Contributed by Jacqueline Grisé
The holiday winter break is fast approaching!
With a week left before the kiddies are off school for the winter break, moms everywhere are making their lists and checking them twice.
Here are my tips to make everything less stressful as we head into the holidays.
1. Make your life as easy as possible
A mother’s mental load is significantly higher than everyone else’s on a normal day and over the holidays it increases by 1000%.
Juggling work, kids, the home, and holiday preparations take up a huge amount of bandwidth. Help ease that load by simplifying the things that need to get done.
These are things I’ve found help me:
- Curbside pickup is a safe way to help support local businesses, saves you the time it takes to shop, and avoids shipping delays from online orders.
- Order meals from local restaurants. They’re a delicious break from our tried and true and with no prep and little clean up it saves me at least 1-2 hours when I need that time for other things.
- Colour code your presents for the kids. I use one wrapping paper colour/design per child. I don’t have to label them, I can count them to make sure I have the same number for each one (ha!), and makes it super easy to identify & distribute on Christmas morning.
- Use stockings for essentials. Every year I fill my monkey’s stockings with socks, underwear, fun shampoo or body wash, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. Children love opening presents no matter what’s inside and this is a win-win way to give them things they need while making Christmas feel abundant.
2. Forget the to-do list. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to be more productive
Organization is probably my weakest skill despite years of trying to improve it.
I recently learned about the Eisenhower Matrix which is a strategy for taking action and organizing tasks and it is completely life-changing.
To get started, write down all the things you want to get done (I use post-it notes) and then organize them into 3 categories:
Do is for urgent tasks and you prioritize their completion within this category.
Decide is for important things that you can choose to do another time – like reorganizing your home office.
Delegate is for things you need to get done but can ask someone else to do – like having your partner pick up the groceries you ordered from Loblaws or getting your kids to fold the laundry.
In the Eisenhower Matrix, there is also a 4th category:
Eliminate is for the things you need to stop doing because they hurt your productivity.
For example, I got rid of notifications for social media to reduce the time I spend checking my phone.
3. Keep your kids’ routines consistent
The holidays by nature disrupt our routines but children can find this hard to navigate which leads to behaviours that make family time less enjoyable.
Younger children have difficulty understanding time and benefit from having more concrete events to help them feel like they have some degree of control over their day.
You can use visual organizers (pictures that show the sequence of a day’s events) or talk through what’s happening in simple terms: “First we’re going to have breakfast, then you’ll have time to play with your toys.
After that, you’re going to get dressed and brush your teeth.
Then we’ll go out to play at the park and when that’s done we’ll have lunch.”.
I find keeping bedtimes & meal times consistent also keeps everyone on a more even keel which means we can have more fun during the rest of the day.
4. Balance children’s active time with virtual time with friends
We all need to get the beans out with active playtime.
If going outside isn’t an option there are lots of great ideas online for things to do at home such as freeze dance, indoor obstacle courses, and balloon volleyball.
I also recommend scheduling time for your children to connect with their friends.
As we’ve seen during the pandemic, going from full days playing together at school to not seeing anyone is hard on little people.
Video playdates are a great way to give children face-to-face time with friends without the strain of shuttling them around to parks or other outdoor spaces that are compliant with the current health and safety restrictions.
5. Block off time that’s JUST for you.
I love the analogy that you need to put your own oxygen mask on so you can put everyone else’s on too.
Moms tend to put everyone else first but our needs matter.
I know it’s hard to imagine finding any time in the next couple of weeks to do something for yourself but it is possible if you prioritize it
– (pssst… this goes in your Eisenhower Matrix DO category).
It can be something simple like going for a walk and listening to a podcast while your spouse watches the kids.
Or you can create ‘you time’ by changing your schedule just a little bit.
For example this year I rediscovered how much I LOVE reading a good novel and instead of watching Netflix before bed, I read my Kindle.
This small change makes me feel like I do something just for me every day and find I am much happier which makes me a better mother and partner.
Jacqueline is a former high school teacher and mother of three whose passion for healthy attachment, positive parenting, and early childhood education led her to open two daycare centers in Toronto. Most recently she co-founded a children’s technology company specializing in app-development.