Six Tips on How to Lower Expectations for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

A guest post by Katharine Grubb, who’s graced us with her wit, humor, and wisdom before. Katharine is a bread-making, novel-writing, homeschooling mother of five. She lives in the cold city of Boston, Massachusetts, and thinks her husband should trick out her iPhone for Christmas. Her blog is, and you can also find her on Twitter (@10MinuteWriter) and Facebook.

I am a mother of five children, which means, for me, that Christmas is a lot of work. I want to hear my children’s hearts about their wishes. I want the extended family to be satisfied with their gifts. I want our Christmas dinner to be special. I want the decorations to be dazzling, not shabby. Oh, and somewhere in there, I want to communicate the real reason of Christmas to my children. No pressure.

The reality is that sometimes I get overwhelmed by the expectations I have put on myself to make Christmas fantastic. I have to stop, often, and remind myself what is  important and what isn’t. This isn’t easy, especially when guilt and condemnation hang around like a couple of unwanted Christmas spirits, but it can be done.

Here are six steps any mom can take to ease the burden of the holiday:

1. Be In Unity With Your Husband. Try to sit down with him and formulate a plan for Christmas. How much money will you spend? Which relatives will you visit? Which parties will you attend? What traditions are important for your family?  If you have a plan, and you stick with it, it will make all the difference in your season.

2. Be Careful That You Don’t Start With Ambitious Precedents. When I only had two small children, I decided that each Christmas they would get a handmade gift from me. This was ambitious because I’m not usually that crafty. But I was under the impression that THIS WAS IMPORTANT.  I went to Jo Ann Fabric and explained to the saleslady (I’m quite talkative to salespeople) that I was pregnant, suffering from high blood pressure, but darn it, I was going to make these stuffed dolls for my girls. The sales lady, who was very wise, said, “Those babies don’t need a doll. They need you. Go home and go to bed.” She was right. And that was the last year I made homemade gifts for my kids. Check your plan. Do you have “traditions” that are really not worth the stress?

3. Be Realistic About What Kids Remember. That same Christmas, my husband got a stomach bug on Christmas Eve and threw up all the next day. My baby girls (then 2 and 3) opened their gifts in between him running to the bathroom. We ate tuna salad. He ate Cheerios. It was NOT the end of the world.

4. Get a Long-Term Perspective. Did you know that Christmas comes every year? You will have many, many Christmases ahead of you to be an awesome mom. You don’t have to hit this year’s out of the park.

5. Rethink Everything Your Mother and Grandmother Does. Why exactly do they cook the elaborate meals, get studio photos taken and hand make every gift? Why? If your “guilt” to be like them is your only motivation for doing these things, then it’s definitely time to rethink and possibly discard some of those binding expectations. For example, I haven’t sent out Christmas cards since 2004. And, thanks to Facebook, I never will again.

6. Keep Things Simple For Toddlers. When my girls were little we called Christmas ‘Baby Jesus Day’. We lit candles for Advent (wish I had battery powered ones then) and played with our Fisher Price nativity scene. It was enough for them to see that Christmas was bigger than toys that Gramma gave us.

Jesus didn’t come to this earth for us to be full of anxiety. Let’s do what we can to address our fears, confess our concerns and proactively take control of our expectations for ourselves. If we do that, then our Christmas will be merry indeed.

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