Simplifying The Holidays: Working Mom Tips

snowman-light.jpgI feel as if I've known Kristin Brandt and Erin Kane of Manic Mommies forever; in reality, I’ve known Kristin since college (well, that kind of feels like forever ago…) and Erin since the Disney mom bloggers mixer. They both are smart, hilarious, and impressive in their juggling of work and home; whenever we meet up there's a lot of laughter and also serious parsing of all things social media and family life. For the twelfth installment of my Simplifying the Holidays guest blog series, I’m thrilled to welcome Kristin; read on to learn about the important lesson she learned from her mom, plus a series of holiday tips that have served Kristin well as a full-time working mom.

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From Kristin:

When I was a kid, we begged and pleaded my mom to decorate our house for Christmas. My brother and I loved all the twinkle lights that adorned our neighbor's homes, and wanted our house to twinkle in a similar fashion. But my mother refused, telling us that the decorations were tacky. Fast-forward 30 years, and today my parents' home (the same one I grew up in) is decked out for the holidays - complete with twinkle lights, animatronic reindeer, a toy soldier, and much to my disbelief, an inflatable Santa Claus. When I asked her why the change of attitude, her answer was simple: "I was a working mom. I didn't have TIME to keep up with the neighbors."

And so, I received my first valuable lesson about how to survive the holiday hoopla while holding down a full-time job and managing the multitude of commitments that have clogged our schedule: don't try to keep up with everyone. Here are some additional lessons (some may call them concessions – tomato, tomAto) I've learned since become a parent:

Set your DVR. You could buy DVDs of all of the holiday classics (Rudolph and the Red Nose Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town) or you can save a few bucks by setting up "Season Passes" for each. That way, you don't have to remember to record them each year -- they will just appear, like magic, on your DVR.

Go faux. I love the smell of a real Christmas tree, but I also love the time saved by my pre-list Christmas tree from Sears. We bought the tree the year our second child was born, mainly because I could not face dragging two children out into the snow to find a tree. Four years later, I continue to happily avoid the tree-seeking activity, and can set up our tree whenever the mood strikes (or I find a stray hour). Did I mention that it also doesn't drop any needles and doesn't need to be watered and disposed of?

Stick to traditions. I always set up our creche in the front foyer, the tree in the "solarium" (a fancy way of describing our back room), and the Santas on the map drawer. We have Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve dinner, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and Paula Dean's Foolproof Standing Prime Rib Roast for dinner.

It's not that I'm not interested in trying something new, it's that traditions such as these keep things easy, and reduce the amount of stress. And, they become something regular and anticipated for the kids.

Take a day off. If you have the time available, consider taking a day off before the holidays are in full swing. Bring the kids to school or day care then use the "free" time to get holiday chores done – gift shopping, holiday card addressing, decorating, whatever!

Forget perfect. While we all want to plan the "perfect" holiday, the truth is "perfect" doesn't exist. Remember, a little goes a long way (for example, you don't have to decorate every surface of your home to make it feel festive). If you can manage your expectations, you are sure to enjoy the season!

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Looking for more holiday tips from the Manic Mommies? Check out these posts from their Real Simple Simply Stated blog:

Tips for managing the card chaos
Holiday food tips from a non-domestic diva
Hosting Tips

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You can follow Kristin on Twitter at @kristinsb, Erin at @emkprgal, and the Manic Mommies at @manicmommies.

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