St Nick’s to-do list looks like child’s play compared to that of the average mother at Christmas. Georgina Fuller has some words of wisdom when it comes to coping with excited kids and staying on top of all your jobs at work and home.
The children are beside themselves with excitement and you, if you’re anything like me, have been using Father Christmas to bribe, threaten and cajole them into everything from tidying their room to brushing their teeth since October.
But while the only thing they have to think about is the presents they’re going to get, you might feel as if your brain is going to explode with Christmas shopping, parties, meal planning, Secret Santa, work and writing what feels like 1,000 Christmas cards. And that’s not to mention the school fair, Christmas tombola, nativity plays and whether to invite the aunt you’ve never really liked over for drinks on Christmas Eve.
So how can you try and avoid the inevitable stress that the festive season always seems to bring for us mums? Ruth Kudzi, business coach, says thinking ahead and getting organised is essential. ‘Make a list of everything that you need to do for home, business and kids. Then allocate times to do it. For example you might want to order the Christmas food in advance and plan the menus. Do book in extra childcare if you need it and make the necessary travel arrangements in advance.’
Crucially, she advises, delegate whatever you can. ‘Share your schedule and what you are doing with your partner and be open about any support you need,’ says Kudzi. If you don’t have a partner, think about who you can ask for help but make sure they have plenty of warning. ‘Friends and family are often happy to help if they have warning and know what they need to do.’
Dr Caroline Udall, founder of Leadership of Mums coaching consultancy recommends carrying around an old-school Filofax. ‘As the dates start to flood in, get everything in the diary as soon as you can so that you don’t double book, or overlook anything,’ she recommends.
If you have to work, see what local Christmas holiday clubs are available or look at other childcare options. ‘Christmas holiday clubs are a last resort for me as my children have never really liked this sort of childcare,’ says Udall. ‘But sometimes needs must. I also rely on the Bubble babysitting app which helps to connect local babysitters with local parents – a life-saver if something comes up unexpectedly.’
If you run your own business, there are a few simple things to can do to try and help overcome feeling stretched and stressed. ‘Automate as much as possible – schedule social media posts and emails to go out over the Christmas period,’ Kudzi says. ‘If you have a team, delegate jobs that need to be done, such as checking Facebook ads, to them but make sure they also have some time off too.’
You should also manage your clients/customers expectations by letting them know when you will and won’t be available. If you’re hoping to be off until New Year, make sure you put your out of office on. ‘If you really have to work, schedule some time in when you can focus on it, such as early morning, or ask your partner or family to take the children out for a few hours,’ Kudzi advises.
If you have people coming to stay for Christmas, don’t leave everything to the last minute, says Vicky Silverthorn, professional organiser, storage expert for John Lewis and author of Start With Your Sock Drawer. ‘Don’t leave decluttering the spare room until the last minute. Bit by bit, evening by evening, chip away at what needs to be done to turn your dumping ground/store room into a little haven for your friends or relatives,’ she says.
If the prospect of all that Christmas wrapping paper being strewn around the house is already stressing you out, try and focus more on buying ‘experiences’ rather than presents. Christmas is changing and so is our view on clutter. Make this year the first you avoid buying unnecessarily and opt for the gift of experience over stuff,’ says Silverthorn. Afternoon tea, a massage, National Trust Membership or A Red-Letter day experience are all fabulous alternatives to the ubiquitous scented candles and socks. If you must buy objects, do wrap them in recyclable and cheaper brown paper, rather than non-recyclable wrapping.
Silverthorn also recommends getting the children involved in having a clear-out. ‘Whether it’s extra room in your cupboards or your kids toy boxes, start surveying what space you do and don’t have,’ says Silverthorn.
If the prospect of cooking for 10 fills you with fear, try and keep it simple and plan ahead. “’Do some cooking the days before, freeze it and save yourself extra work on the day,’ says Silverthorn. ‘Start using up the food in the freezer and if you’re having supplies delivered make sure you get your slot booked early. The demand for online deliveries are huge at this time of year so you need to plan ahead.’
Or, says Udall, consider the Christmas Dinner in a box option. ‘It doesn’t get easier than a Christmas dinner box. It isn’t always the cheapest option as they tend to use luxury, organic providers, but with a price hike you do get a less stressful day,’ she notes. ‘Try Riverford, Marks & Spencer or Cook, where you can get everything from the turkey to Christmas pudding with their ‘build your own Christmas lunch.’’
More than anything, do try and nurture yourself a bit if you can. ‘Planning some time for you before and after the holidays really helps,’ says Kudzi. ‘We are booking our kids into the creche for a couple of mornings before and after Christmas so we have some time in the spa and time to relax. I can’t wait.’
Take 5: Five ways to festive de-stress:
- Plan aheadFrom shopping online or booking a Christmas Dinner in a Box to making travel arrangements, do as much as you can in advance to avoid the inevitable last-minute stress.
- Keep Christmas clutter to a minimumBuy experiences (spa days, afternoon tea or National Trust membership) rather than presents.
- To businessAutomate emails, schedule social media posts, let your clients know when you will and won’t be available and put your out of office on.
- Working holidayLook at local childcare options, babysitting apps and consider teaming up with other working parents to share childcare.
- Delegate, delegate, delegateAsk people to bring something for Christmas dinner (wine or pudding,) get your partner, friends of family involved and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
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