Wow! Can I just say, the holidays are hard. I asked on Insta stories what stressors caused the most grumpy moments and there was no shortage of things we could talk about. I realized a few things:
1. The things that are hardest are things we feel we can’t control.
2. So many of the truths and lies I shared in my book, Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday, can be applied here!
So here’s how I set this up. I separated the stressors into broad categories and trends. The actual responses from the Insta-poll are underneath in italics, which many were repeated so I only put them once. Then I shared possible lies that we could be believing, the truth to replace them with AND a practical tip to tackle the issue. For many, I also shared a snippet from Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday that I hope will be helpful! Feel free to grab a copy if we don’t address your biggest frustration or you just want to take these ideas further. The book is filled with 20 lies that are subtly causing our grumpiest mom moments and I think the holidays would be a really great time to refresh if you’ve already read it or to read for the first time so you can spot the triggers that threaten to ruin your day or even the season.
MONEY & GIFTS
Spending lots of money
Coming up with gift ideas for everyone, even those you’re not very close to.
Possible Lie: Spending money is unavoidable. Or It’s impossible to stay on budget during the holidays.
Truth: We are capable of saying no.
GRUMPY MOM TAKES A HOLIDAY
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1. Write down the actual cost of things. And get really specific. Ex: What this holiday outfit that will be enjoyed for 2 hours will cost me means we can’t go on a date in January or those tickets to the ballet will be put on a credit card and will be added to the credit card debt that wakes me up at night. Is it worth it?
2. Ask yourself, “Does overspending happen because of miscommunication (or no communication) with my spouse?” Get on the same page as your spouse and get committed to the budget. This is ONE holiday season. It’s really easy (for me at least!) to make everything so special that I feel like I can’t say no to anything.
3. Read these blog posts from our Christmas series two years ago on Margin in Giving and Margin in Spending.
CLUTTER IS OVERWHELMING
Keeping 16 month old from pulling down decorations
Decorating the tree. It gets so chaotic with everyone helping and all I want to do is clean up.
Decorating the house. I don’t like a lot of chaos and decorations can stress me out.
Possible Lie: Christmas requires a lot of stuff.
Truth: Decor doesn’t make it Christmas.
1. Light a Christmas candle, put on some holiday tunes and boom. Christmas. Just kidding. We know the real meaning is Jesus but I totally get wanting it to feel like Christmas but getting overwhelmed by all the stuff.
2. Have a tree with littles? Just put lights on this year. So much of what feels a must, actual isn’t.
3. Get rid of the Christmas decor you don’t use RIGHT NOW. Don’t store it because next year when you pull it all out, you’ll feel like you “need to find a place for it” and if it wasn’t there, you’d feel totally fine without it.
4. Focus on the real reason for the season. I know, I know. This is cliche but if we REALLY and truly did this, I think we’d let go of the things that are cluttering our seasons. Sign up to get 12 prayers for the 12 days before Christmas I wrote right here.
Here’s a snippet from the chapter in Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday on margin:
“Life is not derived from stuff. Luke 12:15 (amp) captures these words of Jesus: “Watch out and guard yourselves against every form of greed; for not even when one has an overflowing abundance does his life consist of nor is it derived from his possessions.” We know that life is more than stuff, but we still find ourselves on an endless search to fill our lives with more of it. Have you ever strolled through the dollar section of Target thinking, Do I “need” anything? You can’t think of anything you need, but you look anyway, wondering if there’s something you forgot you needed. Is this irony, or what? If we can forget we need something, maybe it’s not an actual need? … Joshua Becker opened my eyes to the real issue of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. The man goes to Jesus and asks what he can do to be saved. Jesus tells him to sell his possessions and follow him. The rich young ruler goes away grieving because he doesn’t want to give away his things. The man says no because he sees this act as a sacrifice. He doesn’t see the worth of eternal life compared to his possessions. I am tempted to call him a moron for not realizing the cost, but I do the same thing with much smaller things. I desperately want to see letting go of my things as an invitation instead of a sacrifice.”
Feeling overwhelmed by all the IG / Pinterest perfection / all the stuff I should be doing
Seeing everyone’s pics and feeling like I’m not measuring up
It’s the first Christmas, What if I forget something? What if I don’t start the tradition now?
Possible Lie: There is one perfect way to do things.
Truth: There IS one perfect way and it’s Jesus.
1. I know we KNOW this in our heads but I think we have to remember that what we see isn’t all there is. My sister has said this a lot. She’s glad she sees how hard I’ve had to work for my business because she can’t glamorize it and wish she had it. She knows she wouldn’t have wanted to do everything I’ve done for it so she’s happy for any success that comes because she sees all that goes into it. We can’t do this with Instagram exactly but just know it’s there.
2. Spend this Advent season really focusing on Jesus and striving to be like HIM.
Here’s a snippet on comparison from the chapter on friendship.
“When we see amazing qualities in women around us, we are often tempted to envy them and feel bad about ourselves. But instead of comparing, what if we saw how these qualities originated in Jesus first? When we see that mom who seems so calm and gentle with her kids or that friend who finds so much wisdom in the Word or that prayer warrior who finds so much time to pray, what if we channeled every bit of comparison into wanting to be more like Jesus instead? In her book The Happiness Dare, Jennifer Dukes Lee says, “If I am trying to be like anyone else, it had better be Jesus.” Why would we imitate an imitation when we have direct access to Jesus himself? I’m not saying that being influenced by others doesn’t have its place, but when it morphs into comparison, I want to let this truth pull me out of a dangerous spiral.”
Family members pulling us from every direction.
Bouncing from house to house (so grateful for so much fam!).
Balancing which in-laws we spend time with.
The whirlwind of visiting all the families and how loud it gets.
Divorced families – we have the only grandchild and they all want to see them.
Missing out on time with family / they live too far away and work schedules make it hard.
Grandparents who compete for biggest gift.
Multiple gatherings on day of. I just want to be with my family focusing on why we celebrate.
Set of grandparents that only talk about Santa and presents.
Guilt about decisions to visit and not visit family.
The expectations of family members wanting the best from kids when they are tired.
Running around with a 9 month old because all want to celebrate his first Christmas.
Trying to schedule gatherings between families.
Babies off schedule.
Working in naptime with all the festivities and unfamiliar homes.
Family tensions. I love my family but stressful.
Possible Lie: I have no control.
Truth: I am not a victim to what we do. We are making these choices.
Possible Lie: I should get to do exactly what I want to do.
Truth: The holidays require flexibility and sacrifice.
1. Decide as a family what’s important to you and make sure that makes the cut first. This will likely be spending time with family, so I’m not saying wall yourself up in your house watching Hallmark movies for a month. Grab Diana Kerr’s holiday course if you need help figuring out what’s important.
2. It’s ok to disappoint people. I think we fear being mean so we instead say yes to things we shouldn’t say yes to. If you are saying yes out of fear instead of love, you’re not serving your family.
3. Set limits. What can you actually handle? Your calendar doesn’t need to be set by how many invitations you get but by how much your family can actually handle.
4. Prepare well. This isn’t the average season and will require work. Prepare what you can to make it less stressful. Work to make the days without activities really simple and calm.
5. Figure out your family rhythms that will keep your family moving in a good way. For us, that’s meal planning and nightly prep.
6. Be flexible. These are opportunities to worship and glorify God.
Here’s a snippet from Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday’s chapter on flexibility:
“I was working so hard trying to get everything to fall in line with my plans that there was no possible chance I could enjoy my life and the gifts God had given me. So really, it wasn’t the inconvenience that kept me frustrated; it was my insistence that everything work out according to my plan. When we surrender our own plans to God’s ultimate (and much wiser!) plan, we are basically telling him that we trust him. This is not small potatoes, ladies. Those moments we see as a complete inconvenience are actually opportunities for God-glorifying moments. I don’t believe God created us to set our plans in place and follow every single one to the letter, leaving a slew of dead bodies in our wake. If we were able to pull off everything we set our minds to, we wouldn’t need him so much, would we? We could put the coordinates in our GPS, bid God adieu, and keep trucking along toward our destination since we know exactly where we are headed anyway.”
All the sugar induced meltdowns
Possible Lie: The sugar is unavoidable therefore the meltdowns are unavoidable.
Truth: I can’t always predict the meltdowns but I can do my part to minimize them.
1. Our girls get a bit more sweets this time of year but they have to choose just like we do. I’ll tell them what we’re doing in a day. If they have an opportunity for a treat, I’ll remind them off the hot chocolate and marshmallows we planned for the evening or the cookies that will be at the family gathering. Starting this young is extra helpful because they don’t see it as a punishment but as a responsibility.
2. Be armed and ready for how to handle meltdowns in public settings. You might even have a script of what you’ll say. Of course, you can’t predict how a toddler will respond but deciding ahead of time how you will respond may bring peace and calm to the situation.
HARDSHIPS DURING CHRISTMAS
Packing up to travel without dad there
Working full time
Long road trips with small children
Right after hunting season which means I already go into it frustrated
*I’ll add “grief” to this one
Possible Lie: My holiday isn’t as easy as everyone else’s.
Truth: Whether it’s true or not, sitting in these thoughts doesn’t serve me.
1. Do not compare your holiday to someone else’s or assume no one understands your circumstances. The devil wants to isolate us and he can do that if he convinces us no one understands what we are going through. *I didn’t realize how hard holidays were for so many people until the Christmas after Tyler’s dad died. It was the first time I realized the holidays could be anything but fun and joyous. We literally were just trying to “get through it.”
2. Accept help if offered and even be willing to ask. Sometimes we want to stay a victim to our situations and people offering help messes that up.
Below is a snippet from Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday chapter on self-care that explains why I’ve totally done this!
“Can I admit another reason I refuse to take care of myself sometimes? I like having credits in my account. This past week my husband and I were both really busy. Usually, we are in a pretty good flow, where we take turns being busy. I knew it was going to be a stressful week for Tyler, so I told him to go ahead and work late, leave early in the morning, and just take care of business. As the week wore on, I desperately needed some time to work myself, but I insisted I could make the sacrifices. Was it because I’m such a selfless person? One look at my passive-aggressive responses to my husband would tell you that was not, in fact, why I did it. So what was going on here? Leverage. I needed an edge—something I could bring out at a moment’s notice if needed. Maybe I’m the only one who likes the company of leverage, but ultimately this kind of manipulation doesn’t bring about the freedom we are looking for. The only way to transform us and our families is to be honest and admit when we need help.”
MATERIALISM OF SEASON
Toys my kids get from others.
All the ads.
Toys that my son won’t play with or doesn’t like. It is hard telling people what not to get.
Teaching my kid to be grateful.
Trying to avoid the Santa thing without being a total grinch
The kids getting toys for Christmas
Possible Lie: Stuff is bad. / Stuff makes my kids nuts or greedy.
Truth: Just like money, it’s the LOVE of stuff, not the stuff itself that is the problem.
1. Spend less time policing what people give and focus on intentionally teaching our kids how to respond to it. Can I be honest and say, I haven’t technically done this yet but I’ve realized over the last few years that I have little control over how much stuff our kids are given even when I try to keep it under control so I’m trying this approach this year.
2. Put some presents up and save for a later day. If your kids are anything like mine, they don’t even remember everything they got and normally obsess over a few favorites so this has been pretty easy to do.
Here’s a excerpt from Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday in the chapter on satisfaction. It’s all about how things that COULD be blessings and reminders of God’s generosity and love can be warped into something twisted. I think it can apply to gifts this holiday season. We may not be able to fully control how many gifts our kids get but we can help train the heart that gets them.
“I treat these things more like gifts from a mighty God than as gods themselves. When they ultimately point me back to God instead of stealing my attention away from him, the very things that used to enslave me have become avenues of worship. What if we got crazy and really celebrated the wonderful things God has given us, like bubble baths, fresh-out-of-the oven cookies, a pedicure, and sweet tea, without thinking these things will be our saving grace? What if we could remember that all this is a sweet gift from the one who offers us the saving grace in the first place? What if we could enjoy the little things God gives us without the post-guilt realization that we’ve warped something good in a way God never intended? We can find freedom when we realize it’s possible to enjoy God’s gifts without making them crutches as we face an exhausting day with the kids. With this newfound freedom, we’ll be able to savor the gifts instead of cramming them down our throats like a forget-me pill, like we’re trying to wash away our sorrows. It’s possible to enjoy our blessings when we don’t depend on them for the satisfaction of our souls.”
NOT BEING A MOM
Not being a mom. It wasn’t in God’s plan for me to have kiddos.
My heart broke when I read this and I was just reminded of how much we need to be sensitive to our single friends or those without kids. We can spend a whole season complaining about things they’d gladly do if it meant their home was full of kids.
In Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday, I have a chapter about being offended and how I’ve been offended by people who got offended by something, usually something I was a part of. Maybe hearing someone say how sad they are to not have kids during the holidays kicks in your instincts to complain or make sure they don’t have unrealistic expectations of what Christmas with kids looks like. Fight the instinct and choose love instead.
Here’s a snippet from the chapter in Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday on being offendable:
“Being offendable is insanely easy to do. It stems from pride and from being unwilling to separate ourselves from what someone else is saying. We insert ourselves into every comment from a friend, every blog post, every grievance aired. We ask ourselves, What does this mean to me? What does this say about me? How does this affect me? We place ourselves at the center of something that likely has nothing to do with us. We assume the worst about others and struggle to find the grace to let go of our grudge, all while assuming the best about ourselves and somehow rationalizing each of our offenses.
I’m not here to justify the harsh things people have done or the way their comments have made you feel. I can’t—there’s a lot of evil and a lot of unfairness in the world. But I can encourage us to respond in a way that promotes grace and unity instead of dissension. If we choose not to be offended, even the greatest attempts by the devil to stir us toward anger and grumpiness will fail.”
I’ve included what chapters all these snippets are found in so you can reference them later in your copy if you like! And if you are looking for a fresh start in motherhood for the new year, I wrote a 31-day devotional on this same topic but totally new content called Fresh Start for Moms. I created this to help make a habit of all the concepts we talk about in Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday but it’s not necessary to read that book first if you want to dive into Fresh Start for Moms! There are morning and night questions to help retrain our minds in how we see motherhood so that at the end of the 31 days, you find yourself more naturally thinking differently about the biggest frustrations in motherhood!
Mommas, I’m wishing you a season that leaves you grateful for a Christmas holiday with the fam instead of longing for an isolated a beach thousands of miles away. 😉