I remember the very first Christmas that we spent at home. We weren’t with our own moms, so no “real” mothers were around to do the cooking, planning, wrapping. It was just me. I was suddenly considered THE mother, the one who was expected to make Christmas seem easy, fun, light-hearted, magical, memorable. To be honest, I was shocked by the amount of work involved. Christmas had always just sort of happened before, back when I was letting my mom and my mother-in-law do all the work. So, if you’re THE mom, this year, here are a few things I’ve learned in eleven years of mothering.
The kids are out of school. It’s still five days until Christmas. You will feel tempted to plan loads of Christmas crafts, kid-filled baking marathons, Christmas movie popcorn-paloozas, and ornament-making sessions. You can do all of these things if they make you happy.
But, you don’t have to.
The kids are glad just to be at home. Let them play the video games they never have time to enjoy in the midst of their school and extra-curricular schedules. Let them drag out every Barbie and set up elaborate story-lines. Let them build forts in the living room. Truthfully, they will be just as happy and entertained if you give them uninterrupted playtime as they would be spending every waking minute creating something adorable you saw on Pinterest.
If your kids happen to come to you claiming that they’re bored, tell them that if they don’t have anything to do, you have plenty of work they can help you with. When I say this to my kids, they suddenly get tons of ideas for games to play.
Then, while they’re playing, you can bake (and actually concentrate on what you’re doing), wrap gifts, do laundry, or even sit down and read a magazine. I know it sounds like a Christmas miracle, but it can actually happen! Moms need Christmas breaks, too!
Don’t Try to Be Martha Stewart
I am not the greatest cook. I’m not the worst cook. But, I decided a few years ago that one good gift to myself on Christmas is a smoked turkey. I order one every year. It arrives a few days before Christmas, perfectly smoked and ready to eat, and it really takes the stress out of our Christmas dinner prep. I make the sides and bake all of our favorite desserts, and we feast. No one in my family seems the least bit concerned that I don’t cook my own turkey. I know my strengths, and turkey-cooking isn’t one of them. Trust me.
So, do what you’re good at, and don’t worry if your table doesn’t look like a spread in a magazine. Don’t fret if you don’t have tiny individual chalkboard nameplates at each table setting. Don’t put pressure on yourself to create things and provide things that your family really couldn’t care less about. If you love making a pretty table, do it. If you love baking turkeys, bake away! But, if you don’t, then don’t. Make enchiladas. Have hamburgers. Pot roast. Just do what you will enjoy doing and what your family will enjoy eating.
Don’t Forget that Your Attitude Sets the Tone
Things may not go exactly according to plan. Things may not turn out the way you had hoped. Your kids may whine for the next week. Everything that you try to accomplish may go awry. But, if you keep a smile on your face, if you don’t allow yourself to get frustrated, angry, or discouraged, if you determine in your heart that you are not going to make Christmas about you or your abilities, your successes, or your failures, then your family will have a wonderful Christmas, regardless of how the mashed potatoes turn out.
A study was published back in 2008 that showed that happiness is contagious. We can actually affect the outlook of those around us just by maintaining a positive attitude. We can do this for our kids this week. I had one thing wrong on that first I’m-the-mom Christmas: my kids’ magical Christmas didn’t depend on what I could or couldn’t do. How I could or couldn’t perform as a mom. It depended on how much I smiled. How much I laughed it off when things didn’t go exactly according to plan. How much I determined not to let the pressure to get everything right steal my own enjoyment of Christmas. Once I let go of the feeling that I needed to be perfect, I laughed more. I gave my kids more freedom to be kids. I gave up on the idea that I had to do things in a certain way. And, Christmas got a lot more fun for all of us.
Don’t Try to Create Meaning
As mamas we must remember that Christmas isn’t really about Christmas trees or gifts, turkeys or table settings. We don’t have to manufacture a meaningful experience for our kids. We don’t have to believe the world when it says that Christmas is about family. It’s wonderful to celebrate Christmas with your family if you can. It’s great to exchange gifts. It’s nice to eat a big meal if you have the means. But, if we had none of these things, if on Christmas morning we were sitting alone in a cave somewhere, no children, no tree, no cool gifts, not even a warm blanket, the true meaning of Christmas wouldn’t be absent from our day.
Christmas is about hope. It’s about the only hope that mankind has ever had: Jesus Christ. If we try to make it about anything else, we are leading our children astray. So, no, you aren’t responsible for making Christmas something more than it already is. Make your food. Wrap your gifts. Watch Christmas movies with your kids. But, remember that the only thing necessary is pointing your kids to Christ. Not just this week, but every day of your life.
Being the mom isn’t an easy job. But, what a blessing to smile this season at the little people God gave you, even when there’s lots of work to be done, reminding them daily of the joy of Jesus’ coming. Before we know it, Christmas will have come and gone. I pray we can look back on this week, knowing that we didn’t let the busy-ness affect our attitude, that we kept our eyes on Christ, and that we laughed as much as possible with our kids. You are the mom. Cherish that role, even if you can’t cook a turkey to save your life.