As I spend – or waste – time on Facebook looking for a pumpkin patch or apple orchard to explore this fall, I see 152 events involving Halloween costumes. We’re not huge on Halloween in our house, probably because I refuse to seriously consider any costume ideas until October 1st. But when these events creep into the busy season, you know the time between when school starts and the end of the year, then the mom guilt starts creeping in, too.
The busy season, you know that wonderfully glorious time of being with family and friends is often the most stressful time of the year. I’ve had more meltdowns over making sure the number of presents matches from one kid to the next, about the cookies I wanted to make for the single soldiers going home for Christmas, and about the Christmas cards I didn’t send until February.
Why can’t we just enjoy the busy season? The days are shorter, the nights spend home with family are longer. The kids enjoy these special times, even if they are 10 and are “too cool” to go trick or treating with their parents. But there is so much to do. So many expectations we heap on ourselves, forcing us to constantly come up short.
Not this year. Not this time. Not me.
I’ve decided that even if we don’t do everything on the list this year, it’s not the items we check off, it’s the people we are with. And so, I present to you, my life hacks for making the busy season less complicated, and help you eliminate some of that mom guilt.
1. Baby Wearing
Two years ago, I was wearing my baby everywhere, to get everything done. My kids have seen more of the world from my back then they have walking around. They love to feel secure and I like to have my hands free. But as they grow, they get into that stage of wanting to do everything themselves. Luckily, my Tula is still the perfect thing to combat crankiness and a tired toddler. Just this weekend I popped him on my back for an extensive Costco shopping trip. He loved it, he smiled at all the people, waved, and gave me hugs the whole time. And I had both hands to shop and didn’t have to chase him anywhere.
2. Meal Prep
You know I love to plan ahead and make lists, and I always take that love for prepping to the kitchen. It’s late October and therefore it’s time to start thinking about holiday cooking, and what you can do to make it easier. Here are a few of my tips:
a. Plan a preliminary menu so you can shop the sales
b. Buy in bulk what you can (Costco has canned pumpkin on the shelves already!)
c. Make a double, or triple, batch of soup or chili and freeze
d. Prepare cookie dough in advance and freeze it
3. Instant Pot
I love my Instant Pot in the summer because it keeps me from turning on the oven in the ridiculous Georgia heat. But I love it even more in the winter because it means soups and stews cook all day long filling the house with the scents. And because when I forget to take something out for dinner, I can still cook a full meal in about 45 minutes. Keep an eye out for sales around Thanksgiving, I got mine for a steal on Thanksgiving morning a few years ago.
The holidays put extra things on our calendar, and if you’re like me, I prioritize my health and wellness somewhere between the bottom of the list and an afterthought. But especially in the season of Halloween candy, apple pies, and Christmas parties you have to take the time to stay, at least, “fitness neutral.” Sometimes I just can’t get to the gym. But that’s where my excuses end. Sure, I can’t get to the gym, but I can work out. Even if it’s at 9pm when my kids are all in bed, I have 20 minutes to get stronger. And when I don’t even have to think about what to do, it’s even better. GFit30 is a program that my CrossFit gym has. It’s a workout you can do anywhere, with no equipment, in 30 minutes or less. It’s perfect for any fitness level, promise. You do have 30 minutes to work out today, I promise you do. Let me know, I’ll do it with you.
5. Walmart Grocery Pickup
The stores are already starting to attract frantic, last-minute shoppers. I avoid this completely by utilizing grocery pickup at my local Walmart. I shop from home while consulting my list, pick a convenient time to pick it up – usually on the way home from piano lessons or church – and no one has time to have a meltdown or ask for more snacks. I save money by paying with the Walmart app which is now connected directly to the Savings Catcher and by not throwing anything extra in my cart.
Last year when I got Alexa for Christmas, people thought I was crazy. I mean, I am, but not for this reason. Alexa is more than just spying on me – because so is my computer, my phone, and probably my husband (joking!) – she allows me to be hands-free with lists and tasks. For example, I’m making chili and realize that I just used the last of the onion powder. “Alexa, add onion powder to my shopping list,” I say while adding more ingredients. Now when I go to the store, or add things to my grocery cart on Walmart, I don’t have to think about what I need. Yup, it’s really nice. Plus she reads me the news and tells my kids a fun fact every morning.
7. Shop Online
As someone who hates shopping, especially in the holiday season, online shopping is the best thing ever. I blame it on living in the desert 90 minutes from any good stores, but really, it saves me time, money, and energy. I shop for holiday gifts on Amazon (using Ebates first for a little cash-back) and ship it directly to the person. I shop for clothes online for my kids and they arrive at my door. I even shop for pantry staples on Amazon. It’s amazing what I can get done before anyone else wakes up.
As you’re building your emotional toolbox to survive the busy season, and keep the mom guilt monster at bay, try some of these ideas. They say it takes 21 days to make a habit, which means by Thanksgiving you can have changed your view on prioritizing your health, reducing the time spent grocery shopping, or get a jump start on holiday shopping. You can do it, and I’m here to help.