Something changed about Christmas when I became a mom of several children. The wonder of my personal experience was superseded by my growing realization that this was a prime teaching time. My first goal was to instill in my children a greater desire to give than to receive. As a child, I remembered spending hours pouring over the Sears catalog wishing for item after item on its glossy pages. My kids wouldn’t do that, I decided. But training against their natural tendency to self-fulfillment took intentional effort. And energy. Helping them think about what to give to their siblings, grandparents, and eventually friends was time-consuming. Christmas was making me tired.

When my children entered school after a season of home-schooling, there were parties and teacher gifts to add to my Christmas list. No one told me I had to do this. I truly wanted to do something to thank those women and men who were investing in my kids’ lives. But every December, I felt the weight growing. Making memories — repeating the traditions that make our family’s Christmas celebration unique to us — mostly rested on my shoulders. My husband was still plugging away at work. He hardly gave Christmas a thought, except for the day we got our tree early in the month, and then not again until a few days before.

Surprisingly, little has changed now that my kids are all gone. I had a conversation today with one daughter as she asked me about shopping for her sister. Instead of six kids, now I have 16 grandkids. Thankfully, we have decided to give gifts only to the grandkids and not our adult kids. I hated to give that up, but it was inevitable.

Instead of teacher gifts, there are neighbors and friends and fellow workers I want to thank. And now we travel over the holidays. None of our children live in town, so we go to them. We really enjoy this new tradition, but it adds more decisions to the mix. Who do we see this year, and how many of them can we get to?

So what is a mother to do? I’ve talked to too many who are exhausted by the good of Christmas: the service projects, the memory making, the cookie baking, the gift giving, the agonizing over how much to spend and still stay in the budget. I know it’s not just me. I could give some answers, but they aren’t really new or necessarily helpful.

So instead, I want to ask, what do you do to manage the stress of a wonderful “holyday” season to keep it as we all want it to be — a time of joy and celebration for the greatest gift ever given?