Today is the first day back from winter break and I’m on fire (in a good way!). The kids had been out of school since December 22nd. The days and weeks leading up to that were filled with holiday activities and performances, so in some ways it felt as though the holidays lasted for much longer than they actually did.
I’m happy to say that I did a lot of things right this year, compared to years past. I can be a bit of a procrastinator on some things, which as we all know, can lead to lots of unnecessary stress, among other things.
This year, I put together a holiday shopping matrix in early November. I brainstormed gifts with hubby and kids and put together a gift list and budget that helped to keep things on track. It included everything from holiday outings to teacher gifts. It made every aspect of the holiday season more enjoyable. The extra preparation opened up more time in the weeks before the break to participate in activities at school and after school, something that had been a challenge at times in the past. There were fewer shopping trips and fewer spontaneous and last-minute purchases. Overall, I was left with more time and energy that I channeled into more meaningful things.
But, even with the extra preparation and the open time that it created, I found myself a bit out of sorts the past few days. Yesterday, while working side-by-side with my third grader who was finishing up a school project, I attempted to write several different pieces, purge email boxes, and tackle other things I wanted to get done. But, it just wasn’t happening. Folding laundry, on the other hand, was something I was able to conquer easily as I pondered what was amiss. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon, as we began to gear the kids up for going back to school today, that things really clicked.
I’m an introvert. A big introvert. And, as much as I love to spend time with my family, and as much as I looked forward to having them home for winter break, as much as I enjoyed the holidays, the outings and activities, I also was also missing something … my alone time. As a work-at-home mom, I’m accustomed to being the only one in the house for a chunk of the day. It’s time I need not only to work, but to have a bit of solitude as well. Not only did I miss that time, but I missed doing the activities that stimulate other parts of my brain, in addition to my heart.
Another big missing element was a regular routine. Gone were all of the usual cues to which the kids were accustomed for getting the day started, winding down at the end of the day, and everything else in between. And, while I love and embrace opportunities to mix things up and to be spontaneous, especially during such a festive time of year, too long a stretch without consistency and structure can create a breeding ground for mischief. Over the years, I’ve really come to appreciate how valuable routines are in guiding behavior, managing expectations and demands, and in regulating the flow of the day.
So, today, as I celebrate the many success of the holiday season, I’ll also jot down a few notes on creative ways to incorporate comforting structure while also embracing opportunities for downtime and spontaneity as well, along with some alone time for me.
How about you? What were your successes this holiday season? What kinds of routines and structures helped you make the most of your winter break?