Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Managing Christmas With Four Goals In Mind

Many times my role as a mom feels like being a manager of a major company. I'm always trying to improve my skills (my goal is two new skills a year), keep things flowing, train those I am responsible for (aka: five little people) and keep up on all of my tasks to make sure everyone is fed, clean, and cared for. 

I'm also trying to do it all in a way that is realistic & reproducible. I have two daughters that are going to grow up someday and already they talk about being a mom. They are watching. I don't want them to discover that they had this amazing childhood and mom was hanging on by a thread because the stress was so great and the expectations were too high.

Can we all just be real about our limits, the fact that we aren't super mom and that even the best managers in the world all can only do so much?

That is why we are intentional about a lot of things in our home...or at least we try to be. Christmas is no different. Many times I ask myself lots of questions. How do I make this time of year special for our family? How do we remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place? How do we give gifts and keep it all manageable so that my kids don't grow up thinking Christmas is this special time of year only to find out being the mom or dad behind the scenes is the most stressful job of it all? I basically ask questions about why we do the things that we do and how we can do them in a manageable way...a peaceful way. 

Managing Christmas for a family of seven

In doing that my expectations and the burden of it all seemed to lift as I narrowed down my four goals during this special time of year.

Goal 1: Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas.

Last year I made a chalkboard countdown to the big day and on Christmas day we will enjoy a special birthday cake for Jesus. Given the ages of our kids right now and how much they talk about their own birthdays this is definitely a tangible way to remind them what Christmas is really all about. 

We have a kid friendly nativity set that can be played with through out the month and we use it to reenact the Christmas story on Christmas morning.

This year we also decided to try reading through the book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and also have the kids take turns coloring a page that goes along with each day. Ten days in we have read the story once (no condemnation here...I'm moving right along and going to be excited at any parts of the story that we read.) The kids have colored the picture every day and there is no doubt in my mind that they get the true meaning of Christmas.

Goal 2: Giving to others.

This is really important to us as a family. We try to keep our eyes open all year round to the needs around us and incorporate our kids into giving and thinking of others. Last week we delivered some groceries to a friend with the kids and in a few days we will get together with friends and make treats to pass out to our neighbors. We also have our kids draw names so that each sibling has another sibling to give a Christmas present to. 

Goal 3: Time with family & friends.

With most of our family living so far away we don't always get to be with family around the holidays. However, when family does travel in we clear out our schedules and enjoy every minute spent together. We'll figure out something easy to eat, break out the games, watch some movies and just be...together. We also enjoy meeting up with friends through out the month for festive activities and parties.

Goal 4: Making Memories 

This is where our gift giving to the kids come in. Honestly, it feels overwhelming to find gifts for five kiddos. Maybe it is because it feels like they don't "need" anything. Maybe I am afraid to get them something they are going to be disappointed about. Maybe I just wish there was a magic button that I could input an amount into and it instantly puts a gift my child will absolutely love at my door step.

A mom can dream, right

There are lots of great ways out there that people do gifts. Years ago we decided to give the kids three gifts since Jesus received three gifts (two of which were frankincense and myrrh...even baby Jesus loved essential oils!) ;-) We have a budget, aim to spend within those parameters, and find the kids each three presents to open on Christmas day. We also fill their stockings with a few goodies which they get to open on Christmas Eve. 

This year I have about 1/3rd of the presents bought and just 15 days to go. I brought home a couple of things and Sam looked at them with a strange face. That is when I decided that we should just make Christmas shopping together for the kids an annual thing. We can plan a date to spend time together and pick out gifts for the kids...together. Hopefully that means less returns and we can make some fun memories in the process. The kids can also have some fun memories opening up presents on Christmas morning.

Beyond that I am hoping to still snap a family photo to mail out to friends. Make that 5 goals? We shall see.

I guess I'm just thankful for the reminder that I can't do it all. What I can do is make manageable goals and make sure that the things that are most important to us happen this Christmas...or at least that is my goal anyway. :-)

What are your goals for this Christmas season? What is most important to you to see happen and what can you let go of that doesn't "need" to happen?


  1. I love holiday traditions. It's a huge thing for me. But...some ways that I destress. Gifts are almost nothing to me, personally. My husband and I don't give gifts to each other, we take trips at different times in different ways. Some years it's a major vacation (much less since having kids), right now we are all living in Peru, we've gone to Colombia and Chile since coming here and the beach in Peru and some years it's a weekend getaway. I'm not suggesting everyone do that, but it works for us. My family of origin doesn't do gifts anymore for the grownups. We give experiences to our nieces and nephews and cards that tell the kids (individually) what we appreciate about them. We also let them pick something out of the Samaritan's Purse gift catalog (because one of our goals is to encourage giving) and we give a gift in their name. I have a child whose love language is gifts. I want to honor that. But there are tons and tons of ways to do that without spending a lot money. I get small things, things from garage sales and thrift stores (no need to have everything be new), dollar store items, special food treats, coupons for things...not all of these things all the time, but many different small ideas. We do stockings on St Nicholas Day (Dec 6) and we don't do Santa (or Elf on the Shelf). I am not condemning anyone else who does, but for me those last two things don't contribute to my goals for Christmas and would be a time stressor. We give family gifts on Ephiphany (Jan 6) and remember the wise men. This has the added bonus of me being able to hit some after Christmas sales for gift shopping if I want to and I don't need all of my gifts before Christmas. Have you ever noticed that when people ask if you are ready for Christmas they really mean "are you done shopping for gifts?" I've largely disconnected gifts from December by having stocking stuffers early and they are just small things and by doing our immediate family gifts in January. I do still give a few gifts on or before Christmas to close friends and my in-laws, but for the most part moving the gifts down and out significantly lowers my stress level. As for fun....we have Advent calendars (online one and an activity one that I plan with little slips of preprinted paper and most of the days are easy things like "dance to Christmas music" or "color a Christmas picture." Some are bigger like "Christmas party" or "bake cookies" or "Christmas craft" and if we miss something I don't stress about it. We have fun things like "camp out by the Christmas tree" that happens once a year and basically none of these cost money but they build memories and tradition. We also use an Advent wreath (probably done about 3 of 7 nights a week right now- no stress or judgement- other years it's been higher). We decorate. We talk about Christmas. The house isn't always clean but I think we have a lot fun in the preparation. So to actually answer your question: my goals are to have fun in preparing, ensure that our girls know about Jesus and the reason our family is big on Christmas, to not let gifts become the one and only focus but just part of the excitement, and to build traditions. I let go of gift expectations and shift some of the cultural expectations to other days as it makes the rest of my life easier (family gift exchange and stockings, skipping Santa).

    1. Sorry for the typos- I missed a few little words but hopefully it all still makes sense.

    2. Keturah,

      It sounds like you guys have some very intentional and well thought out goals. I personally love the idea of doing gifts in January if it meant I could take advantage of the after Christmas sales. :-) Now if only I could get my kids on the same page...

      Have a Merry Christmas in Peru...what fun memories being made! :-)


  2. All of these are fantastic. Its really easy to get caught up in the holidays and the expectations, but its refreshing to know that there are plenty of people about working so hard to make sure that they are celebrating for the right reasons!
    I love your 'little people' nativity as well, along with the countdown to Jesus' birthday. Those seem like great ways to get the little ones involved, as its easier for them to relate to.

    1. Thanks Jessica, and yes that nativity set and countdown is really helpful for getting little ones involved. So involved that I also get to teach them about sharing and taking turns as they fight over who gets to erase one of the lines. ;-)


    2. When I was growing up (with four kids in the family) my mom went to a literal chart by day for whose turn it was to do the four jobs we had (it rotated each day). Lighting the advent candle(s), snuffing them, opening the door on the paper advent calendar and putting out a piece of the 24 day nativity set. It cut down on her stress because the chart knew all. :)

    3. Keturah,

      Sounds like you had a really smart mom! :-)



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