Here’s How To Cope With Holiday Stress As A Working Mom

As I grew up, Christmas was always special to me — a fun-filled time of year. Up until now, I thought it was effortless, that for all those years, my working mom enjoyed putting together magical days and evenings. Turns out, she was always stressed out during Christmas.

“Christmas morning was worth it,” she emphasized, but the season as a whole was stressful.

And I know it’s universal. It’s true for you, too. 

With your kids begging you for their dream gifts (so. many. gifts), your family coming for the holidays and expecting to be entertained (and if they’re staying with you, I’m so sorry), decorating your house to make it look Pinterest-perfect (lady, I’m begging you, please stop obsessing over Pinterest), it brings you a great sense of pride when Christmas comes together, allowing for a relaxing day full of joy.

But…what about you? Where’s the relaxation? Where’s the magic for you?

Were you so busy putting together a wonderful Christmas for everyone else that you forgot to create a space in the holiday for yourself?

Well, Ms. Workin’ Mom, you’re not alone. Like, at all.

Working moms are constantly stressed with a variety of issues, but the holiday brings about a brand new anxiety. Pressure for the perfect Christmas peaks, and the stress seems never-ending — so, how can we manage it and actually enjoy the holidays this year?


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In a survey from the American Psychological Association, it was found that working women are more stressed out during the holidays than our male counterparts. This can lead you Super Moms to secretive, unhealthy habits, like binge eating — anything to soothe the stress you’re experiencing without admitting to the world that you’re stressed.

This can be spurred by the fact that we have been found to spend more hours taking care of housework and children since 1965 (though the gap has closed since then — however, this fact still remains true). Pair this with paid work, which leaves 56% of you working moms saying you found it very or somewhat difficult to balance these priorities.

There’s also the financial stress of Christmas, as gift prices inflate. And, of course, the family. Every family has its complex dynamics, but add the holidays to the mix, filled with expectations and strong emotions, and there’s plenty of room for mental explosions. 

There are so many elements to getting it right — from bringing the kids to see Santa to decorating the tree and making the dinner,” says author and psychotherapist Stella O’Malley. “Women can get very stressed over Christmas … [W]hen you kill yourself with effort you lose all sense of perspective, along with all the fun, joy and happiness,” she explains.

So, why do we do it? Why do we push through the holiday pressure?

… [W]omen say: ‘You don’t understand, I don’t really have a choice. I have to do this,” says author and family therapist B. Janet Hibbs.

Is this your reasoning? Is this why Christmas brings you so much stress — because you feel like it’s your responsibility and you don’t have a choice?

It’s time to reevaluate, then. If the holidays bring you anxiety during the greatest, happiest time of the year, you need to make changes and learn how to deal with Christmas stressors. Don’t know where to start? Try these tips.

State Your Expectations

Does your partner usually come home and do their own thing when you really need their help putting the lights up? Tell them in advance that you need their help this year to make Christmas as magical as it usually is. If they brush it off, stand your ground. Partners should support you through your holiday anxiety (and, obviously, life stressors in general) rather than letting you deal with the stress of Christmas alone. 

The same goes with kids, especially regarding finances. If they’re young, you can tell them Santa has a shortage of presents this year, but he’ll bring them what he can. If they’re older, you can have an honest conversation with them about your limitations and what they can expect.

And finally, if you’re preparing for family dinners and celebrations by yourself, tell your family to pitch in. Explain that you can no longer do it on your own, and that if they want a Christmas worth having, they need to put the effort in, too. Do not let up. If they fall off the wagon, pull them back on it. Your family is your team, and remaining firm will show them that you’re dead serious this year.

Do What You Want To Get Into The Spirit

Okay, I’m not suggesting bar-hopping each night of December in preparation. But if there are Christmas traditions (or non-traditions) that get you in the Christmas spirit and help you de-stress, run with them! Put the lights up at the beginning of November and start listening to Christmas music. Buy a tree the day after Thanksgiving. Put the Yule Log on TV when you’re working from home.

Of course, respect the rest of your family’s boundaries, but don’t deny yourself the parts of the holidays that you enjoy. You know you’re going to be stressed, so the least you can do is make yourself happy in the quiet moments.

Take Care Of Yourself

Don’t neglect yourself because you’re taking care of everyone else. Continue to eat right and exercise. Meditate. Go to your yoga class (if you feel comfortable during COVID, of course). Talk to family and friends. Listen to your favorite artist. Take a bath if you can. Burn candles. Basically, stay healthy physically, but also mentally. Christmas stress will approach eventually, but giving yourself the ability to push through will be beneficial in the long run.

Also, make sure your family is taking care of themselves. Your partner should be in your boat, both for their own sake and for yours. Holiday anxiety also affects kids, and they can often pick up on your stress. Make sure they’re doing the basics: eating balanced meals, doing their homework, getting enough sleep, brushing their teeth. Establish a routine, if you can. Kids thrive with them, and you’ll have a routine every day that you can stick with to keep healthy. Plus, routines can stop surprises in their tracks — goodbye, stress.

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Give Yourself Grace

Rather than stressing out if Christmas doesn’t go as planned, roll with the punches. So Aunt Sandy went on a rant about politics. Politely escort her into a separate room until she can manage a neutral conversation. The kids started a food fight; hand them cleaning supplies and have them deal with their mess. Your partner accidentally called you their ex-wife’s name in front of the entire dinner party; laugh it off as a simple Freudian slip and change the subject.

Allow space for things to go wrong, and go with the flow. Christmas will never be perfect. But rather than letting a variety of stressors ruin your holiday, give yourself grace and move on throughout your day. Your family will be grateful that you did what you could, and Christmas will still be magical — promise.


How do you deal with Christmas stress? Do you experience holiday anxiety? Share your wisdom with us in the comments.

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