I won’t tell the anxious parents out there exactly how many days are left before Christmas because it’s cruel, but I will say it’s coming and fast.

As an anxious mom I know just how complicated this time of year can be.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the holidays, but as a parent that relationship has become much more amplified. I love looking at my Christmas decorations, but I hate putting them up. I hate the pressure of making the day we put up the tree a whole event with holiday music and cookies, I hate how my brain automatically tries to compare the joy from this year to years part—that’s all before Christmas has even happened.

I’m not trying to one-up anyone but apparently I’m trying to one up myself.

Sadly, putting the tree up is just the beginning.

I usually spend most of December stressing about making memories with my family around the damn tree. 

Have we made puzzles? Have we read a cute book? Have we turned the lights on enough to justify putting up the monstrosity? 

I realize that so much of this is my own choice—but I also feel like it’s not. The pressure around the holidays, especially when you are a parent, is unreal. Every year it gets a tiny bit worse, especially when you talk to other parents or god forbid—compare yourself to other parents on the ‘gram. 

I probably sound a bit like the grinch, but really, I am just an anxious parent who is acutely aware of all the things I need to think of during the holidays—namely presence over presents.

Every year I ask my daughter what she wants for Christmas. The presents are the easy part, but the presence is not. This time of year, I feel the intense need to host dinners, take pictures with Santa, look at some holiday lights and create all of the perfect memories—for my daughter, and for my family. 

But over time, I realize that there’s a big difference between the things you feel pressured to do this time of year, versus the things you actually want to do. 

For example, I feel the need to host Christmas Eve dinner, but what I actually want to do is spend the day eating, relaxing, playing games and not worrying about hosting duties.

I also feel theI need to over-schedule my child during the holidays to ensure we create long lasting memories, but I know what I really want to do is bake cookies, watch a holiday movie and nap.

Let’s not forget that while this time of year is filled with joy for some of us it’s also a complicated time for those navigating loss, complex family dynamics and the stress of feeling obligated to see people who don’t always make us feel the best.

Last year I wrote about setting boundaries with your family around the holidays. This year, I think it’s important to think about how we set boundaries with ourselves.

The holidays always feel extra stressful because it’s a short amount of time to fit in so many activities. We want to have fun and enjoy ourselves and this usually ends in us being overscheduled, overtired and overwhelmed.

Here’s the thing about setting boundaries with yourself; it’s much harder in practice than in theory, but so necessary for your mental and emotional well being during the holidays and all year long. 

I know it’s easier said than done but if you’re dreading any activity that’s supposed to be fun this holiday season, remember that “no” is a full sentence and you don’t owe anyone an explanation beyond that.

Don’t want to host Christmas Eve dinner? Don’t. Don’t want to take pictures with Santa? Don’t. There will be other years and there are always other ways to make memories that don’t deplete your energy.

The truth is we set ourselves up for failure when we keep the cycle of needing to do more going. 

Christmas is less than a month away and I bet your calendar is jam packed with social commitments and holiday outings—I know mine is. 

Spending time with family and making memories for your kids is great, but don’t forget to pause. Don’t forget to make space for you because no one else is going to do it for you. 

I repeat: no one else. 

To all my fellow anxious parents out there remember this; it’s okay if you don’t bake cookies, have a holiday photo session or host any holidays events. Making memories isn’t about what you do, it's about cultivating a sense of presence in what you choose to do. 

Me? I’m choosing to bake cookies, taking a backseat on hosting, and avoiding anything too cutesy during the holidays. 

You’ll find me at home with my kid watching the Grinch on repeat and loving every minute.

Anxious mom, out.

About the author

Manjot Mann

My name is Manjot Mann and I am a mom, counsellor and writer. I have my undergraduate degree in Criminology/Psychology and a Masters in Counselling Psychology from Yorkville University. As a child I wanted to be a superhero, specifically Sailor Moon. As an adult I found there was no one like Sailor Moon running around in cute shoes saving people from monsters and so I took a desk job and hung up my imaginary cape. When I became a mom and fought my own demons, I realized I needed a career change. As a counsellor I help people with real and imagined monsters. As a writer I bring awareness to the fact that monsters exist and that there is a whole lot of superhero in all of us.

More by Manjot Mann
5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.