Who isn’t busy all the time? But around the holidays we’re crazy busy. At least women are, and those lights in our lives we call children make the pace even more frantic.
Sure we make efforts to simplify and de-stress but for most of us the additional joy of holiday decorating, baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping, gifting, visiting, hosting, and merrymaking have to fit right into our regular (overburdened) schedules.
It’s not like we can make more time where there is none. Well, maybe we can. At least we can use our time differently. I confess to suffering from Crazy Busy Syndrome but I fight back with these tactics.
1. Renounce the How-Does-She-Do-It-All-Disease.
You know the symptoms. You add extra responsibilities to your already hyper-responsible list of tasks. You uphold traditions because your family enjoys them. You pay close attention to get just the right gifts. You worry about money more than usual while spending more than usual. On top of all this you try to keep the focus on intangibles like joy and togetherness. The most extreme cases of How-Does-She-Do-It-All-Disease manage to keep up with everything and still keep smiling. Or at least feign good cheer.
When the frenzy is over you often end up with an empty feeling. The warm tenderness and connection we hope to feel around the holidays often gets lost under the sheer weight of obligation.
The cure? Talk to your loved ones about what means the most to them, then slice away the rest. If that doesn’t work, slice anyway. If you feel guilty about it sit down and read a nice stack of picture books to your children. No one really puts you in the Little Red Hen role for the holidays. Besides, that too-cheery tone you use doesn’t fool anyone.
2. Shun Those Voices.
They speak to you from TV shows, magazines, websites, blogs, store displays—in fact they’re hard to escape during the holidays. They seem genuine and alluring but their sole aim is to make you feel insufficient. These voices relentlessly tell you that you’re not enough. To compensate you must do more. Dress beautifully, make elaborate meals, buy lavish gifts (and wrap them with panache), lose 10 pounds by New Year’s Eve, capture every holiday memory in photos and videos, be a sexy surprise for your partner—oh, you know the list.
This is the only diet you need to go on. Don’t watch a single cooking show, don’t open one slick women’s magazine, avoid stores as much as possible. You’ll have a lot more time plus you won’t have to reassemble what’s left of your self esteem.
3. Screw Tradition.
No, I don’t mean you should shun Grandma’s house. I mean it’s possible to enjoy the season without so much of the heavy Gotta Do It Because We Always Do It weight hanging over you.
Some of my family’s most memorable holidays have actually been those that veered wildly from tradition. We won’t forget a holiday dinner at Becky’s house featuring walls still wet with paint, an oven on fire, and a dog getting sick everywhere. The zinger? She hosted the event to show visitors from Germany how we celebrate here in the U.S.
If you’ve always gone to the movie theater to see the newest holiday releases after a day of shopping, skip both and go to a play at your community theater. If you’ve accepted every holiday invitation despite the costs of babysitters, travel, and lost sleep limit your selections to those events that are simply too wonderful to miss. If you’ve always made a big meal, consider ordering take-out from a locally owned restaurant to serve on your best plates. If you’ve always accommodated your kids’ requests for gifts because it’s Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanzaa put new limits on materialism, letting them know you’ll consider one or two items they make their highest priorities. If you’ve always driven around to see the holiday lights, go outside on a frosty night to sing together (even if only to a lone tree lit by moonlight). You’ll not only save time and money, you’ll also create new traditions.
4. Rethink Gift-Giving.
Great-grandma is right, things have gotten out of hand. In her day children looked forward to gifts such as a fresh orange, maybe a piece of candy, and if they were lucky a toy or useful gift like a pocketknife or sewing kit. Historian Howard Chudacoff writes in Children at Play: An American History that most toys co-opt and control play. A child is better off with free time and objects he or she can use to fuel imagination (yes, a cardboard box).
I admit things got out of hand in my own house. In a quest for meaning (let’s rephrase that to my quest for meaning) we’ve always had handmade holidays. I’m one of those annoying people. Meals from scratch, hand crafted gifts, organic cookies that are frightening dark due to buckwheat flour. Each of my four children made gifts for everyone every year, gifts that took substantial effort such as woodworking, felting, and ceramics. My kids still make some of the gifts they give although I’ve stopped putting myself in charge of coming up with the ideas and supervising the process.
The last few years economic realities have made handmade and useful gifts ever more necessary for many of us. Thankfully there are solutions. Choose gifts from socially responsible vendors, non-profit sources, and directly from artisans. And take heart, studies show experiences brings more lasting pleasure than possessions. That’s a great reason to steer your holiday dollars toward gifts of theater tickets, museum passes, unusual lessons, local restaurants, and other experience-based gifts.
5. Last Resort.
This tactic is heavy duty, the one I bring out when I start to feel sorry for myself. Because we’re not crazy busy in comparison to women throughout history. We think we’re stressed? Our foremothers hauled water; carded, spun and sewed clothes; chopped firewood and maintained the stove they cooked on; ground grain and made bread each day; planted and weeded gardens, then canned and dried the harvest; stretched limited food reserves with careful planning to last; cared for babies, children and the elderly with no professional help; treated the sick, stitched wounds and prepared the dead for burial. You get the idea.
Worse, many women in today’s world still do this sort of grinding labor each day. Typically, women in developing countries work 17 hours a day. Our sisters receive a tenth of the world’s income while performing two-thirds of the world’s work. These harsh realities put any concept of busy or stressed right out of my head. (For empowering information, check out the wonderful book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.)
So fight the Crazy Busy Syndrome with all you’ve got. And if you aren’t on my list to get homemade buckwheat cookies, count your blessings.
Originally published by GeekMom.com
Wow, wonderful, wonderful. Such great reminders that we only need be as crazy as we want to be, and we should keep that much crazy just for FUN. Halleluia!
However, one little change, at least for me: I don’t plan on doing it all “within reason” For me, at least, my “reason” is usually coopted by what other people think is reasonable. So I’m going to follow your advice with the bottom line-advisor being my heart: it always knows what’s good for me and the planet, and what’s too much. Just thought I’d share that.
Thanks again for the fabulous reminders!!! Margaret et. al
Great advice. After reading Elaine St. James’ book, Simplify Your Life, I cut out ALL the stuff that didn’t ADD to my enjoyment of the holidays!
No more frantic, hectic, hustle and bustle.
Aah . . . that’s better.
Six years ago we just stopped ‘doing’ Christmas – we are not religious, it is not a big family thing, we just couldn’t see the point of doing something simply because ‘it’s the done thing’. And you know what – it’s great! We have a period of less stress, and the events we celebrate during the year are more meaningful because we choose to do them out of enjoyment, not obligation. If you love Christmas, or it has real meaning for you, by all means go hard. But it’s not compulsory!
And I think I will be remembering this post next time I get a bit too crazy busy, whatever the reason.
I always loved the Christmas scenes from Little House on the Prairie, when Laura and Mary were content with the few things in their stocking. One year I even suggested to my family that we do an all homemade Christmas (never mind that I had know idea how to make lace; it just sounded so cool). It didn’t happen (though I have begun to crochet – there’s hope, I guess).
Pingback: We Three Kings « Spirit Lights The Way
THANK YOU for writing this! I just got back from a crazy day at Costco, trying to get things ready for my mother-in-law’s arrival tomorrow. My Christmas spirit was at an all time low, but now I feel better. I think I might re-read this every day this week 🙂
I resemble this post. 🙂