When I was growing up, my favorite movies to watch during the winter months were the ones that depicted large families coming together for the holidays to overcome conflicts, heal old wounds, and enjoy a picture perfect Christmas morning filled with joyful laughter and hugs while snow fell outside the window of their gorgeous home.
I’ve been drawn to these types of storylines for as long as I can remember. And chances are, you’ve been as well. There’s a reason why this narrative is a popular one.
For any number of reasons, family dynamics are often super challenging this time of year.
And because we live in a culture that promotes a certain picture of what holidays with family are supposed to look like (just take a look at commercials, magazine spreads and yes…even holiday movies), we feel such pressure to paint a veneer over the very real emotions and discomfort that can come up for us when we are around family this time of year.
We plaster on the fake smiles, obsess over minor details like holiday decorations or dinner menus, drink wayyyy too much wine at dinner and assume unhealthy familial roles (like parenting our parents, oy!).
Instead of striving for real, authentic and meaningful connection during this sacred time of year, we dance around it for the sake of looking like the holidays scenes being painted all around us.
And listen, I’m not faulting you for doing any of those things in order to get through a tense holiday situation. It’s hard. I want to acknowledge that and put it right into the open.
But, because it’s hard and will likely continue to be, I want to propose that you handle this year in a different way.
Be your own mother this holiday season.
What I mean by that is take a nurturing and loving look at what you need to make the holiday season actually feel joyful and cozy and calm. To be totally real with your needs and in charge of getting them met and daring to shift the habits you take on with your family when you get together for the holidays.
This could look like…
- Taking breaks throughout your visit to be alone to walk, meditate, breathe, send voice texts to your besties, etc.
- Proposing doing gifts a different way this year with your family that doesn’t create a lot of expectation or obligation. Assign secret santas, agree to donate to an organization like Heifer International, or commit to experience gifts instead of giving more stuff.
- Encouraging each other to make gifts for the holidays, infusing all your love and good intentions into beautiful gifts you’ve made with your own hands and enjoyed every minute of creating and wrapping for them.
- Complement mandatory family time by gathering your community of friends and neighbors. Have a winter solstice dinner party, a sister circle with the girls, or a gift making and cookie baking party to warm your heart and turn up the hygge in your winter season.
- Or perhaps it’s opting completely out of family time this holiday season because you know, in your heart of hearts, that won’t serve anyone and is actually the most loving gift you could all give each other
What does the little girl inside of you need to feel safe and loved and joyful this holiday season?
And for all the mamas out there, I invite you to think about what kind of Santa (or Hanukkah Mama or Solstice Gift Giving Fairy) you want to be.
Do you want to be the one that goes for quantity over quality and spends a bunch of money on plastic crap that will only end up in the back of the closet or the donation bin by April? Do you want to emphasize that buying a lot of meaningless stuff is the way to celebrate this sacred time of year? That we have some sort of perceived obligation to give the plastic stuff that promotes the degradation of our planet just for the sake of doing the holidays “right” as a parent?
My guess is, because you are reading this and we are cut from the same cloth, you don’t want to be that…for your children, for your community, for yourself.
I’m not a mom yet, but I’ve started thinking about this a lot because I see it with a lot of my mom friends just how much pressure they feel and the very serious time and energy it takes to make the perfect (there’s that word again!) holiday memories for your children.
How do you want to set the tone for your future self, for your children, your grandchildren, and the future generations of the planet?
It starts with us. It starts with now.
So tell me in the comments below, how are you planning to be your own mother this holiday season? What activities or practices or shifts in patterns are you making this year to actually enjoy this holiday season?