No Stress November
November is the beginning of the holiday season and, for many moms, it can be a season of stress. Early on in motherhood, I spent a lot of time thinking about the holidays and what I wanted them to mean for our family. Pinterest, stores and magazine covers showcase perfectly decorated homes with delicious foods. These images are really fun to look at for ideas and inspiration, and as a person who loves holidays and traditions, I enjoy implementing ideas. Still, I have to be wise and selective, or those creative ideas quickly can become very long to-do lists that shift my priorities and distract my focus.
When my girls were young, I attended MOPS. One of our speakers shared some of the best advice I ever received as a mother. She said, “Make sure your priorities are accurately represented in how you spend your time. There are many things vying for your attention in this world. Choose the things that line up with your priorities. If spending time with your children means a neglected garden, that’s okay, because your priority is making memories with your children.”
I’ll never forget one of the first opportunities I had to put her advice into practice. I love to bake and I love to bake with my children. All of my girls have grown up helping me in the kitchen from the time they could sit up. I have had toddlers help tear lettuce for salad, preschoolers slice bananas and my older girls are adept at the stove.
However, one Christmas season I had to loosen the standards. My third daughter was born 12 days past her due date, arriving on Dec. 14. My husband never had maternity leave from work, so I was home alone with a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn just weeks before Christmas. The girls and I were watching a Christmas special, and they saw a family baking cookies. Right away they implored that we bake Christmas cookies that day. I was exhausted but I wanted to fulfill their holiday wish. During that same special, a commercial came on for the Pillsbury cookies you buy in the freezer section—the sugar cookies with cute snowman faces. I am a bake-from-scratch mom, but that day—newly home from the hospital with a newborn and caring for two little ones—baking was not on my to do list. (I was still hoping to find time for a shower.)
I called my husband and asked him to pick up the Pillsbury cookies from the store on the way home from work. That night, we popped the cookies in the oven, and my girls were thrilled! They weren’t the delicious sugar cookies we enjoy (and did bake in January when things slowed down), but we did have a great time, and I was not stressed. Now, every year they request the snowman cookies as part of our holiday tradition. I learned the value of choosing when to say yes and when to say no and where to allow myself the grace for shortcuts.
Applying that lesson, a few years ago, it became very important to me to reclaim Thanksgiving in our family. Thanksgiving had become my least favorite holiday. It was very stressful, and I dreaded it every year. It made me sad that Thanksgiving had lost what it really should be about, and so our family found new traditions and learned to cut down the stress—introducing a “no stress” (or at least a lot “less stress”) November. These are my favorite No Stress November traditions that help our family enter the holiday season with a focus on love, making happy memories and sharing time together—and learning to laugh if the turkey burns!
Six Tips for No Stress November
- Celebrate Thanksgiving Eve: Almost every year, Disney rolls out a new family movie over Thanksgiving. My husband’s boss sends everyone home around lunchtime, and we meet as a family for a matinee at the theater, or the girls and I meet friends. Then, we head home where we have friends over for a Thanksgiving Eve dinner. We enjoy soup and sandwiches or pizza with some good friends who are happy to dine on paper plates. Then our families head to Longview Lake for the annual Christmas in the Sky. We drive through the Christmas lights and enjoy the fireworks and hot cocoa. This simple tradition kicks off the holidays for our family with great memories with friends and lots of fun!
- Save some traditions for January: Baking every cute cookie, trying every new recipe or making each Pinterest craft is impossible. Save some ideas for January, February and March when life slows down. Our family loves baking cookies throughout the winter, so we purposely save some recipes for slower months and choose absolute favorites (for flavor and simplicity) during the holidays.
- Make time for fun: The calendar is already full with school programs, work parties and more. Put some downtime ON the calendar. I found that simply putting “Movie Night” on the calendar and holding to it as a priority (just as I would a meeting) made it happen. Schedule at least one night a week for relaxation and use the paper plates.
- Get outside: Nothing helps me relax more than spending time outdoors walking and enjoying nature. Take the family for a stroll through the Overland Park Arboretum or Powell Gardens. Or search “Hiking Kansas City” on KCParent.com for our favorite local trails.
- Laugh: Laughter is the best medicine to reduce stress. Take in an improv comedy show at Comedy City or watch a favorite funny film. Check out some joke books from the library and share them with the kids.
- Cut corners: Just as I incorporated Pilsbury cookies into our Christmas traditions, I have a few shortcuts I love at Thanksgiving too. We splurge on a Honey Baked Ham (I prefer it over turkey), but I make the mashed potatoes from scratch. Choose the foods that matter most to you and find shortcuts for the rest or nix them from the menu entirely.
Whatever you do this month, remember to prioritize and only do the things that really matter. If it isn’t important, take if off the calendar, because spending time hugging your kids, laughing as a family and making memories with friends is always more important than baking the perfect pie or setting the prettiest table.
Kristina Light is grateful to be looking forward to a "less stress Thanksgiving" and wishes that for every KC family this year!