The modern mom’s guide to surviving the holidays

In Style by Sara McCarty2 Comments

The modern moms Guide to surviving the holidays Savvy Sassy Moms
Hello, December!

We’ve now officially entered the most wonderful time of year, but moms know it’s the most exhausting, expensive, stressful, germ-infested and gluttonous time of the year, too! With the holidays comes so much joy and excitement, but also so much work. From holiday shopping to cookie baking to classroom parties and everything in between, this time of year is packed full of thousands of things to stress you out, disappoint you, annoy you and drive you insane.

Luckily, we here at Savvy Sassy Moms know your struggle and have come up with this Modern Mom’s Guide to help you survive the holidays without losing your mind or drinking yourself into a coma.

A Modern Mom's Guide to Surviving the Holidays

Getting the perfect holiday card picture

Before your Thanksgiving turkey even has time to digest, your mailbox will be flooded with holiday cards featuring photos of uber-happy, color-coordinated, perfectly-posed families that make you want to scream. Anyone with kids knows how impossible that “Christmas card worthy” perfect family photo really is to get, so it can be disheartening to get card after card of sheer perfection.

How do they do it? If you didn’t manage to get the perfect family shot for your cards this year — or any pictures… let’s be real — just know that you are not alone. With so many great holiday card options out there, you can easily fake it ‘til you make it.

Use a family photo from a summer vacation or a wedding; there’s no requirement that the photo look Christmas-y. Pick a card layout with lots of small photos and use some of those adorable shots of the kids from your iPhone. Choose a card with no photos and send a letter instead. Pick a photo of all your kids screaming and caption it Silent Night. Or have a portrait of your family made by an artist on Etsy — guaranteed to make you look thin and ensure everyone’s smiling!

If the mail still makes you want to scream, just know that behind every perfect photo you get in the mail are 150 crappy photos that didn’t make the cut — ones where the kids are licking each other, the mom feels self-conscious or no one is looking at the camera.

How to Get the Perfect Picture for Christmas CardsBaking with kids — AKA making a huge mess

Moms usually fall into one of two categories: those who love to bake and those who love to eat baked goods, but not necessarily deal with the drama or mess of baking.

Regardless of which group you’re in, the holidays put a lot of pressure on us to come up with creative, beautifully decorated, insanely delicious, yet low-fat, gluten-free, nut-free and fully-organic baked goods. Plus, in the spirit of making holiday memories, you’re also supposed to let your unruly children help you out in the kitchen, inevitably leading to spills, mis-measurements and a light dusting of flour over every surface of your house.

Never fear, moms! If you’re determined to bake with your kids this season, there are lots of ways to let them help — without ruining everything. Buy the premade dough from the refrigerated foods section and just let the kids use the cookie cutters and bake. Or purchase undecorated cookies from your local bakery and let the kids decorate them with a variety of icing and sprinkles. If cookies aren’t your thing, there are plenty of boxed pie mixes, cake batters and bread starters that only require a few key ingredients, which will give your baked goods a homemade feeling, without a homemade mess.

When gifts go bad

Because you’re an awesome mom and amazing human being, you probably put quite a bit of thought and effort into each and every gift you give. Unfortunately, not everyone is as awesome as you, so it’s almost guaranteed that you — or heaven forbid, your children — will receive a gift that completely misses the mark.

For adults, the polite thing to do is put on a smile and sincerely thank the gift giver for their generosity and thought, while mentally deciding whether it will go to Goodwill or straight into the recycle bin. If your kids are old enough to understand the subtle complexities of “faking it” when they receive crappy gifts, by all means, teach them how to handle the situation gracefully. But if you have a toddler or preschooler, then you already know they have no filter, and there’s potential for hurt feelings. However, little kids tend to take their social cues from their parents, so try to sit next to your children while they open gifts and head-off unfortunate reactions with precursory thanks and excitement for the gift. Hopefully they’ll follow suit or just quickly move on to the next gift.

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Christmas goes social

Social media is a great way to connect with friends and family over the holidays, but it can also leave us feeling annoyed, inadequate and disappointed with our own holiday happenings. This is especially the case when you get an onslaught of holiday firsts from new parents (Baby’s first Santa, first snow, first pumpkin pie… WE GET IT!) or you see your former high school classmate celebrating Christmas in Fiji in a bikini or that mom from your play group who received a new car from Santa.

We’ve all heard the saying that social media is like a highlight reel of other people’s lives, and while we know that we’re not getting the full story behind that one perfectly crafted and filtered photo, it’s easy to fall victim to the comparison trap. If you know that social media envy is something that you succumb to, try to limit your online activity during the holidays so you can be more emotionally present in your own activities. Try not to believe everything you see online and know that there’s always a backstory that you’re not getting.

Think about the images and words you post online and be aware that someone else may be comparing their holidays to yours.

Mentally preparing for a Santa visit

If a visit to the mall for a meet and greet with Santa is on your kid’s holiday to-do list this year, you should start mentally preparing yourself for one of two scenarios: (1) A happy visit with Santa where your child’s wishlist gets conveyed and you receive a smiling photo for the mantel; or (2) Screaming, crying meltdowns by the kids, a horrible (albeit hilarious) photo of the incident and your children possibly needing years of therapy after the ordeal.

If you want to ensure things go smoothly, we suggest prepping your children for their Santa encounter by talking about what’s going to happen with them days/weeks before the visit. Santa can be intimating for little kids, so let them observe other kids interacting with Santa before their turn and don’t force the issue if they don’t want to sit on his lap. Let them set the parameters of their interaction. Visits with Santa can also spark a lot of hard questions about the man, (the myth, the legend) and the whole Christmas process, so be prepared to have your answers ready.

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Annoying relatives: You know you have them

Yes, of course you love your family, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t get on your nerves or say inappropriate things. Celebrating the holidays with family usually means being crammed together in small spaces, discussing current and local events and drinking too much booze… all things that can lead to some frustrating, obnoxious and awkward conversations. Family doesn’t always abide by the social rule to refrain from discussing politics and religion, so if you know there are topics that will come up, prepare yourself — either with a polite way to decline participating in the conversation or with your well-expressed, researched opinions and an open-mind. Also be prepared for the onslaught of inappropriate personal questions about your family, your kids and even your sex life — when are you going to have another baby?

Just one more cookie…

With all the amazing food, baked goods and desserts present everywhere you go this time of year, it’s no surprise that most people gain weight. But it doesn’t have to happen and there are definitely things you can do to keep yourself active and healthy over the holidays. We recommend signing yourself (or your whole family!) up for a fun run over the holidays. Most places offer tons of races on weekends, starting at just 1 mile, which requires little/no training. Make sure you get outside and walk over the holidays too – take your kids on a tour of the lights and decorations in your neighborhood or go for a winter nature hike.

Offer to bring vegetables and fruit to dinners and parties or organize a holiday weight loss challenge with friends or co-workers to stay motivated. And if you do succumb to the temptation and stress eat your child’s entire gingerbread house plus all the cookies you baked for preschool snack, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a new year right around the corner!

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We hope that this Modern Mom’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays has mentally and emotionally prepared you for some of the holiday madness you’re going to encounter over the next month and given you a few tools to tackle the season with gusto. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year and we encourage you to approach the holidays with a healthy sense of humor, low expectations and a lot of wine. Cheers!

Meet the Author | Sara McCarty

Sara is a lawyer, blogger and mama of two. She’s passionate about photography, hiking, polka dots, tacos, dogs, camping, birthday parties, ponytails and champagne (not necessarily in that order). She lives in St. Louis and can usually be found chasing her kids through a creek or bribing them with candy to pose for a photo. She blogs at Running From the Law ( about all their travels, outdoor adventures, explorations and everyday life.

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  1. Only 150 bad photos for every good one? I’m behind the curve 😉 Great article. Cheers to low expectations and photos of meeting Santa meltdowns!

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