Many people have been asking me how they can keep their sanity and enjoy
the holidays. It can be a CRAZY time of year, when many of us feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Which can lead to feeling sick or resentful. Which can lead to a crappy Christmas. And I don't think any of us want that!
So I'm going to start with the absolute most important tip: saying "no
There are so many fun, enjoyable things to do over the holidays, but you will completely lose your mind if you say yes to them all! You'll need to pick and choose what's most important to you. And for the rest? Just say "no"!
I've gathered together 25 different ways to say no - keep these in your back pocket, and when someone asks you to do something, and it's not a "hell yes!", pull one of these out:
- "No thank you."
- "Maybe another time."
- "Rain cheque?"
- "I'd love to help but unfortunately I'm already overextended."
- "I'm sorry, but I already have another commitment."
- "Not this time"
- "Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I'm afraid I can`t make it work."
- "No thank you, but it sounds lovely!"
- "The kids are going to need some down-time between everything else going on."
- "I wish I had a clone!"
- "That sounds like so much fun - I wish I could be there!"
- "Unfortunately I've already promised to bake cookies for three other events. I think I'm going to need a break - and so will my oven!"
- "I wish I could, but I just can't take anything more on."
- "My calendar is already bursting at the seams! I would love to be there, but I can't."
- "Unfortunately not."
- "I'm not sure I'm the best person to do that. Have you talked to ___?"
- "I'm not able to set aside the time needed to do a great job on that."
- "I'm honoured to be asked, but I'm afraid I can't".
- "It's not going to work right now, but can we talk again in a month?"
- "You want me to do what?"
- "I wish there was more than one of me - then I would totally be there!"
- "I'm trying to set a good example for my kids about the importance of self-care. I'm afraid I'll need to say no."
- "I'll check my calendar, but I have a feeling there's something else on that day."
- "Darn, I wish I could!"
photo by by chefranden (flickr creative commons)
My hypothesis is that the answers are different depending on whom you ask. So I'm curious...
- Length in years?
- Accomplishments? (If so - what kind?)
- Impact? (If so, on what? Or on whom?)
- No regrets?
- Financial success?
- Fun? Laughter?
- "Goodness" (i.e. not getting in trouble)?
- Number of children raised? Cats adopted?
How will you measure the success of YOUR life?
It doesn't need to be your "final answer". I would love to just hear your thoughts. What are you leaning towards including in the overall assessment, when you look back on your life from your retirement party or your deathbed?
Please share in the comments below...
- Hugs and cuddles when I go into each of their rooms in the morning;
- The excited dancing and jumping up and down when we mention anything from "playground" to "plums" to "Grandma's here!"
- Elizabeth's knowledge of animal sounds. My favourite is the whole-body shake she does as she "neighs" like a horse;
- Oscar offering to give me a back massage when I tell him I'm tired or have a sore back. It lasts about 10 seconds and he's still working to get the pressure right, but I'm sure he'll eventually get the knack...
- Seeing their ecstatic faces in the window, and them jumping up and down on the couch, when I come home from work;
- Elizabeth's pleasure in washing her hands - she loves to just stand there and let the water run over and through her fingers;
- Oscar taking his sister's hand in the playground and saying, "I'm going to take care of you, Elizabeth," as he leads her toward the slide;
- Their immense joy when we arrive at the pool a few minutes early and they have time to play in the waterfall splash area before their lessons;
- Oscar giving kisses, one by one, to each family member (he even kisses himself on the arm);
- The way they thoroughly enjoy their meals. Sometimes, Oscar will even say, "You made a delicious dinner, Dad!";
- Oscar saying, "I love you, Mom" for seemingly no reason at all, and Elizabeth following suit by saying "lovoo" (never to be left out).
I love Spring. It's a time when flowers start emerging, cherry trees blossom, and we do our spring cleaning. I feel so much more hopeful when the weather starts warming up and the days get longer. It's a time to start fresh.
We set resolutions for the New Year, or start new habits after Labour Day, once the kids (or even we) are back in school. I like those times of year too, but my favourite time to set new intentions for my life is Spring. And it seems appropriate to choose my birthday to do so. Actually, I tend to choose the day after
my birthday, so I guess my birthday is kind of like New Years Eve. That way I get to eat my cake, and then give up sugar the next day.
So here are my intentions for this year (starting tomorrow):
- Get back on the "no sugar" track. My birthday and Easter combined to create a perfect storm that I simply couldn't resist, but I've noticed that I'm feeling much more sluggish and all those familiar cravings have returned. So it's back to reaching for fruit instead of chocolate when I'm craving sugar. (That being said, I do have a delicious Laura Secord easter egg in my fridge, which I will allow myself to have small slices of once day - probably after the kids are in bed - until it's gone.)
- Resurrect my gratitude journal and Thankful Thursdays. Gratitude, more than anything, helps me stay grounded and positively affects my happiness. It also affects my husband's happiness, because he likes to sneak peeks at it, and he often finds I've written about him. Maybe I should leave it out for my mom and all the other important people in my life, too, so they can see how often they're mentioned. :)
- Spend more time outside. With the days getting longer and warmer, it's natural to want to be outside more, but I still want to be intentional about it. For me, this means walking (for fun, commuting and errands), playground trips, gardening, hiking, maybe even another day or two skiing before the season ends.
- More connecting with friends and extended family. I was overjoyed to have ten of my closest friends celebrate my birthday with me last night, and we had so much fun! This morning, my extended family came over for brunch and an Easter Egg hunt (my husband's a pro at creating challenging clues that have us running all over the house). But I don't think we necessarily need a special occasion to get together, and I want to make more room in my life to spend with friends and extended family.
- With wanting to do more of all these things, I need to find some things to do less of: I want to spend less time on facebook and email. I'm going to unsubscribe to all those email lists that I basically ignore anyway, and limit my time mindlessly surfing the internet to a maximum of 30 minutes a day. I'd also like to do less laundry, but with two kids under three, I don't have much of a choice there. :)
- I also want to spend less time worrying about what other people might think. I can't control how others feel about various things I do, and I want to be free of that. This is something I'm slowly, gradually getting better at. It's difficult, but I'm going to keep practicing. So don't be surprise if you see me letting my kids wear mis-matched clothes or dancing in public. I'm looking for other ideas - any suggestions?
What about you... do you ever set new intentions around this time of year? If so, I'd love to hear what they are. Share them in the comments!
This is the final post in a series of five ways you can reinvigorate your marriage by Valentine's Day. Each post is short and sweet, but together they will
make a difference to your relationship, particularly if, like mine, your priorities have shifted since you had kids, and your marriage hasn't gotten the attention it once did.
If you missed the first four, they were:
- Nix the Tit for Tat;
- Don’t Expect Him to Read Your Mind; and
- Good Old-Fashioned Time
The final resolution is...
According to couples counsellors Drs. John and Julie Gottman
, 15-20% of couples have no sex at all. Even if you’re not part of this statistic, you and your spouse are probably not having nearly as much as you once did. It’s easy to put sex on the back burner when there are so many other priorities in life: work, kids, housework, grocery shopping, catching up on the latest Bachelor episode.
By the time we crawl into bed, most of us are getting way less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night. And we’re simply too exhausted at that point to give our spouse the physical attention they need.
So what’s a busy couple to do? Try scheduling a sex date
. Three hours devoted entirely to sex. Some couples seem to be resistant to scheduling sex. We tend to believe that only spontaneous sex is romantic. Well, let me ask you this: How’s that been working out for you?
Besides sex, there are lots of little ways you can show your spouse physical affection. It’s easy to let these fade away when kids are part of our lives. Breastfeeding, cuddling, kissing booboos, carrying kids on your hip for hours per day can make you feel like the last thing you want to do is kiss or hug your spouse. But once again, the little things make a big difference. Here are a few reasons to incorporate little kisses, hugs, backrubs, bum-grabs, and sexy texts into your day:
- They’re quick, easy ways to say “Thank you”, “You’re hot”, or “I love you” amongst the craziness of daily life;
- If the only reason you touch your partner is to initiate sex, it can make it more of a chore than fun;
- It’s easier to bring it to a boil at night when you’ve been keeping it at a simmer all day.
Recently, a friend of mine realized it had been a while since she'd given her husband any sexual attention, so she sent him a steamy text during a workday. Unfortunately, it had been so long since she'd flirted with him, he was caught off-guard and sent a sarcastic reply. It ended up killing the romance instead of igniting it, and she realized she needed to do a better job of keeping their sex life at a constant simmer.
Enjoy your Valentine's Day
I hope "Five Ways to Invigorate Your Marriage by Valentine's Day" gave you some helpful ideas. I know I'm still working at incorporating some of them into my own relationship, and it's an ongoing effort. I'd love to get your feedback - please share what worked best for you in the comments below, or what you're still struggling with.
This is Part Four in a series of five adjustments you can make to reinvigorate your marriage by Valentine's Day, particularly if, like mine, your priorities have shifted since you had kids. Each post is short and sweet, but together they will
make a difference to your relationship. If you missed the first three, they were:
- Nix the Tit for Tat;
- Don’t Expect Him to Read Your Mind; and
Today's resolution is...
Good Old-Fashioned Time
was about listening.
I hear what you’re saying - “How the heck are we supposed to truly listen to each other when we’ve got kids screaming, the dog barking, and Yo, Gabba, Gabba on in the background?”
You can’t. And that’s why you need to spend time together, alone. No kids. I can’t tell you how important this is.
Parents have all sorts of excuses for why they don’t have regular dates. They’re busy, they’re tired, they can’t find a good sitter, they can’t afford it. What it really comes down to, though, is they just don’t make it a priority.
The most common excuse I hear is lack of trustworthy childcare. If you do a bit of research, you'll find there are great resources for finding sitters, like Lullaby League
or Nannies on Call
(feel free to add other resources in the comments, if you have any to recommend). If you’re worried about cost, get creative! Offer to trade kids with a friend on a regular basis, so every two weeks you each get a date night. If evenings are too difficult, try a daytime date. A couple of hours to go for a walk, have a leisurely brunch, or play tourist in your own town can be just as much fun as dinner out. And your kids get a playdate out of the deal - it’s a win-win!
If you must, you can have an "at-home date". Just get imaginative and try to make it extra special. I was listening to a "Joy the Baker" podcast
about Valentine's Day, and they had the fun suggestion of re-creating a previous date. Think back to some special dates you had before you had kids, then re-create it. Maybe you could get take-out from one of your old favourite restaurants and rent a movie you saw together years ago. Wait until the kids have gone to bed, light a few candles, and enjoy your time together.
I did an informal survey on ways to strengthen a marriage on my facebook page
, and the most common response was regular dates. A couple of great suggestions included:
- “Take a day off work while the kids are with their regular caregivers. You'll have 8 hours by yourself!!” She and her husband did this for their anniversary last year, and have now vowed to do it every year.
- “Do something that facilitates talking, like a dinner out, rather than a movie, so that you aren't just in the same space, but you are connecting.”
- “Make a sex date!!! Once a week for at least 2-3 hrs (after kids are in bed)”
which brings me to the final resolution...
” (stay tuned for tomorrow’s post)* I’m using “him” in this article because I’m married to a man, and that’s what I can most relate to. These suggestions are just as useful if you’re married to a woman.
This is Part Three of a series of five "resolutions" you can take to reinvigorate your marriage by Valentine's Day. Particularly if, like mine, your priorities have shifted since you had kids, and your marriage hasn't gotten the attention it once did. Each post is short and sweet, but they will
make a difference to your relationship. If you missed the first two, they were:
Today's resolution is...
I heard a statistic recently that mothers spend 3 minutes
a day listening to their children; truly being with them without an agenda. And with fathers, it's 39 seconds
. If you’re giving your child this little undivided attention, how much time are you giving your spouse?
Think about how you would feel if your spouse actually stopped (put down his* iPhone, newspaper or remote control) and asked you a sincere question. And then truly listened to your answer.
Heard. Loved. Accepted.
Don’t you want to make your partner feel heard, loved, and accepted?
The secret is to really and truly listen to his answer. Not just nod and think about your to-do list. Not wait for your opportunity to talk. Listen. Look him in the face and watch his lips; look at his facial expressions, how he gets animated or pensive or emotional. Ask clarifying questions. Consider how what he’s telling you helps you get to know him better.
Try to have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around your children.
Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:
- Where do you think we should go for our next vacation?
- I was just thinking about my biggest pet peeve. I think it’s ___. What’s yours?
- Are there any sports or hobbies from your childhood that you miss doing?
- If you were going to start a blog on some random topic, what do you think you would write about?
- If you had to, which of these would you give up: alcohol, sugar, or meat?
- What’s the first thing you think you’ll do when you retire?
You might think some of these are corny but it’s easy to get into the habit of talking only about practical things -- or the kids -- and these ideas can help get you out of that rut.
The great thing about the internet is there are lots of sources for corny ideas. Do you have any to add? Add them in the comments!
Stay tuned for Resolution #4 tomorrow...“Good Old-Fashioned Time”
* I’m using “him” in this article because I’m married to a man, and that’s what I can most relate to. These suggestions are just as useful if you’re married to a woman.
This is Part Two of a series of five "resolutions" we're taking between now and Valentine's Day, to reinvigorate our marriages. Yesterday's post was the first one, "Nix the Tit for Tat
". Will you join us?
Today's resolution is...Don’t Expect Him to Read Your Mind
Sometimes I seem to get mad at my husband for no reason. I’m annoyed with him, and he can tell, so he asks me what’s wrong. And I don’t have a good answer, so I say “nothing” or “I don’t know, I’m just tired I guess”. But when I really think about it, it’s because I was hoping he would read my mind, and he hasn’t. I was really hoping he would get up in the morning with the kids so I could sleep in. I wanted him to compliment my new outfit. I had a rough day and I wish he would just give me a nice, long, reassuring hug. He would have happily done any of these, if he’d known that’s what I wanted. I just didn’t tell him.
I'm starting to realize why I expect him to be able to read my mind; it's because sometimes it seems like he can!
He knows me better than anyone else does, so it's not a surprise when he suggests I need a bath when he observes that I'm tired and stressed out, or makes a dinner dish that just happens to exactly what I was craving. As grateful as I am for these occasions, I've realized that I just keep setting the bar higher and higher. In the meantime, our household seems to just be getting crazier and crazier, so I'm not surprised he isn't as tuned into my needs - he's got two other family members he's trying to tune into. So I should actually be cutting him some slack.
Are you expecting something specific for Valentine’s Day? Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, try letting your spouse in on your hopes. This could be anything from, "Do you remember the last time you bought me flowers? It absolutely made my day" to “I’d love it if you would buy me this necklace”, sending him* the link to the exact one you’d like on the Tiffany website, to “Hey, I arranged for a sitter on Tuesday night. How about you surprise me with a fun date plan?”, to “We’ve gone out for dinner the last few Valentines, how about this year we just stay home, watch a movie, and go to bed early (wink, wink)?”
We have this idea that half the gift is the surprise -- and therefore not having to ask for it. Think of it this way: your gift to your partner is letting him know exactly what you need from him, and letting them fill that need, without guessing, stressing out, or getting it wrong. Everyone loves to feel needed.
If the surprise aspect is still important to you, say just that: "I would love it if you would surprise me with ____ (a dinner reservation, a special gift, a fun and exciting activity) for Valentine's Day".
Share your thoughts in the comments - I can't be the only one who often expects my partner to read my mind... am I?
Stay tuned for Resolution #3 tomorrow...“Listen”* I’m using “him” in this article because I’m married to a man, and that’s what I can most relate to. These suggestions are just as useful if you’re married to a woman.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I was thinking about how this occasion has changed since I became a mom. More importantly, I realized how much my marriage has changed. It used to be one of my biggest priorities, and now it seems to have moved further down the list, after the kids, my job, and sadly, even the laundry. I’d like to change that.
So rather than focus on just one special day, I’ve decided to introduce one resolution a day between now and February 14th. Together, these will help reinvigorate my marriage by Valentine’s Day.
Image from pinterest.com
Will you join me? Here’s my first resolution... Nix the Tit for Tat
Do something thoughtful without expecting anything in return.
Sometimes, I offer to give my husband a backrub, in the hopes that I’ll get one in return. Or I’ll keep track of how often I fold his laundry and compare it to the number of times he does it for me. I sometimes suggest he needs a night out with the boys, because I want to go out with the girls the following week. Or, my favourite one of all... we work out a plan where he gets to nap on Saturday, and I get one on Sunday.
I know I’m not the only one who does this!
You could argue that it’s just an effort to be “fair”, but it can be so much worse. It’s keeping score. And when you start to keep score in your marriage, nobody wins.
How can you possibly measure all the little things you both do for each other, for your family, for your home? Just the effort of keeping track will suck all your energy from you.
Instead, focus on giving. Give him* a backrub because he’s been shoveling snow or lifting kids and you know he has a sore back. Offer to let him nap because you notice him yawning or reaching for a second cup of coffee.
Do these things because you love him, not because you’re hoping he’ll return the favour.
Stay tuned for Resolution #2 tomorrow...
“Don’t Expect Him to Read Your Mind
”* I’m using “him” in this article because I’m married to a man, and that’s what I can most relate to. These suggestions are just as useful if you’re married to a woman.
I was just talking to a friend this morning about how we, as moms, often try to give an outward appearance of being perfect. Different women have different ideas of what “perfect” is: designer labels and manicured nails for playdates; arts and crafts for every holiday; immaculate houses; homemade, organic baby food and cloth diapers; daily runs with the jogging stroller. Each mom has an image of what “perfect” is, and we're trying our darndest to show the world that our lives are perfect, while in actuality we're sleep-deprived, have a hard time fitting in a shower, and our houses look like tornadoes hit them.
Why do we try so hard to appear perfect?
Does it make us feel good? No! It's a heck of a lot of work. And it just makes us feel bad because it's not a realistic goal.
Does it make people like us more? Absolutely not. It makes people feel envious, disconnected, or even angry. It makes them feel worse about their own lives, not better. Why would they want to spend more time with someone who's "perfect"?
Is it even possible? Of course not! Who do you know who has a "perfect life"? We often think that celebrities do. But a glance at a tabloid magazine, or watching someone being interviewed by Barbara Walters, tells us otherwise.
What about someone you know personally? Think about your friends, your family, your acquaintances. I bet some of them have pretty great lives, especially if they have great attitudes - their lives can seem pretty fabulous. But "perfect"? Nope. And if you do think they have perfect lives, you just don't know them that well.
But I promised you a "perfect life -- in 3 simple steps".
Well, the title of my blog post is kind of misleading because I'm not going to actually help you get a perfect life.
But I have some suggestions that will help you get to the life that's perfect for you: Step 1: Give up the quest for perfection
It's adding more stress to your life than it is helping you.
I know... that “perfect” image we have for ourselves is so beguiling.
What does yours look like? Mine has endless patience for her kids, a spotless house, an exciting, successful career, and is surrounded by fun, supportive friends who laugh at all her jokes.
She charms me with her smooth complexion, 15% body fat, and bright white smile. What about yours?
Don’t fall for her! She’s very high maintenance, and in the end she’ll leave your heart broken and empty.
In Dr. Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection
, she talks about the addictive nature of perfectionism:
- Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.
- Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception -- we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable -- there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend on trying.
- Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it's because we weren't perfect enough. So rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.
- Feeling shamed, judged, and blamed (and the fear of these feelings) are realities of the human experience. Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we'll experience these painful emotions and often leads to self-blame: It's my fault. I'm feeling this way because "I'm not good enough."
Wow. I don’t know about you, but this really hit home for me. Especially the third bullet point. So... let me get this straight: the more I try to be perfect, the worse it feels when I realize I’m not perfect. Huh. And this doesn't make me give up trying to be perfect. No, it just makes me try harder to be perfect. It’s a never-ending, dangerous spiral!
Step 2: Shift your attitude.
- Who am I trying to be? What’s my idea of “perfect”?
- Is this ideal realistic?
- Is it possible to be all these things at once?
If you actually write them down and look at them objectively, you will realize that the expectations you have for yourself are unrealistic. No-one can have everything, do everything, or be
everything. And yet we try so hard to do exactly that!
Is this the example you want to be setting for your kids? I know I don’t want my kids to think they have to be perfect in order to be loved. Their beautiful, gap-toothed smiles, their mispronounced words, their preschool art... I love it all. And I’ll always love them, not just despite
their imperfections, but because of them.
Another way to shift your attitude is to let go of comparisons. So what if your neighbour’s car is nicer than yours? Or your friend’s child started walking before your child did? Does that really mean they’re happier? Maybe your neighbour’s having trouble making his car payments, or your friend is worried because her child hasn’t started talking yet. Or maybe they really are happier. But I doubt it’s because of the car they drive or their child’s accomplishments. My guess is they’re happier because they spend more time feeling grateful than they do comparing.
Step 3: Allow yourself to be vulnerable
I wrote about vulnerability about a month ago
. There are so many wonderful reasons to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Without it, we can’t be authentic, we can’t truly belong, and we can’t feel worthy and loved.
In our culture, we associate vulnerability with weakness. But vulnerability is not weakness. In fact, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable requires a great deal of strength. And it builds strength. And like building strong biceps, it requires a lot of repetition to strengthen it.
Start by allowing yourself to be vulnerable with the people you trust the most. Choose people who will laugh with you about your crazy household or cry with you about the moment you lost your temper with your child. Share your stories with them and go to them when you need support.
Instead of trying so hard to be perfect (which only alienates people), let other moms see the cracks in your armour. Support them when they share their imperfections with you. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with someone who is likely going through similar struggles. You'll find that your vulnerability will actually start attracting
people to you, and you'll be able to build a strong support network.
Once you’ve done that a few times, you’ll find it easier and easier to be vulnerable. But like weightlifting, it takes constant practice to stay in shape, so continue to practice your vulnerability. Practice, practice, practice. And in this case, practice doesn’t
make perfect. :)