips. But, we have all gotten so bad about wasting time on our phones. How many of you are guilty of “checking” social media before going to bed and then you realize it has been three hours? Yeah, I have done that.

So, it is important to put the phones down and even turn them off completely for a few hours during those important days during the holiday season. If you have to keep your phone on you for updates on family or if you are on-call for work, of course you should. But, you shouldn’t have your face glued to the screen when you should be taking in all the events around you.

Televisions

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This might not be an issue for a lot of families, but I know the television is an issue in mine. I remember always going to my grandparents’ house and there was always a TV on full blast somewhere in the house. A lot of the time it was in the living room not too far from where everyone was trying to congregate and chat. There were times where we would have to yell over the sound of the TV.

On special days, there is often a football game or other sporting event that gains a lot of attention of my helpers. They will be mesmerized by what is on the screen that I end up sounding like a banshee sometimes asking for help.  

The best thing that I can offer is that the TV is off unless a particular event actually needs it. If you have planned a watch party for a game or TV special or a movie day, you will obviously need the TV and everything will revolve around that.

But if the TV is not needed, it needs to be off.

STOP COMPARING

Theodore Roosevelt (one of my favorite presidents) said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I could not agree more! If you are spending all your time comparing what you and what you are doing to others, you will miss out on what you have. You are also at risk of either becoming too prideful (because you thin you are better) or envious (because you want what they have). Neither of which are good looks to have during the holidays.

Don’t even compare what you have going on this year to what you had last year. Thinking about what you had or missed out on in the past also just takes away from what you have now.

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Instead of comparing, just take the time to take everything in and be grateful for everything you have. So what if Jenny down the street has a nicer looking tree. Your tree is full of handmade ornaments and reflects the love you have in your home and that is what is the most important.

Comparing isn’t Biblical

God has given each and every one of us a specific set of gifts and challenges. We do not know anyone else’s journey. If we are too busy looking at someone else we lose sight of our own gifts. If we think someone else has it better than us, we are not seeing the struggle they might be having.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV). The best thing we can do is find contentment with everything we have. If our holiday didn’t go as planned, there is still so much to be thankful for and that is what needs to be highlighted.

Remember the Reason for the Season

To continue with the discussion of contentment, it is so important to remember why we have these holidays in the first place.

Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together and give thanks to what they have. Even though so many have a dislike for the original Thanksgiving, there is still a lot that can be celebrated. This is a time to thank God for His blessings. It is also the time to tell your loved ones how much you appreciate them and everything they do for you.

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Then, Christmas is the day in which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate and honor the birth of our savior. It is another opportunity to spend time with loved ones, share the message of Jesus and bring joy to those around us.

Even if you aren’t religious, this is still a time to sit back and reflect on all the good in your life. No matter how you celebrate, it still isn’t about the presents and the décor. It is about those around you.

My Goals This Year

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For this holiday season, I plan to practice what I preach. I will do my best to follow my own advice. I have already talked with my husband about what we would like to do this year. We definitely want to go to SeaWorld for their Christmas Celebration, go to at least one drive through light display and go to our local Christmas events. We were still in lockdown last year. So this is the first year we get to really enjoy all the events that our little town is holding.

I plan on trying some new recipes for cookies this year. I also hope to try some new holiday meals closer to Christmas. We were talking about throwing a Christmas party last week. But, we might be helping the neighborhood have a huge block party so everyone can mingle and spend some time together. We moved into our new neighborhood right before lockdown. So we haven’t had the chance to get to know many people here. We hope to fix that soon!

But my biggest goal for this holiday season is to enjoy myself and enjoy my time with the ones I love.

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