The holiday season is upon us once again. Once the discounted Halloween candy clears the shelves and the Christmas displays go up in full force, it’s on. This year the “Black Friday” emails and sales are popping up more as November sales while internet-based retailers are jockeying for the contents of my wallet. This also means it’s time for another holiday event.
I’ve written before about how burning out is a holiday tradition that we need to start avoiding. I like to think that I’m pretty good about setting healthy boundaries myself, but I’ve noticed a few trends that make me realize I might be at higher risk for burnout this year than I anticipated. I doubt I’m alone in this. You see, after two holiday seasons of COVID having an impact on the holidays—whether it be how much you’re traveling, what size events you feel safe attending, or just local events and such still being shut down—the pandemic forced quite a few of us to not do the holiday season in the way we’ve often been used to. This year is a lot different though. More and more places and events are opening up in pre-pandemic ways, and more people are feeling comfortable attending them. The pandemic forced a lot of us to take the holidays easier. You can’t attend fifty trillion parties, recitals, and community events if they’re not open.
This year things are different. I can’t think of a single thing in our area that isn’t going to be open due to the pandemic. With kids, there’s another level of parental guilt thrown in because we didn’t get to do things that make fun family and childhood memories and our kids are not getting younger. Take that, then throw in some extended family who have missed doing all the same special things together, and it gets complicated. I’ve done the parenting guilt math, and the final result of this combination is not balanced in favor of avoiding burnout.
We’re busier this year with some out-of-house activities we did not have pre-COVID. I think we’ve done pretty well about not overloading ourselves too much. Still, we are carrying a higher load than we did before the pandemic. (Admittedly ours was comparatively pretty light pre-pandemic, so we had space to add things.) For the first holiday season in a while, we’re getting to do stuff with more extended family. I’m looking forward to it. I missed people. I also just realized our holiday schedule is starting to fill up in a way that it hasn’t in a few years. I can’t totally ignore a nagging feeling of doubt about whether we’re doing too much this year, doubled over with a heavy load of guilt over the things we didn’t get to do the last two, then compounded by the fact that as my older kid is catching up to me in height—the reality he’s not a little kid is smacking me upside the head. His younger brother is in the same grade he was in the year the pandemic started. The impulse to make every one of these years count is really strong right about now.
I’m guessing I am not the only parent balancing out this conundrum, so if these words are starting to speak out to you, you’re not alone. Think carefully about what actually brings you joy, and don’t be afraid to ask your family to weigh in on it either. It’s okay to dial back some and remember that traditions don’t always have to be big and flashy. Picking and choosing a few things each year may even be a better way to go. Just try to give yourself permission not to feel like you must go overboard to make up for the past few years if things weren’t ideal, and remember, burnout is not a beloved holiday memory for anyone.