Chris Aman


My brother and sister-in-law manage to shower their four kids with impressive gifts, host swanky holiday parties and house visiting family with seeming ease. It helps they have more disposable income, but I also don't have it in me to decorate and make things picture perfect for all of Facebook to see. How can I hold it together and give my kids a worthwhile Christmas, when they (and I) inevitably compare our family to my brother's?

Once again the holidays are upon us, Jack Frost is biting off our toes, and children are filled with energy and excitement. Around this time of year, many find themselves comparing their lives to those of everyone else. If there is one time in which so many feel inadequate in comparison, it is now. We think of the organized mother who pulls together parties, has her shopping completed and gifts wrapped and Christmas decorations up two days after Thanksgiving -- during which she hosted the dinner and welcomed family into her spotless home. We worry that our children will suffer if we don't spend the same outrageous fortune that others are able, so we put ourselves in debt, just to make certain that there is no suffering when they return to school in January. We are falling apart trying to figure out how to do it all and not go bankrupt.

Fact of the matter is this: we are not them. When you look at all they are doing, first think about whether this is something that they enjoy. If it is, then it WILL come easily to them. This is the area in which they shine and their talents come out! Do they appear stressed? If so, they are doing the same as you and trying to keep up with others who shine during this time of organizing and creativity.

Before you get carried away in thinking that you are not "good enough" or that you'll "never get it together," look at your strengths. Is organizing one of them? Is shopping another? How about cooking and hosting parties? Decorating? Those of us who find that only one or two of these questions can be answered with a "YES" are stressing about the areas that we don't do well in rather than working on the things that we are good at. And we then look at others, wondering, "How do they do it?"

Work on the things you enjoy and, before you know it, all that will be left will be those challenging areas. Who can you recruit to help? Comparisons will always be made, but if we are able to recognize our talents and weaknesses, we will all shine through the holidays.

As far as giving your children a worthwhile Christmas: first of all, define what you believe is worthwhile. Your children aren't going to remember the gifts they received or what was for dinner, but they will remember the memories created. Rather than hide yourself in the kitchen for days prepping a meal, have all those joining you for the holidays bring a dish to share. Gifts don't need to be the latest trend. Your kids may not be overwhelming pleased with that initially, but if you spend the time enjoying the season that will soon pass. I have so often attempted to be that parent who would buy my children "the best gift ever" only to find that the "latest" was more worthless than anything, and didn't live up to their expectations anyway. Did you know that Furbies don't fly? I learned that the day after Christmas as my son took his beloved "I have to have that" Furby to the top of the steps and threw it over the railing. It crashed onto the tile flooring, two stories down. This was an incredible surprise to him. "The ears flapped, why didn't he fly?"

The gifts, and the expectations that we associate with them, very often have us crashing to our doom and causing us more stress than we need. Somewhat like a flying Furby! When I asked my children what they remember about Christmas, they all informed me that it was who was there and how we spent the time together. So, if you're going to make it spectacular and memorable, get the family involved in all of it -- this includes the baking, cooking, cleaning, etc. Granted, this can be even more trying than doing it alone. I have six children and know this oh so well. But your family will remember the fun of it, and what really counts are the memories you create by spending time with your family.

Chris Aman, MBA, MSN, APRN, NP-C, is the co-owner of Inspired Life Wellness Clinic, where she is a psychiatric provider for teens and adults. She and her husband, Jason, have six children and live in Bismarck. They enjoy outdoor activities in the summer and hibernating in the winter.