10 Christmas shortcuts
Don't stress over Christmas. Naomi Reilly has ten helpful tips, and they're all about shortcuts
Mince pies, mulled wine, carols, your kids’ faces on Christmas morning – there’s a lot to love about this time of year.
Putting yourself under pressure isn’t one of them.
Trust me, I know. Having spent many a Christmas when my eldest two were tiny stressing over every detail imaginable, when my third baby arrived, I knew something had to give. And after a meltdown over a shrivelled Christmas pudding, thankfully, it did. Finally I was hit by the realisation that none of this stuff mattered. That no one really cared whether every corner of my house was divinely decorated with homemade bunting, and failing to send out 120 cards on time wasn’t the end of the world.
These days, I couldn’t be clearer about the real secrets to enjoying Christmas with my family. And that’s to go with the flow, enjoy the time for what it is and not get het up if things don’t go to plan. In other words, let it go...
1. Let go of tradition
Traditions you enjoy are all very well, but when you find yourself busting a gut to keep to the same old routines at Christmas, it’s time to make a change. And having a baby means that, by rights, you get to make the rules.
Smart tip: For many families, tradition means spending the entire Christmas break doing things on other people’s terms. So, make a compromise. See relatives the week before if you’re keen to have Christmas at home, or agree to a one-year-on, one-year-off approach.
2. Let go of routine
Some flexibility may be required at Christmas, so don’t be afraid to let things go off-schedule. Allowing your baby to miss a bath, watch more TV or fall asleep in a grandparent’s arms won’t do any harm once or twice.
Smart tip: Travelling to family can disrupt babies’ usual sleep patterns. Set off earlier in the day, allowing your tot to nap on the way, or leave in the evening, with your little one already fed and in their PJs. With luck you can quietly transfer them to a cot when you get there.
3. Let go of perfection
Christmas doesn’t have to be flawless. There will always be a few slip-ups, so it pays to go with them. You may think other people do things perfectly, but social media lies! Seen a photo of a friend’s family looking serene, gathered around a beautifully decorated tree? Who’s to say that seconds after the shot was taken, all hell didn’t break loose?
Smart tip: If you like decorating every inch of the house, go for it. If not, don’t worry. Focus on one area and make that look amazing. And if you want a clean house, consider getting someone in to do it – many mums say it’s the best expense they shell out on.
4. Let go of control
There’s no room for being a control freak at Christmas – be a team player instead. After all, sharing the workload means you’re more likely to be able to relax and enjoy everything.
Smart tip: When it comes to Christmas dinner, instead of it all falling to one person, get everyone involved. At mine last year, we had the grandparents on starter duty, my cousin in charge of puddings, and my brother taking care of the cheese course. It worked brilliantly.
5. Let go of FOMO
‘Fear of missing out’ is the biggest trap you can fall into at Christmas. Yes, it’s the season of multiple parties. But do you have to attend everything? In short, no. It may have been do-able to be out at a different party every night pre-kids, but getting a babysitter in at this time of the year can be tricky. Then there’s the coping with hangovers and lack of sleep the next day.
Mum Jane has become much more selective. ‘I used to go to everything I was invited to, but now I’m happier only going to a few. If my husband and I are desperate we’ll tag-team it: I’ll go for one half of the evening and he the next. But, ultimately, I don’t feel the need to go out as much these days.’
Smart tip: Be more selective about your engagements and don’t be afraid to say no. Weigh up the events you’ll have most friends at and make a call on which you’ll enjoy most. The others you can leave.
6. Let go of present overload
Gift-buying at Christmas can be a palaver – and an expense.
Mum-of-two Lucy and her family have been taking a Secret Santa-style approach for years. ‘We pull names out of a hat and you just buy a present for that person,’ she says. ‘It saves so much time, and you usually get something you really want.’
Another option is to get the kids to make the grandparents’ presents. Antonia says, ‘The great thing is that they have to like their present because the kids made it!’
Smart tip: Shopping online at one place is often the way to go. Failing that, do as many families do and cut buying for the adults altogether. You can always offer to take them for dinner at a later date. The best present I received from my brother was ten babysitting vouchers!
7. Let go of card craziness
Who doesn’t dread the writing and sending out of hundreds of Christmas cards? Personally, I always rope in children to help write them as soon as they’re able. But don’t overlook the e-card – there’s a multitude of fabulously designed options available at Paperless Post.
Mum Rachael has her own method of cutting down on the workload. ‘I only send Christmas cards on alternate years,’ she says. 'I’ve found that no one notices, and you can still stay in touch with all your old uni friends.’
Smart tip: Subscribe to a service such as Shutterfly that allows you to put your address book online, then upload the photo you want to use, and they’ll send the cards out on your behalf. Or if you’re feeling creative, log in to Animoto to record a video holiday greeting from the family instead.
8. Let go of guilt
Most of us feel some level of guilt at Christmastime. Worried about not seeing more relatives? Arrange to meet them afterwards. Haven’t bought the kids enough presents? They have your love. Let them eat too many sweets and they’re now running around like hyperactive monkeys? It’s fine. Let them watch TV for three hours straight? It won’t kill them. Don’t have a clean house? More important to have a happy one. Guilt: let it go.
Smart tip: Think of what you’d say to a friend who’s airing their guilty woes, then tell yourself the same thing. It may be a cliché, but the most important thing about Christmas is spending time with the people you love. The rest of it’s really no biggie.
9. Let go of tension
Christmas can test even the most easy-going of families, but it’s the one time you need to let conflicts wash over you. Why? It just isn’t worth spoiling Christmas by trying to change people, or airing old family politics. If you have a burning issue, get things sorted before you meet – or raise it in January.
Smart tip: Being cooped up together in a small space often lays the foundations for conflict. So if you spot trouble brewing, proffer the magic words, ‘Shall we all go for a walk?’ Getting out can work wonders for diffusing tension. It’s also a great opportunity to walk off some of that pud!