Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Holiday stress? Do less!

Can your holiday season really be stress free?

For the past few weeks I have been inundated with tips and tricks from magazines, newsletter and blog posts promising a stress free holiday if I follow their simple steps.  And you know what? I don't buy any of it!  As a mother of young children the holidays are going to be stressful if you try to do everything you did pre-children.  It is the same concept as losing weight-there is no magic diet.  To weigh less, you must eat less. If you want to minimize stress, you have to do less.  


So for what it is worth, here is one more stress free holiday tip:

Do less!

1) Make a list of everything you "have" to do.

2) Write a statement describing what the holiday season means to you (your values may have changed since becoming a mom). 

3) While reviewing the list, ask yourself if each item relates to your holiday values. Do you want to do each item?  Does it give you meaning or enjoyment?

     -If yes, great-keep doing it.
     -If no, scratch it off the list.

4) Whatever you scratched off, give yourself permission to be guilt free about it.

5) If something is really important to another family member-ask them to take it on.

6) Whatever you decided to keep-enjoy it to the fullest knowing that you don't have to rush through it to scratch something else on your list.

In using my own advice, I no longer send holiday cards or bake more than 1 kind of cookie from scratch.  I decline invitations to events that I really don't want to attend and I don't really care if my gifts are beautifully wrapped (I actually buy a lot of gift cards).  So call me a Scrooge if you like.  All I can tell you is that I make sure to plan the holidays in a way that is meaningful to me and my family-not a list of things to do.  I can honestly say, the holidays are not an increase of stress for me-because I am clear about the things I want to do and the things I have left behind.  If I miss these tasks when I am in a less demanding stage in my life-I will invite them back.

Are you up for revising your holiday "to-do" list in a way that creates meaning and joy instead of stress?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Are you talking to me?

"Your kids are so well behaved.  I didn't even know there were children sitting behind me until I got up to leave."  

Wow....are you talking to me?  

This is the compliment my husband and I received last week while we were out to Red Robin (you know the restaurant with the big red bird and unlimited fries).

This was not a fluke.

We receive the same compliment a few weeks ago while we were out for a "fancy" family dinner to celebrate our 11 year wedding anniversary (after we had to cancel our getaway weekend-long story).  When my husband went to the restroom a man approached him and said, "Your children are so well behaved, how do you do it?"  As we were leaving we saw this same man and his wife getting into their car.  My husband immediately spotted the car seats in their vehicle...and I felt a connection with them.  I remembered those days...wondering if/when we could take our kids out and they would actaully behave.

My husband and I cocked our proud peacock feathers and gushed over our kids on the way home-just beaming from this compliment.  We had come a long way! I was thinking of this couple-out for a night out-looking at our well behaved children wondering what the secret was.

The secret is there is no secret!

It takes time to teach kids to behave.  Some kids get it faster then others and some parents have more patients and tolerance. Our kids were not always so well behaved and I remember often looking at other families wondering how the hell they got their kids to sit, be engaged and practice their table manners.  Many a days my husband and I ended up in the car with one of our kids who was misbehaving, while the other half of the family finished their meal. If you could have seen us two years ago in a restaurant you would have either been highly annoyed that we were sitting near you, thought we were incompetent parents or felt sorry for us.  Whatever your opinion, we were a mess!  It was not because we weren't setting expectations, or following through with rules-it was because our children are very active, don't like to sit and are not real big fans of eating.  Period.

It wasn't just at restaurants, it was going out in public in general.  There was a time when I had enough of the humiliation, defeat and driving home with a face full of tears.  For about an 18 month time frame, I put myself and my children on house arrest.  I wouldn't take them out to eat or even to the grocery store together by myself.  My younger child is a wild child.  He would wander from me, couldn't sit in a chair (or high chair),  needed to touch everything and just wasn't catching on to the rules.  I spent so much time addressing his behavior that there were times that I had my eyes off my 3 year old for so long that it could have been a safety issue.

So I quit. 

I heard opinions such as, "How are you going to teach him if you don't expose him?" "Set the rules and if he breaks them-leave the store."  "You just aren't being strict enough."  Gee, thanks!  How about YOU take both kids to the grocery store and let me know how much food you actually bring home!

We continued to model appropriate meal manners at home.  We practiced safety rules at the park and using our indoor voices, staying with your mommy and listing to directions when we had to go to the doctor's office or were invited to a friend's home.  But it was a rare occasion that we went out to eat or to a store for something other then a one item pick up.

It took a looooong time, but he got it.

Now my kids are 4 and 6, and we get compliments about both their behavior.  Don't get me wrong, I have my fair share of discipline issues (especially with the wild child).  I still have my eyes on him at all times or destroys something or hurts himself-but we are getting there.  My approach worked for me and I wasn't influenced by other peoples' opinions on how I should be raising my kids.  My approach isn't for everyone, but it was MY approach and it worked for me.

So often we get caught up in what we think we should be doing or what the "experts" are telling us to do and it is not genuine to who we are or what feels comfortable to us.  Parenting is damn hard work, but it is even harder if you are doing it in a way that is inauthentic to you.

What are you struggling with now?  

What opinions are you receiving that don't quite feel right and what is your "gut" telling you to do?  

What can you do to implement a plan that is more comfortable to who you are?

What additional support do you need around this area?