Holiday Disappointment: When Mom's Expectations Don't Meet Reality

Dec 13, 2021

 We are so excited to bring you this week’s blog post, and even more excited for you to listen to our holiday podcast episode! Why are we so excited? Because both of us find Christmastime to be very exciting . . . however, today’s topic is the fact that the holidays can be extremely disappointing to moms--especially moms like us who are super into Christmas. On this episode, we get real about some of our “best of the worst” moments with our kids, less-than-festive Christmas mornings, and even an Epic Elf fail. But we also want to give you some actual takeaways so that this season can be more joyful and less disappointing for you. Seriously. 

Why are the holidays often so disappointing for moms? 

There are two versions of the holidays-- the ones we imagine and the ones we actually get. Sometimes we hang on to idealized versions of holidays from our childhood. Maybe we had the “perfect” holiday childhood memories, or maybe there is a vision we are desperately trying to create for our kids. Either way, the Hallmark movie version usually doesn’t happen--instead we get family squabbles, sibling arguments, greed, gluttony, and all the worst special occasions have to offer. 

Another reason the holidays can be disappointing now is that we are the ones in charge of the festivities. Once again, many moms find themselves in the business of giving, but this time we are giving magic in addition to all the other stuff. It was so much easier and more fun to be on the receiving end of holiday magic, wasn’t it? Being in “control” of “magic” is a bit of an oxymoron, and is often a recipe for disaster. 

High expectations backfire: why it helps to stop being surprised when things go badly.

We have to give a hat-tip to Glennon, Abby, and Amanda at the We Can Do Hard Things podcast for giving us the advice to “be unsurprised” this season. For moms who are frustrated by hectic, chaotic, and less than harmonious holidays, that means to stop being surprised when our kids mess up our plans. 

It’s so easy to declare a party, dinner, or celebration “ruined” when our kids behave poorly or act ungrateful. Instead of being surprised that things fell apart again, view a meltdown or failure as an expected setback and just hit the reset. Sometimes a ten-minute (or two hour) regroup is all the family needs to get back on track and back in the spirit. 

We put a lot of pressure on our kids to enjoy every second of festive fun. They can sense this, and it frequently blows up in our faces. Kids aren’t equipped, and shouldn’t be!, to meet our vision of constant magical merriment. Lowering our expectations, being unsurprised by chaos or crapstorms, and allowing ourselves to pivot to a reset instead of trashing the whole affair can help us modulate our holiday stress. 

Coping: let go of the guilt and control, put yourself first, and simplify. 

Guilt is always our go-to saboteur for mother-plussers, and it’s even more prevalent this time of year. Repeat after us: “You are doing the best you can, and there is nothing to feel guilty about!”

We cannot control the holidays any more than we can control any other holiday, vacation, birthday party, average weekday morning, etc. So let it go. More on that in a minute.

Simplify. We think that more is going to be better--more outings, more decorations, more treats, more presents-- but often more just means more work, more expectations, more mess, more gluttony. This reality pains us-- ok, mostly Stephanie-- greatly, but even this classic “holiday over-doer” agrees that maybe trying this less-than-natural practice could come in handy. 

So often, when it really comes down to it, less is more and we enjoy ourselves more when there's less pressure for Christmas be a big extravagant thing. 

And perhaps the biggest AHA revelation of this episode:

We can put ourselves first, and we can enjoy our traditions and holiday moments just because we want to.

We can’t control whether our kids love our holiday tunes or loathe decorating the tree, but we absolutely can keep doing those things just because they make us happy. Period. 

Which leads us to . . . 

Stop trying to make magic and let magic happen. 

Fun fact-- often when we stop trying to hard to make sure everyone around us is having fun, they actually have more fun. Let that sink in. After you’ve given yourself permission to stop worrying about everyone else’s experience and just let yourself be joyful, that happiness is often contagious. Stephanie’s decided that instead of being a “joy recruiter” and trying to force the whole family to join in the fun, she’s going to be a “joy radiator” instead. Sometimes our lack of agenda and ability to be present in the moment rubs off. 

And let’s not forget that the beauty of children is that they have natural magic in them. During this podcast episode, Stacey shares a beautiful story about what happened when she tried to step back this year and let her kids lead the way this Christmas. 

We’ve decided that our mission this season is to stop trying to make magic, and just let the magic happen. Good luck, mother plussers-- we know it's easier said than done, but we believe in you! You can listen to the show right here


Stace & Steph

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