Last Updated on March 21, 2018

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 The wonder of my personal experience was superseded by my growing realization that this was a prime teaching time.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?

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  1. I am a mom of two small boys, and we are all go go go! With Christmas being my favorite time of year, I really want my boys to love this time, to find ways to give to others, and enjoy traditions. So what I try and do is plan way ahead. We do a little every week starting in Aug and we make gifts for others. I made my gifts for my friends and my boys made ornaments this year. We also try and give back with a group of friends in our small group. Every Christmas we take two of our normal study nights and sponsor a family that is in need. We shop one week for the kids and parent(s) and the following have a Christmas party where we listen to Christmas music, eat goodies, play and wrap all the gifts we bought! It is a blast! This week being the week before Christmas, I have found doing all the little things we have up to this point, we are not rushing around, but instead enjoying the season and still finding ways to give to others. As our church put it, when you schedule rest and worship you find the joy in life!


    1. Thanks for sharing Rachel! How wonderful you are instilling being "others centric" into your children! We are all taking notes on your wonderful ideas! Blessings to you and yours! Tracey

  2. I have a 10 year old with special needs. It complicates and makes things difficult, interesting, exciting and different. We have decided to be a bit 'selfish.' On Christmas day everyone who want to come is welcome. If we are planning on a few I might get something 'special' to eat like beef tenderloin (I love to cook.) If it is a crowd i do Costco meat and cheese tray. I sometimes get gifts for my brother, sister and in-law sibs… sometimes i don't. We don't sweat it. We focus on the kids. If we see something cool for someone we get it but we don't FRET about what to get. As I write this I realized that I have an appointment with someone tonight.. i probably should have gotten them a gift. I am learning to let go of 'shoulds.' I think that is the PRIMARY advice I need to take myself. Are there many 'shoulds?' Some years I do a Christmas card…sometimes I don't. I always bake (I love to bake)… but sometimes I spend more or less time doing so.

    1. Hey Amy – we appreciate your sharing with us! I agree that it's important not to get wrapped up in the "shoulds" and "have to's" that takes the joy out of it! I wrote a post last year that in some ways we don't have traditions and "have to's" we base things on where we are that year and practice love, joy and peace above all else! Blessings to you and yours – Tracey

  3. great comments Rachel and Amy. i especially agree with letting go of "shoulds." i'm still learning that! have a wonderful reflective Christmas and thanks for giving your thoughts on this busy season for moms.