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Single Parent Family Holidays: Avoid Holiday Stress By Doing Less

This post is brought to you by the hectic, harried, and now almost-over month of December. This month trumps the rest of the year in terms of unreachable expectations, Pinterest-perfect Christmas trees, and unyielding desires to buy all the gifts for our kids.

Please stop it. In fact, I say make it a New Year’s Resolution to do less next year.

Single Parent Holidays: Lowering Holiday Stress

Here’s the thing. We are single parents. We are doing double-plus duty every darn day and yet we are constantly cracking the whip on ourselves to do more, do it better, make it mean everything! I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who suffers with this.

December starts with such anticipatory glee; all that awaits us. Parties and dresses and shiny wrapping paper. And after a bit I lose steam. Because even though it’s a major celebratory month, regular life has not huddled under an electric blanket to snooze away the winter months. Yet I find myself overwhelmed at the thought of juggling both the hectic holiday season and everyday life.

Do Less and Celebrate More

So a few years ago, I decided, and promised to myself that I was going to cut back. Do less and celebrate more. Does that sound like somewhat of a contradiction? Well, my friends, it’s really not. When invitations come in, I thoughtfully consider if that particular outing is a good idea. Sometimes it’s lovely, and I know in my heart I want to accept and partake. But many times, an invite feels like another obligation. I find myself saying no to things more often and it’s incredibly freeing. I’ve reached a time of my life where my free time is highly important and I choose to guard it fiercely.

Less Stress, More Joy

And the same goes for my boys. I know they want to attend all of the parties and celebrations. And while we partake in a number of things, we decline plenty as well. Once I learned the value of making sure I allowed for plenty of margin in my day-to-day, all those have-to and must-do things fell by the wayside.

When the boys and I skipped going out so much and instead got into our PJs early and piled on the couch to watch Elf and A Christmas Story in our pajamas while sipping hot cocoa with candy canes, I began sleeping better. When I gave up getting the perfect family photo and sending it out with a letter of our yearly happenings, it felt like a giant weight off of my back.

Why do we cave in to all those expectations? Why do we allow advertising to dictate how our holidays must be spent, buried in merchandise? Do our kids really want all of those toys? In the moment, sure.

But I promise you, in the years to come, the memories they will have of the best Decembers will be more about the comfort and security they experienced surrounded by loving family and simple times versus that smokin’ hot Matchbox Cars racetrack.

This year, single parents, make a New Year’s Resolution to try to stop running so much. Buy less, hug more. Teach your children that holidays are really about loving each other as well as possible, and the best gifts are the ones that can’t be wrapped.

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.

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