By Annette Cycon
The Holidays. What comes up for you when you hear those words? Joy and excitement? Dread and avoidance?
Most moms we speak to feel a mix of emotions, but almost everyone says they feel tired just thinking about the December holidays!
On top of the normal responsibilities at home, there are increased expectations coming at us from all over the place. The pressure on moms to be perfect and create the perfect holidays can drain us of all the joy that the season is supposed to provide. It is easy to feel overwhelmed.
BUY! GIVE! SEND! BAKE! DECORATE! EAT! VISIT! ENTERTAIN! OVERSCHEDULE! MELTDOWN! COLLAPSE!
And, for many moms, this is also a time of intense emotional difficulty. The holidays can trigger hurt and pain, rather than light and sugarplums. Feeling depressed or anxious can be extra hard right now. If this is true for you, reach out for extra support and help. Call a local mental health center and find a supportive person to help you through. Find a MotherWoman group to attend.
At MotherWoman groups this month we will be talking about how to manage the holidays--our emotions and the expectations. One of our oft-repeated mantras is "You can't give from an empty well." During this month of ramped-up energy, here are three primary coping strategies.
- Keep self-care on your to-do list. Keep walking with your girlfriend. Keep going to support groups. Eat well. Get plenty of sleep. If you take good care of yourself, there will be fewer meltdowns (both yours and theirs). Seriously. Ask for what you need.
- Lower expectations. There are some years when we simply cannot "do it all." Cross a bunch of things off your holiday expectations list, keeping only the special things that feed your family and yourself. Make your holiday life as simple as possible. Ask for what you need.
- Create new traditions that fit your family. Maybe this is the year that you don't make the annual cross-country road trip to Aunt Sally's, or host the entire clan at your house. Maybe this year you create an intimate celebration that includes the special things you love best. Ask for what you need.
It's always helpful to hear that other mothers are dealing with the same issues as you around the holidays. We get strength and support from each other. We feel empowered to ask for changes from our families and to create a season that is nourishing, rather than draining. We remind each other that when we feel happy, our families benefit.
So think about a MotherWoman group as a gift to yourself. We wish you inner peace and self-love this season.
Annette Cycon is the founder of MotherWoman, a non-profit dedicated to supporting and empowering mothers to create personal and social change. She develops and offers professional trainings on perinatal emotional complications to build community-based perinatal safety nets for moms and families. She has been leading mothers' support groups for over 20 years, and believes that speaking the truth about motherhood is revolutionary! She is the mother of two daughters, ages 23 and 21.