Hey there, mama.
This week I lost my s***. Maybe you did, too?
We had spent last weekend with my husband's family. I'd spent days, correction, weeks, preparing. Buying gifts. Wrapping gifts. Doing laundry. Packing. Cleaning up the house so it wasn't a disaster when we got home. When we finally reached our destination, it went pretty well. But it was, as always, a lot of sleeplessness, sugar, and swimming (hotel pool) leading to fun in the moment followed by dysregulation station (toot toot!) when we got home---which of course lasts for days.
It wasn't one thing that threw me off. Really it was just a culmination of little events that made me decide I was DONE. One kid told a lie. Another kid wouldn't stop touching the other kids' gifts, reaching out a finger to prod the toy, rendering the toy's owner to an epic meltdown. Of course, they also had to go straight back to school for three days of nonstop Christmas "fun" which included, more sugar, more disruption in routine---it was just too much. Then the kids wouldn't pick up after themselves. Mess after mess was left for me. I couldn't keep up. Then one of my kids gave her younger brother a haircut. A haircut. Every single whimper had me on sensory overload.
My anxietywas rearing it's ugly head in the form of frustration, negativity, and drastic thinking (Christmas sucks!). I decided that eating too many Christmas cookies and drinking too much coffee was the temporary answer...of course, then I was just jittery and more frazzled.
And break hadn't even started yet. And we still have two more Christmas family celebrations to go.
And then I started thinking about the election. And adoption ethics. And a slew of other things....because you know, why not when you're already in a hole of despair?
Yes, I'm being dramatic.
I'm a "suck it up, buttercup" kind of girl. Type A. Strong. Determined. Driven. Focused. Putting on my big girl panties and DEALING. But not this time.
I love Christmas. I love everything about it: decorations, food, music, pjs, movies, church on Christmas Eve night, visiting family, shopping, wrapping, and opening.
But what I'd forgotten is that Christmas, the first one, was very, very simple and humble. And it didn't involve getting upset about everything that went wrong, like teen (unmarried) pregnancy, taxes, long journeys, and no room in the inn. It was all about what went right.
Many moms are in my boat. WE do the food prep. The packing. The shopping and wrapping. The photo-taking. The cleaning up.
And sometimes, like in my case, I take over when my husband chips in, because I want things done MY way. Because after all, my way is the best way, right?
WE moms do almost all the GIVING. And we are to do so CHEERFULLY.
Then there is not a whole lot left, is there? Except exhaustion, resentment, and squandered expectations. Things undone. Disappointment.
When my husband walked in the door that day, I said, "I'm out." I went into my room with a notebook, my laptop, and a pen. I took a super hot shower. Then I crawled into my bed and wrote, watched about five episodes of The Office, and just chilled out.
It wasn't easy. I had suffocating waves of feelings: guilt, resentment, frustration. How could a GOOD mother just disengage like that, at BEDTIME, of all times? During the blessed Christmas season?!?
It took a good three and a half hours before I emerged from my cave. All the kids were in bed. My husband had done the dishes and was feeding the baby. The world didn't fall apart just because I checked out to get my s*** together. But this was NOT the attitude I wanted to carry throughout the holiday season.
I made a few decisions during those three hours---because I'll be damned if I'm not going to have a merry Christmas and enjoy my favorite holiday.
1: I will acknowledge my own needs to have time and space.
I will state these, asking for help. By doing so, it won't have to get to a breaking point. I'll be proactive vs. reactive.
2: I'm going to say no.
No to filling our afternoons with playdates or errands. There is nothing we need THAT badly that I'm going to venture into a crowded store with four children. My children can play independently or together---no additional friends needed.
3: We're spreading out our Christmas fun.
Extending the holiday so the pace is slower and the season is more meaningful. If this means doing things after Christmas, great.
4: Simplify, simplify, simplify.
A Christmas tradition in my family is to make homemade sugar cookies and decorate them. I just sent my husband to the store to buy pre-made sugar cookie dough. No mixing and chilling in advance. When we're ready to decorate, we can have cookies ready in minutes.
Remember Christmas is all about hope and redemption. Remember that Christmas reminds us that people look at the outside---the surface---but our God looks (and cares) about the conditions of our heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
How's your heart today mama? What can you do, practically, to better that condition? What do you NEED in order to lean in to your Savior this Christmas?
Make a list.
And don't check it twice.
Don't apologize for having needs. Don't revise the list. Or edit it. Or be ashamed of it.
Jesus came for you, too.
This post originally appeared on White Sugar, Brown Sugar in 2016.