It is the festive season again. Another year has rolled by and we are now busy decking the halls, trying to find that perfect gift, and worrying if we will be able to manage our holiday budget. When we pull out the old string of lights we remember that half of them do not work, and we are behind in our shopping. The Christmas commercials are in full swing, and each time we see a commercial we either see an idyllic family scene or harried parents trying to juggle it all. As parents, the two faces of Christmas are often reflected back to us as either perfection or overwhelm.
Many of the commercials try to tell parents that we can overcome our stress and have the perfect family Christmas, as long as we buy their product or shop at their store. That image of the family sitting at Christmas dinner, everyone smiling at each other and the ideal turkey perfectly placed on the platter, can quickly become a great disappointment if we make perfection our goal.
Mothers, in particular, often feel that they do not measure up if they cannot achieve this image, and they fear that they may in fact be the harried mother who will not be able to make the magic happen. They can easily become overwhelmed trying to achieve an image that is just a fantasy, and then miss out on the reality in from of them. No one wants to be that mother drowning in the season, disconnected and overwhelmed. But can perfection be reached; can we achieve that perfect picture? No, give up now! Let the perfectionism go, let the fears of inadequacy go, and free yourself in order to make this Christmas a truly exceptional one.
If you want to get MORE out of the holidays you can follow a few simple guidelines that will assist you in staying grounded and present during the season. The MORE philosophy is my professional and personal philosophy to life, and I believe it can assist you in achieving an exceptional holiday season. The acronym M.O.R.E. stands for the essential words: “Movement, Opportunity, Reality and Exception.” This is a methodology of living in the moment. No matter the situation, if we run through the core words it can guide us towards a better outcome. So let’s see how we can apply this to the holiday season:
- Movement. What needs to move? Make up a list of the things that “need” to get done, and separate them from what you want to get done. Is your “must do” list, doable? Are your needs aligned with your core values? Be conscious of the difference between need and want, and try to think about the values you want your children to be adopting. Our actions will impact children more than our words. If you are feeling stuck, you may need to get back to your most important core values. Let go of what is not truly important to you.
- Opportunity. Pay attention to the opportunities right in front of you. Material gifts will not provide true fulfillment, although they are fun in the moment. Gifts are only by-products of the holiday season; the real opportunities lay in the moments of connection. True generosity comes from the heart, not from the purse. It is usually the small moments that have the biggest impact. Try not to get so caught up in finding that perfect gift that you miss a moment of true connection with your child. In the end it is our time that our children want more than the latest trendy gift.
- Reality. Are your expectations realistic? If you set your expectations too high you are setting yourself and your family up for disappointment. Try not to get caught up in competition. Spend within your means and be realistic around money. A balanced approach to gift giving will demonstrate to your children good money management and that relationships are more important than things. We all need to do a reality check. Are your choices matching up to the long term goals for your family?
- Exception. We need to let go of perfection in order to experience something exceptional. Perfection is unattainable — you can never achieve it. The exceptional holiday season will get a little messy as it includes mistakes, stress and moments of overwhelm. There is also connection, laughter and warmth if we relax enough to allow it. This is the true story of a family; it is a full meal deal with all of the emotions. Do not try to create a holiday without the strong emotions, as you will all be missing out on the best part of the holiday.
The holidays are not meant to be picture perfect experiences; they are meant to be exceptional and out of the norm experiences. When the whole family is together for an extended period of time there will be stress, overwhelm and maybe even a tear or two. This is the opportunity to work through issues as they arise, to guide children in problem solving and to forgive each other our human moments. True intimacy comes from working together, and working through the challenges. That is how we really bond, not through the picture perfect holiday.
The real stories are a bit messy, not so elegant, at times frustrating and always interesting. Once you let go of the expectations of having a perfect Christmas you can really begin to build lasting family memories that truly warm the heart. (With apologies to Martha Stewart!)