Managing expectations over the holidays


I've been thinking how different Christmas as an adult and a mom feels. When I look back on Christmas as a child, I don’t remember my mom seeming stressed. She likely was, I just didn’t see her endless efforts to make Christmas just right.


I have a new appreciation for what it takes to survive the holidays as an adult, especially if you have kids. It is not like the Hallmark movies. There is no “perfect” Christmas. Life doesn’t work like that. Relatives are difficult, people get sick, money is tight, weather is bad, to do lists are long and exhaustion is high.  


As I found myself making a very long to do list and going to the 10th store for matching black dress shoes for my daughter, I stopped and reminded myself of a few things:

  • It is ok if the girl’s shoes don’t match

  • Its ok if all things don’t get wrapped, that’s why they have bags

  • It is ok if I purchase cookies at the bakery

  • It’s ok if there aren’t enough ornaments on the tree

  • Its ok if the house isn’t spotless

  • Its ok. What really matters is I have some sense of enjoyment of the holidays where I feel present with my family, loved and am emotionally available for my family.

I have compiled my best tips for managing your expectations over the holiday season:


1.      First, acknowledge your internal standards and be prepared to adjust as needed. Be realistic on  how things will go, what you can control and how much you can fit in during this short time.


2.      Manage your children’s expectations, they need to know what they can expect from you.


3.      Know your breaking point; practice evaluating your level of coping and start to do things to help yourself such as saying no or taking any amount of time for yourself (See last weeks email for more help with this).


Lastly, ask yourself what really matters to you. The Christmas season is very short in the big picture, do what you can and save the rest for next year. Ask yourself “Will this matter a year from now? 

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© 2020 Laura Gatien, M.S.W.