Finding Joy This Holiday Season, Even When It’s Hard: A Mom’s Perspective

Finding Joy This Holiday Season, Even When It’s Hard: A Mom’s Perspective

The holiday season is often portrayed as a time of twinkling lights, warm gatherings, and boundless joy. And while it can indeed be a magical time, many of us mothers know that it’s not always as perfect as the Hallmark cards suggest. Sometimes, it’s hard. I wrote this post as a reminder to myself to take a step back and focus on what really matters, and finding joy this season. I hope you also find these gentle tips helpful.

Living far away from my immediate family during the holidays tugs at my heart in a way that’s hard to express. Sometimes my husband works over the holidays, so loneliness during the holidays can feel a little bit darker during those times. The grief is particularly loud when we do manage a rushed, overwhelming trip to visit family. I dream of a December where we could savor the holiday spirit over the span of a month, rather than squeezing it into just a few days during those rare and cherished visits. Oh, how I wish for more time together during this special season.

And sometimes, I try to fill that void of missing my family with a busy holiday schedule, filled with entertaining activities to numb the sadness. And if I am not mindful, the pressure to create picture-perfect moments can be overwhelming. Yet, I am learning, amidst the chaos and the challenges, there’s a gentler, more loving perspective that we mothers can embrace. It’s the perspective of finding joy in the holiday season, even when it’s hard.

Christmas tree ornaments crushed on the floor

Embrace Imperfection

As a mother, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to make everything flawless. But the truth is, perfection isn’t what our children cherish most. It’s the authentic moments of love and togetherness that leave lasting impressions. So, let’s embrace the imperfections. Our children won’t remember a perfectly decorated tree, or the fluffy baked cinnamon rolls drizzled with just the right amount of frosting on Christmas morning but they’ll remember the laughter and love that filled our home.

Wrapped present on table

Simplify Our Celebrations

Holiday celebrations can become grand and overwhelming. I am so guilty of taking celebrations to the nth degree.  As moms, it’s essential to simplify and focus on what truly matters. Let’s choose a few cherished traditions that our families love and that bring us joy. Whether it’s baking cookies, singing carols, or watching classic holiday movies, these simple moments can warm our hearts and create lasting memories.

After spending the last six holidays with kids, I’ve started embracing the traditions that can be joyful, yet simple. I put out a December 1st box for the boys. Inside is a set of pajamas (and I reuse the ones from the year before if they still fit), an advent calendar for each kiddo, holiday socks, a Christmas puzzle, a Christmas tonie, and a Christmas lego. I include things that can be used among the family to help lift the Christmas spirit in our home during downtime.

Woman walking through the park

Prioritize Self-Care

Amid the holiday rush, it’s easy for us mothers to put our needs last, staying up late, overscheduling, you know what I am talking about.. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish; it’s essential. We have to take some time for ourselves, whether it’s a bubble bath, a good book, a walk in the neighborhood alone, or a quiet cup of tea. By nurturing ourselves, we’ll be better equipped to nurture our families with love and patience.

I scheduled an appointment for a facial four days before Christmas. I have childcare available that day and I will probably be feeling overwhelmed that day. So, I am forcing myself to get out of the house, put my phone away, and do something that is relaxing for myself. Plus, I love the glow I have following a facial, which will make me feel good on Christmas Day.

And remember, self-care doesn’t have to be spa-related or expensive.. Catching up with a friend, going for a walk, taking a nap, folding laundry are all things that may bring peace to you in a way that doesn’t cost money.

Burnt cookies on baking sheet

Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

The pressure to meet unrealistic expectations, both from society and ourselves, can make the holidays feel hard. It’s okay not to be a baking expert, a decorating guru, or a master gift-wrapper. It’s time we give ourselves permission to let go of these burdensome expectations and embrace the holiday season as it is.

I let the boys help me wrap gifts for family and friends. It helps me let go of the pressure for it to be perfect. Is the wrapping paper going to be cut straight? Nope. Will I wrap the present in perfectly twirled ribbons and bows? Nope. Will wrapping take my twice as long? Yup, probably more. But, my boys will have a blast tearing tape from the dispenser, they can practice their cutting skills, and I get to spend time with them. And that’s worth it for me.

Decorated gingerbread house

Create Special Traditions

As mothers, we have the power to create cherished family traditions. These can be simple and meaningful, like decorating the house together, making handmade salt-dough ornaments, or lighting candles each night. Traditions bring our families closer and remind you of the love that surrounds you.

My favorite, yet simple tradition is to stop over at Trader Joe’s. Let the boys get one of their mini shopping carts. Then head over to the aisle with the gingerbread houses. We take it home. I hot-glue the house together with my glue-gun. Let it sit for an hour. Then let the boys go to town on decorating. I don’t have to worry about the house breaking because the glue has a powerful hold. The boys have fun and it’s also a learning experience for them.

They learn about frosting getting harder as time passes, create patterns with the colored candy, and love to touch all the different sprinkles, candies, and accessories.

Two people handing a present to eachother

Focus on Acts of Kindness

One of the most beautiful ways to find joy during the holidays is by spreading kindness. Let’s encourage our children to participate in acts of giving, whether it’s donating to a local charity, volunteering, or even making handmade cards for neighbors. These acts of kindness create a sense of warmth and love that define the holiday spirit.

Since moving to Southern California, we’ve sponsored a family for the holidays each year. I started doing this for two reasons. I want to give back to a family that isn’t fortunate enough to afford to celebrate for themselves. And I want my kids to see the impact that giving can make on others and ourselves.

People gathered around a fire pit, outdoors

Be Present

In the midst of holiday chaos, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of activities.  As mothers, let’s make an effort to be present. Put down our phones, turn off the distractions, and truly engage with our children. These are the moments that they will remember and treasure.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, it’s easy for the sadness of being away from family take over. And in the past, I’ve needed to really take time alone to process the sadness and grieve. It’s lead to me not being as present for my family that my husband and I are raising. Now that, I write about the grief here, I feel this sense to draw closer to my kiddos in those times of sadness, instead of pull away.

People wrapping gifts together

Find Support

The holiday season can be tough, but we don’t have to go through it alone. Let’s make an effort to connect with other mothers who understand the challenges. Share our experiences, offer support, and find solace in the knowledge that we’re not the only ones navigating the complexities of the holiday season.

This year, I am going to host a “get-it-done” party with other moms. I’ll provide light appetizers and drinks and moms can come over with whatever holiday stuff they need to get done: gift wrapping, holiday card addressing, note writing, or simply just spend time with other moms. It will be a way for us to spend time together while getting stuff done for the holiday

From one mother’s perspective, the holiday season is a beautiful yet challenging time. But amidst the difficulties, there is profound love and joy to be found. By embracing imperfection, simplifying celebrations, prioritizing self-care, and letting go of unrealistic expectations, we can rediscover the magic of the season.

Creating special traditions, focusing on acts of kindness, being present, and finding support are all ways to experience the holiday season with a gentle, loving heart. The most significant gift we can give our families is the gift of our love, our presence, and our joy, even when it’s hard. In the end, these are the moments that matter most, and they will be cherished forever.



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