We are two-and-a-half months away from the end of the year—if that number doesn’t scare you, think about this: we have fewer than 75 days left of 2016. The progression toward the holiday season and the end-of-year countdown seems to get earlier each year; stores are marketing the holidays as early as October. It would be easy to ignore these factors, yet there are social pressures to already start thinking about dates—do you want to go away for the end of the year, or spend the holidays with family? Does your family want you to host? Are there work-related expectations?
Life is already moving at the speed of “too fast” for most of us: There are work deadlines, but there is also pressure to save for gifts or holiday parties, and plenty of hidden expenditures during this time of year.
Working moms especially face so many pressures. If kids are in sports, there are games and maybe playoffs on the schedule; if your student is in high school, this is the season of college applications and SATs, which means it’s the season of comforting your stressed teen as they worry that their entire future hinges on a few hours of test-taking. Then kids have to get presents for other kids, or teachers, or coaches, and all this must be added into the already-swelling budget. It’s enough to make a busy mom want to throw up her hands and hide until January.
This isn’t an option, of course. What is an option is saying no to holiday overbooking.
This isn’t always easy. There’s an undue amount of pressure on women during the holidays, more so than falls onto men. Half of women in the US report holiday stress, compared with a third of men. Why is this? There are still expectations that women fulfill certain duties that aren’t expected of men, as well as pressures and guilt put on women at higher rates than on men, socially forcing women to overbook. If men say no to family activities or work-related functions, people are far more likely to be accepting of the “no” response, without critique or guilt. Women don’t get off so lucky; they are far more likely to be pressured into family events than their husbands are. Women are also expected to do more of the work in preparing for these events. At work, women are often judged by how willing they are to be a “team player,” which includes participating in (and sometimes working) many holiday events. But saying yes to activities when you want to say no can actually lead to burnout.
Holiday stress is a very real problem: long term effects of holiday stress include high blood pressure and potential heart disease, anxiety and depression, obesity, menstrual problems, and skin problems.
So how can working moms empower themselves to say no to holiday overbooking? Start by taking a look at your holiday list and deciding which are obligations that bring you joy.
How you prioritize depends on your family structure. Do you have small children or infants? Don’t overbook your holiday with family events on the same day or weekend: Lugging your family, your kids, and all their stuff between multiple places on the same day will likely be too much for them and for you. This includes saying no to events that require unusual travel, especially requested by distant relatives. Young children can’t be expected to “perform” on holidays. Also, don’t feel obligated to participate in extravagant gift exchanges. With big families, suggest a family name drawing, so you only have to get one gift per person, or reserve gifts for the kids. And don’t feel guilty about setting your boundaries in advance. (If you ever had a license to pass on hosting duties, having young children provides not merely an excuse, but a valid reason.) Say yes to your own wellbeing.
Say yes to things that make you happy. If you see your list of obligations becoming overbooked, think about why you feel obligated. For one thing, it’s hard to feel joyful when you’re forced to do something; a gift isn’t actually a gift if it is required. Sometimes, “faux obligations” can sneak into your itinerary, overwhelming you. But are these really duties required of you? Conversely, if hosting the family dinner and modeling your holiday after Martha Stewart makes you happy and relieves your stress, than absolutely do it. Feel free to ask for help from your capable and willing family members, but remember not to make others feel guilty for not participating at a high standard. Those other family members may feel compelled to overbook their holidays as well. Chances are, though, if you speak up, other people may be relieved and back you up.
With work-related obligations, things can be trickier. There are tactful ways to say no, and feel free to include your workload as a means to decline certain requests. If you have a boss who asks you to plan a holiday party or gift exchange, but it’s not on your normal slate of work-related activities, then tell your boss you would be happy to do so, and he or she should tell you how to prioritize that request with the rest of your duties. That way, the boss can see how busy you are while also taking pressure off you to manage your time.
With all of these examples, practice not letting other people make you feel guilty for saying no to holiday overbooking. Hopefully, this empowerment will spill over to the rest of the year, and you can live life more on your terms.
At Moms Making Six Figures, we help working moms prioritize what’s most important to them, with the purpose of building a community of empowered women. If you’re ready to join the community or would like more information, give us a call at (858) 837-1505, or visit our website at momsmakingsixfigures.com.