Have Yourself a Merry Stress-Free Christmas
It's 10:30 on a typical mid-December weeknight, and you're staring at a pile of unwrapped presents in one corner of the family room and a stack of unaddressed cards in another. The kids' gift lists have grown as though on steroids, and you still have three batches of cookies to bake for tomorrow night's dessert swap. At this point, the South Pole is looking like a pretty good escape.
Sound familiar? "At this time of year, women are assigned the role of caretaker of everyone's dreams," says Wayne M. Sotile, PhD, director of psychological services for Wake Forest University's Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Not only are they head chef, decorator, buyer, and hospitality director, they're also producer of the next generation's mental movies about the season. Indeed, the desire to create ideal holiday memories is enough to bring out the perfectionist in even the most laid-back mom.
Patricia Kulmoski knows the feeling. Two Christmases ago, the Pittsburgh accountant and mother of three, ages 11, 9, and 5, was so busy moving that for the first time she put up an artificial tree and skipped decorating the house. She still feels guilty about it. "To this day I feel like the world's most horrible mother," she says. "Of course, it wasn't a horrible Christmas -- the kids loved their presents, they loved getting together with their cousins, and the most important thing is that we were all together. But I worried about the kids thinking for the rest of their lives, 'Remember that one Christmas when Mom only put up that plastic tree?'"
The good news is that you don't have to give up on memory making to have a saner holiday. By being picky about what you focus on, you'll make the season special and still have enough energy to enjoy it.