A friend of mine asked me last week if I was ready for the holidays.
Ready? I haven't even started. Have you?
It's October and I already feel like I'm behind schedule. On Sunday, Bill and the boys put up the Halloween decorations – with only a bit more than one week to spare. We then headed off to the Halloween super store late in the day, picked up a few things for the boys’ costumes and then hit the Goodwill for inspiration and other supplies. Creating unique costumes with my boys is a fun project but I’ve got a deadline of Friday evening for the oldest boy’s outfit since he wants it finished before his martial arts school’s Halloween party that night.
Creating my sons' costumes is just one deadline among many: promoting the Signs of a Happy Baby book for its launch in bookstores in May; working with my coaching and body therapy clients; shifting the name of my business completely from Touch Blue Sky to The Well-Crafted Mom before my business tax certificate expires (which so far has involved talking to the City and County of San Mateo, the California Massage Therapy Council, and the San Mateo Police Department and the project is still not done); and for some reason I decided that now would be a good time to paint my home office so I’m sitting in my office this morning in the dark, illuminated only by the light of my computer screen since all the light fixtures are unplugged and the furniture is pushed to the center waiting for the painter to come this afternoon.
And then, every year, the holidays add a big pile of more onto an already full plate.
When I think about what’s coming in the next few months, I’ve considered having a full-blown meltdown, toddler style.
But last week, a light bulb went off: What if I started acting like a toddler? Like how my boys behaved when they were three-and-a-half and life just handed them too much to handle?
WWMTD? (What would my toddler do?)
With WWMTD in mind, I created a happier holiday guide with four life lessons from toddlers. The life lessons spell out GASP because I’d like to encourage you all (and repeatedly remind myself) to come up for air and take a deep, delightful breath during the holiday season.
Here are the steps for making the holidays happier (for you and everyone else):
• Get help. I have a dear, smart friend who I call "Kristy with a K" (because I also have another dear, smart friend named "Christy with a C”) who listened to me whine/share about my to do list and offered to help. Kristy has this magical way of organizing everything that I have to do and she helped me to prioritize my tasks in a way that made my to do list much more manageable. (It's all about Sharpies and sticky notes, folks.) Yesterday, she returned to work alongside me at the dining room table. She edited documents for the online media kit (is there anything this girl can’t do?) while I worked on the new Happy Baby Signs website.
A few years ago, I wouldn’t have accepted Kristy’s offer to help. I would have found a way to politely decline, explaining that I was too busy. In reality, I would have been too embarrassed to admit that I needed help. I still struggle with accepting help and even more with reaching out and asking for it. The chorus of voices in my head loudly insist that I should have my schedule figured out, I should know how to organize my time, I coach people how to do this, for goodness sake!
The negative thought that I should have everything all figured out doesn't serve me. I have another self-defeating thought that my successes don't count unless I do everything by myself. But this thought is dead wrong. Instead, these thoughts keep me stuck and prevent me from learning anything new. I’m discovering that graciously receiving help – instead of shoving it away – gets easier each time I do it. My goal for the holidays is to get lots of practice with asking and accepting help.
• Ask why. Before you say yes to another commitment, whether it’s helping out at the holiday fair or attending the Christmas party at your office, ask why like a toddler. Why do you want to go? Why do you want to spend time doing this thing instead of doing something else? Why are you feeling obligated? Why can’t you just stay home?
Asking why is particularly important around family obligations that may not fit with your new lifestyle as a parent. Your traditional plan to leave your in-laws’ home first thing on Christmas morning to get to your parents’ home three hours away in time for lunch may have been fine when you and your spouse were child-free. But now, with a toddler and baby in tow, the time in the car plus the overstimulation of the holiday plus the lack of naps might end up creating the most dismal of days.
Hot Tip: The question, “Why are we doing this?” is much better asked ahead of time and not midway through the three-hour drive/six-hour plane ride/formal family dinner at a fancy restaurant with children who have already melted down and are past the point of redemption.
• Say no. Saying no is hard. We don’t want to disappoint other people, especially close family and friends. However, as author Brené Brown reminds us, “Momentary discomfort is better than long-term resentment.”
Toddlers know how to say no quite well. This holiday season, channel your inner toddler and say no. Repeatedly.
“No, I don’t want to take on another commitment right now.”
“No, thank you. We’re busy that night.”
“No, we’ve decided to stay home on Christmas Eve and start a new holiday tradition with the kids.”
No. Nope. Nada. Make room for yourself and your family to enjoy the holidays by saying no – as best as you can – to what doesn’t delight and excite you.
• Play first. How much fun do you allow yourself to have during the holidays? Do you tell yourself that you’ll get on the floor and play with your kids AFTER the dishes, AFTER you put the load of clothes in the washing machine, AFTER the house is all spic-and-span?
How much are you missing by relegating your fun to AFTER?
I teach my clients tips and tools on how to masterfully delegate and ditch tasks so that they have the time to play. Start by letting go of what doesn't feed your soul or feed your family, whether it's a clean-enough-for-company house (I quote Dr. Seuss and tell myself that the people who mind don't matter and the people who matter don't mind) or perfectly wrapped presents (go for gift bags!)
Let what feels like fun guide you through the holiday season. Can your introverted self find a moment with some spiced cider to sit and warm your toes in front of the fire while your hubby puts the kids to bed – and warm up a cup for him as he joins you once they're asleep? Can you find a carefree afternoon or evening to window shop with your very best girlfriend? Are there enough leaves in your backyard to make a big pile to play in with your toddler – and then bring a handful of the most colorful leaves inside so you both can get messy gluing them onto construction paper to decorate the house?
Experts say that children are our best teachers. Take a deep breath and let your inner toddler show you the way to happier holidays.
Want more help? Are you feeling overwhelmed already? Wondering how you’re going to say “No, thank you” to what you really, really don’t want to do? Need some new tools in your tool belt to get you through the next few months? Let me help you through the holidays with one-on-one support to give you support, ideas, and resources to deal with the obstacles that your life, job, extended family, spouse, and kids throw your way – so you can have the best and happiest holiday season ever. Sign up for your personal support here.
Or get ideas and support at my November groups for moms on Saturday, November 12th and Wednesday, November 16th. Save your spot at thewellcraftedmom.com/mini-retreats.