3+ME: The most stressful time of the year

The stepmom was nestled overtired in her bed, while visions of holiday stress danced in her head.

— Me, circa now

We had the weekend all planned out.

Go to the Nerf night at Mastermind Adventures …

Donate books to kids in need, get a tree …

Meet a friend for a movie, decorate for Christmas …

Go to church, shop for gifts, volunteer at the art sale …

We had it planned, my husband and I. We were gonna pack All The Things into this weekend with the kids. Because it’s the holidays, and things need doing!

That’s what you do during the holidays. You do stuff. All of the stuff.

Trying to juggle All The Things during the holidays can be a bit stressful — and sometimes something gets dropped.

You also make sure the kids are fed and hair is brushed (which is actually quite the feat with my stepdaughter’s curls) —

That the tree is tied to the wall (from TWO anchor points) in case the cats get too curious —

That “Three Plus Me” articles are written and laundry is folded and text messages are replied to.

You must do All The things, after all, because otherwise you’ll worry about it not getting done.

Forget sugarplums — there are already enough other concerns dancing around in your head.

You worry about your friends who are having a tough time this year.

You worry about your husband and how he and his family are handling the first holidays without his dad.

You worry about the cats and if you HAVE to change the litter box today or maybe it can wait til tomorrow.

You worry about your art and applying to art shows and posting to Instagram, because that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re starting a side hustle, right? (Maybe that’s just me?)

You worry about getting the right gifts for the kids, then you worry that you’re getting them too many gifts because then they’ll be spoiled, then you worry that you even worried about that because it makes you a mean stepmom for not wanting to give the kids presents.

You worry about your family’s health and your own health and making time for the gym.

(Then you get overwhelmed by it all and end up binge-eating all of the things you aren’t supposed to eat, and you feel even worse.)

Welcome to the holidays.

One morning the kids wake you up too early and you’re exhausted, so you’re stressed.

Then the next morning, expecting the kids to wake you up, you don’t set an alarm. Then they don’t wake you up, so you oversleep, and now you’re stressed again.

You stress about making everyone else happy.

You stress about making yourself happy, too.

You even stress about the time you “wasted” trying to relax and de-stress, because really, couldn’t you have been more productive during that time?

Yep, that’s me. Not just that one weekend, but most days.

On that particular weekend, though, we did have All The Things planned.

And surprise surprise, it was a little rough. At the time, I wasn’t even sure why it was rough. We had a plan, and a plan means organization, which means less stress because, well, you’re organized, duh.

But somehow, it didn’t quite live up to those expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, overall the weekend was decent. But internally, between my husband and I, we just felt … overwhelmed.


Pressured by time and by all these things we’d told ourselves and the kids that we’d do.

We snapped at each other. We snapped at the kids. We overreacted for small infractions, and sometimes for no infraction at all (like when my husband tried to help make lunches, but he made the “wrong” sandwich for his daughter, and I lost it. How dare he try to help me out, the awful man!)

We apologized, too, and we tried to do better.

As the weekend and the rest of the month pressed on, we reminded ourselves of a few things:

Perfection is impossible.
Late is probably better than never (even with holiday cards, when you realize Hanukkah was earlier than you expected this year).
It’s the thought that counts, so appreciate the effort (of others, and also of yourself).
And when it’s all over, just remember to love each other, OK?

If we can keep reminding ourselves of things like that, we might actually make it through this season with our sanity — and maybe even some visions of sugarplums, to boot.

Originally published in The Herald News on Dec. 16, 2018.

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