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Balancing the Holiday Season

How does a normal mother make for the perfect holiday gathering?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. All of my favorite people and food are gathered together without any of the stress—unless you count road rage, cranky children, nosy relatives, dietary issues and an extremely hectic work schedule. Holiday anxiety when added to a lack of sleep, lack of time and energy, economic difficulties and teenage hormones can quickly transform me into a “mother-on-the-edge”.

Thanksgiving and the season of Advent are supposed to put family and our relationships with others at the forefront. Children feel as though the time is passing agonizingly slow, while we adults still struggle to catch our breath from October.

As women, we feel the pressure of domestic competitiveness. Magazine covers abound with information on creating the “perfect holiday centerpiece”. Cooking shows and e-zine articles demonstrate the latest gourmet turkey recipes. We walk into department stores and see elaborate layouts. We see pictures and posts from the domestic divas in our neighborhoods who started planning the “feast” weeks ago. I don’t know about you, but it is enough to make me throw my hands in the air and celebrate at home alone with a frozen meal.

I can’t compete with the Martha Stewarts of the world. When I try, I become a snippy and irritable person. I become someone who doesn’t like her children. I become someone who is so obsessed with the “perfection” of the event that I can’t appreciate its true meaning. 

Made-from-scratch cornbread dressing is the best, but is spending hours in the kitchen more important than coloring a picture with my preschooler? Should I spend time making elaborate place settings, or take my teenager to a movie instead? Should I get up at the crack of dawn to save a few dollars on Black Friday, or sleep in and spend a leisurely coffee-filled morning conversing with my parents? What is the right balance? How do I make the holidays special without sacrificing what is important?

Am I a Mary or a Martha? There is a well-known Biblical story of two women, Mary and Martha. When an important guest, Jesus, came to visit, Martha spent her time working and preparing and making everything “perfect” for the guest of honor. Mary spent her time with the guest. Mary was lauded because she understood that it was not the perfection of the moment that was important, it was the nurturing of a relationship. Christian or not, one can learn much from this story. The people whom we love do not want perfection, they just want our time.

This year I will be a Mary. How does a normal mother make the "perfect" holiday? She throws out the "perfect". My table setting may not make the pages of Southern Living. Parts of my menu may come pre-made from the deli. My family pictures will not be immediately categorized, cropped and journaled into a historic genealogical souvenir. My holiday season may not look like a Norman Rockefeller masterpiece, but it will be just as memorable.

Shirley Purcell December 01, 2011 at 02:23 AM
I fully agree with all you wrote, Kelly. Sometimes we push ourselves to the point that we just can't wait until the holidays are gone and we can relax. After all, Jesus is the center of this special season and He wants us to worship Him and help those less fortunate. Love our families and friends and nothing else is important.

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