Dear Moms: The Holidays Don't Have To Be Perfect

Even if I wreck the pie, drop the turkey, set off the fire alarm, and we all end up at the Shoney's buffet. I am okay, and I am enough. Just like you.
11/21/2015 12:17 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2016
Place setting with pine cone
Place setting with pine cone

The holidays are here. We were able to shop for Christmas ornaments before we even went trick-or-treating this year, and the toy ads have tripled. The pressure is on. There will soon be turkeys to prepare and presents to buy, and smiles to put on our faces as we orchestrate family gatherings.

We will see commercials depicting ideal memories as people sit around a beautiful table with an enormous, perfectly prepared turkey and all the trimmings made from scratch. The person that cooked it will still be smiling. Everyone on tv will be laughing and giving each other warm hugs amongst perfectly behaved children. And it simply isn't reality.

I want to assure you that the holidays don't have to be perfect. I encourage you to do whatever gives your family the best of you. You don't have to keep up with the Joneses or exhaust yourself preparing the perfect holiday spread. (The Joneses actually probably drink a lot under the strain of creating illusions of perfection.)

Some of us may already feel anxiety and dread in the pit of our stomachs surrounding all of the preps we will feel pressured to pull off. And on the flip side, some of us are already playing Christmas songs and can't wait to decorate our cars with reindeer antlers and a big red nose. And you know what? Regardless of where we all are in our lives right now, we are all okay, and we are enough.

We all want to make wonderful memories with our families, but I give you permission to hit the easy button. If you're wondering how you're going to pull off all of the holiday preps while you're buried in children, just do what you can.

Buy that 99-cent pack of rolls if it means being able to enjoy the day. Reheat a pre-sliced ham from the clearance bin, or buy the entire spread somewhere else. It's even okay to eat your holiday meal on (gasp!) paper plates. All that matters is that you give your family the best of you.

I also encourage you to take an hour of quiet time to yourself before the day begins. Before you may or may not set off the smoke alarm goes off with your cooking.

I once got up at 6am to make my husband an apple pie from scratch. I was multitasking of course, and some of the juice from the ham I was baking fell onto the bottom of the stove and started burning. It set off the smoke alarm and woke up everyone in the house. I now see it as a fond memory. The ham was fine and the pie turned out great!

Another year, I just whipped up a quick dessert and we joined another family for a purchased holiday meal, and we barely cooked at all. We enjoyed a nice, long stress-free visit.

It's also okay to take a break altogether if you want to. I have a friend whose family wants to boycott Thanksgiving. Not because they don't like it or because they aren't thankful, but because they know they don't have to go with the status quo and they can do what works for them. They plan for the men to go hunting, and for the women to relax and read and just enjoy simple time together.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, it does not have to be perfect. No one has ever died because there was a small tear in a tablecloth, your kids' clothes didn't match, or because of a lack of green bean casserole. It doesn't matter where your Christmas gifts are from, or how they are wrapped.

And if your heart is tender because your family has changed or you are missing someone, adjust your holiday to fit your needs for the season you're in. I have a friend in a painful divorce situation that plans to serve in a homeless shelter on big family days, because it brings her comfort to be in an environment where she can do some good and be away from painful family gatherings.

Mom sets the tone in the house. If mom is happy, then everyone is happy. And the same goes for stress.

I am going to attempt to cook Thanksgiving for our small family of four again this year. And my husband asked for another apple pie. I'm going to stay secure in the knowledge that we can enjoy the day no matter what.

Even if I wreck the pie, drop the turkey, set off the fire alarm, and we all end up at the Shoney's buffet. I am okay, and I am enough. Just like you.