The holidays can be a rough time period for everyone. There’s so much to do it’s easy to feel stressed, hurried, and overwhelmed. It’s even harder if you have a chronic illness and you have to deal with the limitations of your body. Often we can barely make it through the typical day so the added physical and mental stress of the holidays doesn’t help.
The holidays are even more difficult if you’re a chronic illness parent because you are responsible for not just the success of your holiday, but for the success of your children’s holiday. Children have a lot of holiday expectations and meeting them is no easy feat. Every year my children ask why we don’t have an Elf on the Shelf and every year I use the excuse that I find an elf that watches me all the time to be super creepy. This is completely true ( I can’t stand creepy dolls, and creepy elves are even worse), but I also have no desire for yet another thing to do in the month of December. I’m stressed enough as it is, and I have no desire to place a stuffed animal in various questionable scenarios.
Here’s a few suggestions for surviving the holidays as a parent with chronic illness:
Plan out your schedule ahead of time
My husband likes to make fun of me, but my entire month of December is carefully planned long before the month begins. I make note of all school holiday parties requiring my attendance, spirit squad parades, choir performances, and gift exchanges and block out those days from any other activity. If I’m required to bring treats to any school function I make up something ahead of time when I’m feeling well, and then I just stick it in the freezer until it’s needed (these mint brownies are my go-to, they freeze wonderfully and they look like they were hard to make). That way I don’t have to deal with unexpected surprises.
The other thing I have meticulously planned out are gifts. I buy gifts for my children all year long, so by the time December comes I only have to worry about small stocking stuffers. Because I have their gifts ready I can start wrapping everything early on in the month and stick the presents under the tree, then there’s one less thing to worry about.
Remember you don’t have to do everything
If you’re anything like me you have some grandiose ideas about what Christmas should look like. Everything should be perfect so you’re kids can have the most magical Christmas ever.
Let go of that idea.
You’re not going to be able to do everything. You may have to let go of the idea of homemade sugar cookies you lovingly frost to perfection for your sweet children. It’s okay, your children will still be fine, and most likely the won’t even feel like they missed out. Find an easier substitution for the things you want to do. Continuing with the cookie example, maybe instead you can help your children with a gingerbread house (from a pre-made kit). Your children will still have the memories, but it requires a lot less work on your part.
Try to develop new traditions that accommodate your illness and still meet your family’s needs. For example, you may not be able to cook a huge holiday feast like you’d wish to, but there’s no shame in delegating the cooking tasks or substituting homemade items for store bought. Our family had Rudy’s turkey for Thanksgiving and it was delicious, nobody cared that it wasn’t a homemade turkey.
Enjoy the small moments
Even if your body is miserable, allow yourself to enjoy the small moments of the holidays. For example, you may not have the energy to help set up the Christmas tree, but you can enjoy watching your children put up the ornaments.
You can also:
- laugh at all the ornaments your children made when they were little that they are now horrified by
- have your children set up the Christmas decorations around the house (depending on their ages and how much you trust them)
- drive around to look at Christmas lights
- read Christmas books to your children
- sing along to cheesy Christmas songs
- help your children with Christmas craft
Overall the key to success during the holidays is trying not to dwell on the things you can’t do, and appreciating the things you can.