Moms at Christmas: Resisting Expectations of Perfection, Avoiding Burnout and Staying Connected

Katie Andre | November 29, 2022

Presence is the Best Present

As a mom during the holidays, I have certainly felt the pressure to do it all and make sure the experiences are Instagram-picture-worthy, posting the proof on social media that I have in fact completed the unspoken, but ginormous, Holiday Family Checklist.

The pressure is there, but I refuse to submit. The busyness does not bring me joy, and it does not make Christmas any more special to my kids.  

We have to make gingerbread houses! No, we do not. My frosting skills are not up to par enough to create a structurally sound house that will last through decorating. It is not on my list.

We have to have matching Christmas Jammies! No, we do not. It’s not something that I put into my budget because I know my 3-year-old will wear whatever he wants, and I know he will NOT choose the jammies that I pick for him. Instead, I’ll use the money toward things that my kids will actually enjoy. So, there will not be a “perfect family pajama picture” for us (and let’s be honest, my husband is grateful for that decision too!).

We have to get pictures with Santa! No, we do not. I’m not waiting in lines for hours to force my kids to take pictures with a stranger. They don’t like it one bit, and it will not be a part of our traditions.

So what do we do at Christmas? We find the things that bring us joy and that are worth our time and effort—and we do only those things. Nothing more, because it isn’t worth the stress that is put onto my family.

I send Christmas Cards. I love to both send and receive cards, and I hope that the cards I send show others that they are loved.

My kids do an Advent Calendar every day after dinner so that we can talk about Jesus.  It’s perfect for their ages, and they love doing it!

Okay, you got me. The ONE ginormous thing on my to-do list is planning, purchasing, and wrapping all of the presents for our immediate and extended family. I accept my fate, but I will not allow that massive task to overwhelm me. I start planning early and keep a note on my phone for easy access whenever an idea for a present strikes me. I plan a vacation day off work to do the majority of the wrapping.

I’ve found that when I’m overwhelmed, I am no longer present with my family. My mind is planning, worrying, and spinning instead of seeing, listening, and loving. I’ve made the important decision to not do ALL of the things in exchange for my presence with my kids because that’s all they really want for Christmas anyway.

Read next: Not so Merry: Christmas with Depression.

For more practical ways to deal with mental health issues, and stories of others who have been there too, go here for our full list of resources.

Curious what God thinks about mental health? See the article by a Willow Creek campus pastor and professor of theology.