The love language for many mothers is giving gifts to family and friends. That means trouble when Christmas comes around.
We overspend, overcook, and exhaust ourselves before Christmas Day even arrives. Then we dread the next holiday season because we don’t want to repeat the cycle of performance and fatigue.
So here’s what I’m going to do this year in order to put fun, joy, and deeper meaning back into the Christmas season. If you are dreading the holidays, I encourage you to give these a try:
1.) Swap shopping for time.
Rather than giving a bunch of gifts to children and friends, give them each an hour of one-on-one time. Sounds tough at first, but if you cut your shopping by even one-third, it’s amazing how much time you free up. So rather than search for the perfect gift for a loved one or friend, tell them you want one hour with them instead to take them to coffee, lunch, or even a walk. Then, during this time, give them an attentive ear.
2.) Focus on Christ, not Christmas.
Our secular culture has driven holiness out of Christmas and this fuels materialism and meaninglessness. Many have learned to celebrate for celebration sake rather than focusing on the profound mystery of the birth of Christ. So bring the celebration of Christ boldly back to your family. Put an advent wreath on the center of your kitchen table and light it every night. Ask each family member to say one thing that brought them joy or peace (specific to that week’s candle).
3.) Say ‘no, thank you’ more often.
Every time you say “no” to an invitation to a party or event, you say “yes” to giving more time to your family. So take charge of your calendar and don’t feel guilty about asking for a rain check or bowing out of obligatory office parties, etc.
You will feel more rested, engage with your family more, and enjoy Christmas Day when it comes.
4.) Refuse the performance trap.
High-energy, highly driven women put tremendous pressure on themselves to put on a great Christmas for loved ones. We want to make our kids’ favorite cookies, invite neighbors to our beautifully decorated homes, give friends and loved ones homemade treats, and on and on it goes.
Don’t bake cookies for neighbors in December — maybe invite them to dinner in January.
The list is exhaustive. The truth is, if we want to focus on staying connected to our families and actually enjoy the holidays, it is unreasonable to triple our normal workload. So don’t. Don’t bake cookies for neighbors in December — maybe invite them to dinner in January. Buy your kids treats — don’t make them yourself. Decorate one room in your house and skip the outdoor lights this year.
Honestly, you will probably be the only one that notices. In other words, take a hard look at the workload you put on yourself and cut it in half. You (and your family) will be grateful you did.
The truth is, Christmas is a gift to you and to me. It is not an obligation, a time to outdo our friends or show our kids how much we love them by buying them a lot of stuff that they won’t even be able to name one month after we give it.
Christmas is about giving — but not in the way we think. It is about the gift of Christ given to each of us by the Creator of the universe. God Himself came to us in human form in order to say “I love you more than you can possibly imagine.” Our culture tells us that the “holiday” season is about giving gifts to our kids, families, and loved ones. But it isn’t.
Christmas is about accepting the gift of Christ, God’s outlandish expression of love to every one of us. So think long and hard about this. And when you do, something within you will change the way you approach Christmas this year and every year.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.