Some people look forward to the holidays. Some dread it. Some can’t remember what day it is in general.
As a mom of two—one “neuro-typical” and one with autism—a cancer survivor, a wife, a former perfectionist, and a person with chronic pain issues, I fall into all three, depending on my amount of sleep.
I love family gatherings, but have learned the hard way I have limits. I want to pass some of this on to you before the busyness hits.
Nothing is perfect. Accept it. Hug it. Relish it. This includes dinner, the house and the kids. Many of us cling to ideals, but most idyllic scenes are only achieved with a large staff and actors.
Think of life as a comedy, not a drama.
When things go wrong, laugh. Enjoy even the failures, mistakes and hard times. You’ll be surprised: the family that fails together feels together. When you handle things as one, you grow closer.
- Lower expectations of yourself and everyone else. Ever plan something big and fail then spend days condemning yourself because you are not as good of a hostess/cook/planner/mom as someone else? Stop that. You’re only hurting yourself. Ask God to show you what should be a priority. Let the rest fall into proper perspective.
- Ditch the diva. If you’re a diva, stop. If someone in your family is a demanding diva, pray for the family member (with an intention for him or her to recognize and understand God’s grace) and let God be the judge. Ask God to give you compassion, but to help you set boundaries. Enjoy yourself despite this person’s demands and explain your limits up front. This could be met with condemnation and disdain, but you answer to God, not Diva Donna. Seriously. Don’t let a diva steal your joy. If the diva is your spouse, I would advise seeking a professional counselor to help you deal with the situation.
- Pick one thing to focus on and make the rest easy. Rachel loves to bake. So, I usually offer to bring something baked to a gathering. And it usually comes from a mix. Just sayin’.
- Give the guilt monster the holiday off. Seriously, just because you cannot put on a 50-course dinner for 50 doesn’t make you a bad mom or any less of a person. A frozen pizza dinner with laughter, memories and thankfulness is a lot more fun than a grouchy or wiped-out mama.
- Use Pinterest or “how to” articles as guides, not requirements. Holiday meals can be special without a huge fuss. If you like that sort of thing, great, when can I come over? If you have more juggling balls in the air than you can handle, though, give yourself a break. You can preorder cooked pies, meats and other items to help you along. You can use frozen or boxed mashed potatoes. Paper plates are wonderful.
- Make clean-up a family experience. Calmly and gently assign each person an area of the meal that is theirs up front then everyone work together at the same time. If you have kitchen-control issues, this might be hard, but you would be surprised at how much some kids want to be where the action is. Bribery can also work …
- Don’t worry about what someone else might think of you and your boxed mashed potatoes. (Preaching to myself here, too.) I’ve heard it said other people think about you a lot less than you think they do. They’re too busy thinking about themselves.
- I know some of you are probably reading this and saying, “That’s easy for you! You don’t know _____ in my family. He/she will never stand for that!”
If that is the case, spend some extra time in prayer and try to prepare ahead of time. And give yourself a hug from me. Spend time with a trusted advisor or counselor to get some practical advice on how to deal with that person, but make sure it is not a person who only tells you how wonderful you are and that the other person is a big jerk. That only fuels and grows bitterness, and it won’t help change the situation.
Hugs, my sweet friends!
Jennifer Dyer has an M.S. in Communications Disorders, which served her well in her professional career as a speech-language pathologist. Never did she imagine that her education and career were God’s way of preparing her to be a mom to her own daughter with autism. Today, she enjoys reaching out to other families who face similar diagnoses. As a cancer survivor, carpet-cleaning veteran, and originator of the “Messy House Ministry,” Jennifer feels blessed to share joy, peace, and humor with others facing life’s challenges. She is mom to two beautiful daughters and is thankful to be raising them, serving other families with unique needs, and using her gift of writing and speaking to minister to others. Jennifer is also the author of a youth fiction book series and is trusting God with His timing on publication. Jennifer has been a mom for 11 years. She and Brandon have been married for 13 years.