Ah, the holidays. They conjure up all kinds of fuzzy warm memories for most moms of when they were children and what holiday rituals they and their family celebrated. For some, the holidays were a time of happiness and joy, for others not so much, as problems in families only get exacerbated during times when people are thrown together inside for long periods of time.
I’m sure we can all think back to various dysfunctional moments in our families! Most of us have experienced the holidays as a time of joy and fun, with a dash of stress, exhaustion, and over eating to boot. It’s important to be realistic about the craziness at this time of year, and for a mom to plan out in advance how to stay happy, healthy, and sane during the two week holiday break with the kids at home.
There will be the usual things she'll do to keep everyone and everything chugging along; making sure meals are running smoothly, kids are playing with their toys appropriately and getting along (at least most of the time), and visiting with family and friends catching up on news.
But what about her health and sanity which could take quite a knocking if she’s not armed and prepared for the stop in structure and routine? Kids may rebel against it, but it is what keeps the family moving. There's no perfect solution, however we have 15 ways for moms to keep their sanity during the holiday break:
15 Structure Fun Outdoor Activities
There’s nothing like fresh air to burn off excess energy and sugar from all that rich food! Skating, sledding, skiing or making snow angels, are all great ways to get physical and have fun with your family. It’s great exercise for big and little kids, and adults too of course.
Structuring is important because it means that little ones will know what to expect and what the family is doing, so there should be no chance for them to opt out with laziness or suggest video games or television all day. It will also force mom and dad to go with the flow if this is discussed in advance. Other fun activities could be nature walks or building a snowman.
If mom stretches her imagination she could probably come up with all kinds of ideas. Then, the best part is coming in for hot chocolate by the fireplace, real or electric, rosy-cheeked and relaxed.
14 Have Fun Indoor Activities Ready Too
For those brutally cold winter days that are too frigid to be outside in the elements, planning out some fun indoor activities to burn off energy is tons of fun for mom and the whole family. For very little ones, building forts or obstacles courses in the basement or living room work.
For the older ones, family board games or WII games are excellent choices. There are also the good old fashioned games of charades, hide and seek, and for very little ones, tickle monster where parents and kids take turns tickling one another, the “swing” game where parents each grab a hold of a sturdy blanket with baby in the middle and swing him/her.
If mom uses her imagination she can come up with many more fun family types of activities. There are also different crafts kids can do at various ages. The important thing is to have a rotary of activities so families have a lot to choose from.
13 Make Sure Everyone Has Downtime
As fun as family time is, if mom doesn't have some alone time, she'll snap. It’s important that babies also learn how to play alone and with their siblings so mom can have some breathing room.
Obviously very young babies need constant supervision, so mom can recruit dad or another caregiver while she takes some time to put her feet up, grab a cup of coffee, and curl up with a book or a favorite television show. This is healthy because it instills resilience in babies and toddlers that mom is a separate person, and also helps them learn that they can play alone and be fine.
It also gives dad or another caregiver a chance to bond with the baby as mom recharges her inner batteries to make it through the holiday intact. It is important she learns to place value on self-care so she can be totally there for her family.
12 Cook Beforehand Or Plan To Bring Pre-Packaged Food
Food. Yes, glorious food. We all enjoy it, but on holiday, nobody wants to spend the entire holiday cooking. The best way to enjoy all the season has to offer is for mom to try and cook as much as she can in advance. This way all she has to do on those busy holiday visiting sprees is come home, defrost, microwave and eat.
The same goes for deserts. This way if she and the family eat too many sweets at family and friends’ houses they can leave their goodies in the freezer to enjoy after the holidays. As well, these deserts can be defrosted and brought over if mom doesn’t have time to stop and buy hostess gifts.
The best part about cooking and baking in advance is the money that it saves families as well as the time. Now, they can get on with outings, movies, relaxing at home and not worrying about meals. Also consider involving the kids as helpers to cooking or baking if they are old enough. It takes care of boredom and gets food and baked goods cooked and baked!
11 Budget For Eating Out And Activities That Cost Money
This one kind of builds on the point above. It's important to decide in advance how much restaurant food a family will be consuming. This will just add to the holiday expenses and give mom (and her partner), a big headache when the bills come in in January.
Budgeting with her partner will set a healthy holiday spending spree. They should also allow for the occasional holiday food splurge, ordering in a pizza or dining out at a food court in a shopping center when the kids and even baby points excitedly at the hot dog stand.
Whatever mom can do to listen hers and her partner’s stress will go a long way in helping the whole family enjoy the holiday in a more relaxed way. Kids and even babies will pick up on this relaxed attitude and everyone will be happier for it. That is what all moms want after all, a happy family over the holidays.
10 Schedule Multiple Play Dates
Ah yes. Play dates. The sanity saviour for all moms with kids of all ages. No matter what age our little ones are, baby, toddler, child, play dates are great ways for children to learn social skills, and moms to talk together and preserve their sanity over the crazy holiday season with its erratic scheduling, eating, sleeping, visiting patters.
Moms can commiserate, laugh, cry, share and unwind, while the kids enjoy themselves playing. Just a word to the wise. Make sure no child is seriously ill or the holidays will take a turn for the worse for the whole family.
A small cold is nothing, but nobody wants the flu ripping its way through their house! The best thing about play dates is they can tires the little precious bundles of joy out and they sleep. Yes, they will sleep at night, and so will mom and her partner! It’s also a nice break from family if moms can see their friends and compare notes how everyone’s holiday is going.
9 Try To Keep The Same Wake And Bedtime Schedules
And the schedule. This is one of the hardest things to maintain on holiday for children and adults alike. But it's important for mom to try and have some semblance of her previous sleep/wake schedule if only to keep everyone healthy and energetic.
A tired cranky baby won't be any fun to take anywhere, and they will get sicker faster too. Not good. Mom and dad will be better off too if they can get the sleep they need. They’ll be more patient, have more of a sense of humor when baby makes a mess, and be able to laugh away holiday stress that would normally do then in and cause them to yell like a banshee.
Once in awhile having a late night or late morning won’t hurt. But overall it's best if some sort of schedule is adhered to. Most babies and kids thrive on some routine so it will do the whole family good. Not to mention once the vacation is over, it might be hard to get the kids back into their old schedule.
8 Have A Set Vacation Routine
Again with routine. We know it sounds boring, but if mom knows how the day will unfold in general with her kids and partner, it'll be that much easier to keep the smile on her face that ordinarily would go away after the first baby or toddler tantrum.
A simple schedule like wake up, breakfast, get dressed, go play in yard, snack, play with toys, lunch and nap. Baby’s nap, not mommy’s. Though that can be arranged too. A quick refresh would help everyone feel more in control and enjoy the time they have together, quality over quantity always.
Mom and dad can structure it too so that for three consecutive days there's a set routine, another day a different structure for activities at grandma’s or a friend’s house, and if families travel and stay in a hotel, that's a whole other ballgame of routine and order. Mom and dad have to decide at this point what will work best for them and their children.
7 Have Food Ready In The Freezer
Building on the “going away” theme for vacation, it’s important to make sure the cupboard is well stocked with non-perishables. This way, the only things mom will have to think to buy would be milk and maybe eggs, though if the expiry date is far, they too could be purchased in advance.
Once again if cooking is done ahead of time, voila! Mom and gang can come home and chow down without any of the drag of cooking and cleaning as they start to recover from being on holiday and getting back into everyday routine.
Yes, there will be that, “getting adjusted to everyday schedule time” that mom and her gang will experience. She will be happy not to have worry about cooking and what to make her tired and hungry children. Her partner will also benefit. He won’t have to be doing any extra work either. Both parents can chill out after the kiddos are in bed.
6 Schedule In Some Couple Time
And now for the get down part. During the holidays it's a tough thing to arrange since mom and her partner may be pretty tired. Still, even carving out a little time to watch tv, cuddle or talk over a glass of wine, can really help rekindle that romantic spark.
Cuddling for a few minutes before bed is another good idea. The only way that this time will come about is if mom schedules it in. This way she and her partner have the excitement and anticipation to look forward to, and will be forced, short of passing out standing up or sickness, to stick to their plans and have a blast remembering what made them tick before children.
It’s so important for both parents to do it, but especially mom. She is usually the one doing the majority of the childcare, and sometimes has a hard time seeing herself as being separate from the mom label.
5 Connect With Family And Friends
The holidays are a great time for mom to connect with family and friends she doesn’t get a chance to see the rest of the year. In person is best, even if just for coffee. But there are other options too, such as on Skype, Facetime or on that old fashioned device called the telephone.
This is what the holiday is all about, connecting those we love and catching up on family news, laughing and sharing and making new memories together. This should not be overdone and scheduled around family downtime, and personal time, so no one gets overtired and overwhelmed.
Still, the holidays are about that excitement of visiting and catching up. So as long as the schedule at hand suits mom and her family, she should not hesitate to go with it. It’s her family’s holiday, and they need to celebrate it in a way that makes everyone enjoy it the same way.
4 Make Sure To Stock Up On The Staples
This is another super important tip. All moms know that things like snow storms hit in the northern climates, bad rainy weather where an adult really doesn’t feel like going out, or gasp, illness where a mom feels terrible and would rather avoid the grocery store with a baby/kid in tow.
This is where having other non-perishable everyday items stocked up in the cupboard comes in handy. Things like coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated for those family members and friends who prefer one over the other), teas (caffeinated or decaffeinated for those same friends), juice, soft drinks, and um, wine and other spirits.
Hey, it wouldn’t be the holidays without a little bit of wine, rum or other spirits and what about champagne to toast in the New Year? Whether mom is having a party at her place and crashing into bed after or going out somewhere, it’s nice to have that sort of thing handy and not have to run around last minute with the crowds to get it.
3 Have Books Or Movies Ready For Bad Weather Days
This is important because in most northern climates, bad weather does happen and should be expected. Even in southern climates bad weather can plague the holidays. Having a good selection of movies (kids and adult ones), lined up for the bad weather is a great backup plan for those days kids need to be entertained and mom and her partner need a break from entertaining them.
Parents can also throw in some adult movie watching time when the kids are napping (yes, try and take advantage), or when they are asleep (if mom and her partner are still conscious, that is). For some families, that could be a long stretch. While mom is at it, having popcorn on hand makes an easy snack. Besides, we can’t have movies without popcorn, can we?
If money is a problem (and for most cash stretched families it is), there are great places to rent popular films, like the library. There are also retail sales. Ahemm. Did somebody say Boxing Day? And then there are wonderful family and friends that mom can borrow the movies from. The important thing is that she has her stash.
2 Get Some Exercise In
What could be better after indulging in a lot of high calorie food, alcohol and sugar than a nice workout, away from the family?
Yes, at holiday time, mom deserves to get out on her own for a little “mommy breather” for either a nice walk, a class or workout at the gym or yoga studio (some places are open contrary to popular opinion), or even going to browse in a bookstore or music store some of the music she likes.
Yes, some of us moms like to do this without the interruption of little squeals of, “Hey, I don’t like that,” or, “I’m hungry and I want to go home."
Her partner should also take this time to be alone and recharge his batteries, too. Babies and children will thrive with other caregivers as long as they are loving and attentive, and they will grow to appreciate being around different people and adapting to change.
1 Decide The Duration Of Family Visits
And finally, this is crucial for all families, especially those with little ones who wear out much more easily than older children. It’s important that the couple decides in advance, how long they feel is right for them to stay as family.
The most important thing is that the family has a proper chance to visit for a bit. Most family and friends will understand if a little one, or ones, are overwhelmed or tired, and that the family has to leave after two hours or so. There should never be any pressure felt on either side.
Holidays need to be fun and relaxing, not stressful events or competition. If people are coming to visit a young family with a baby, special attention needs to be given if the parents seem frazzled and the baby is having a lot of tantrums and visibly upset for a while. Chances are the guests have overstayed their welcome for the little one.
So there you have it, 15 ways for moms to keep sane during this holiday break. As long as she is organized, keeps fun at the top of her agenda, and remembers to put her needs and her immediate family’s first, the holiday will be a happy time of connecting and celebrating with those she cares about.