Set healthy boundaries
You can only do so much, and it's important to remember that. Whether you're inviting guests over or just having a quiet Thanksgiving at home, the holidays can be stressful when you focus on making the day feel perfect. Don't be afraid to set healthy boundaries, get your family to help and lower your holiday expectations. It will help you to avoid conflict or a meltdown before it begins. You'll thank yourself later and so will your spouse.
Get some shuteye
Although it can be tempting to let the kids stay up late during the holidays, when they're on a school break and you're off work, it's best to make sure they and you get enough sleep to avoid crankiness and meltdowns during the day. When you're tired, you're more likely to be snappy with family. And you don't want to get burned out with days to go before your kids go back to school.
Have a master plan
Spending time with family isn't joyous 24-7. Knowing things won't be perfect is important if you want to avoid a meltdown later. Sit down with your spouse before Thanksgiving and get them on the same page. It may help you to write down a couple of goals for you to keep in mind for when arguments occur, tears are shed or resentment rears its ugly head.
Have plenty of coffee on hand. Cooking a giant meal on top of regular mom life will likely have you reaching for more than one cup per day. In fact, it might be helpful to also have a few extra bottles of wine, too.
Remember to have fun
Don't forget that your kids will cherish family traditions as they grow older. If you don't have any of your own traditions, start one. Even if they're too young to remember now, they'll look back on photos down the road and that trip to the pumpkin patch as a family will become a beloved childhood memory.
Pregnancy is a get out of jail free card
We're just going to say it; Pregnancy during the holidays gives you an automatic free pass to eat anything without being judged and to leave early because you "don't feel well" after too many people have touched your belly and given you unsolicited advice about breastfeeding. You don't get this free pass any other time, so enjoy it while you can.
Cut your kids some slack
A major schedule shift (or having visitors) can stress your kids out, too. If they're not old enough to express themselves with words, it's likely they'll cry, want to be held, feel shy and plenty of other scenarios. Do your best to keep your kids on the same routine, even if there's family in town. When that's not possible, be a little extra patient and understanding when they act out.
Prep meals in advance
Thanksgiving dinner is delicious and it's also an exhausting labor of love to prepare. Instead of slaving away in the kitchen from sun-up to sun-down, it's easier if you break the meal preparation into manageable chunks throughout the week before the actual day. That way, come Turkey Day you just have to roast or deep fry your bird and reheat the sides and enjoy.
Save time with a caterer
Another way to lower your Thanksgiving meal stress is to get all or part of your meal catered. You can also just buy some of the side dishes instead of making them, which will free you up to focus on the most important parts of your Thanksgiving spread and to spend more time with your family.
Take time to be silly
Precisely because the holidays are stressful, don't forget to take time out to be silly and spontaneous with your kids. Take selfies, play a fun game, and pay them some special attention. You won't regret all the funny faces on your camera roll.
Your kids aren't the only kids
It's likely that your kids aren't the only children at the family holiday gathering. Be sure to show some love to nieces and nephews, too. Showering other kids in the family with attention makes them feel special, and it'll make you feel good as well. If you don't live close to each other, try to get a little one-on-one time together, even if it's just reading a bedtime story. Swap bedtime duties with your sister-in-law or another family member so that your kids get love from other family members, too.
Extend grace to difficult family members
If you've been on the receiving end of hurt or is appointment with a family member in the past, consider showing a little extra grace to them during the holidays. It probably wasn't and still isn't a reflection on you or anything you did. Sometimes people who are hurting will hurt others. In some situations, the best thing you can do is put your feelings aside about what happened before and start anew, keeping in mind the lessons you've learned. Nobody's perfect, and if you've wronged someone, it's a good time to extend an apology if you haven't already. Don't forget to also extend grace to yourself.
It's OK to play
Kids will be kids. And by that, we mean, if there's a pile of leaves, they'll want to jump into it. While you're busy with Thanksgiving dinner, it helps to get your spouse or another family member to take the kids outside for some fresh air and playtime. Even if you're the one doing the majority of the cooking, it's important to schedule your own breaks and have some fun so you don't burn out by the time your Thanksgiving meal is served.
Thanksgiving isn't just about holiday food and a beautiful table spread. It's also about making memories that will last a lifetime. Find ways to spend time with your family that don't revolve around Thanksgiving dinner. Watch holiday movies, play games and create special moments that you'll cherish for years to come.
You deserve to enjoy yourself
Emotions run high during the holidays, and everyone feels a lot of pressure when it comes to spending time with their family and preparing an awesome meal. You don't have to be perfect and you deserve to have a good time, too. Don't burden yourself with all the responsibilities for Thanksgiving. Delegate some of the chores and cooking to others so you can also enjoy the special day.
Documenting the holidays with photos of your kids will give you something to look back on and smile about. Don't forget that you need to be in some of the photos, too.
Present over perfect
Instead of stressing about menus, flowers, centerpieces and a variety of other things people worry about during the holidays, just be present and live in the moment. If something goes wrong, it's not the end of the world. It doesn't matter if your dinner isn't perfect, your kids don't behave all day, your husband disappears to the den to watch football instead of taking out the trash, or anything else that might contribute to your holiday anxiety. Nobody's perfect. What matters is that you're together.
Leave emotional baggage at home
If you're traveling during Thanksgiving, the only kind of baggage you should bring with you is the kind that carries your clothing. Kids can pick up on uncomfortable vibes when you're carrying a heavy load of feelings on your shoulders. Let any past hurts or frustrations stay in the past, and focus on having a great time with your family.
Stay home if you feel like it
If traveling with a baby or toddler during the holidays is too stressful and you just can't face the idea of Aunt Ida making small talk at the dinner table about her experience breastfeeding 30 years ago, there's no rule that says you have to go visit family for Thanksgiving. It's OK to stay home and forge your own Thanksgiving traditions as a small family and visit everyone else some other time. Don't let anyone pressure you into making a decision you'll regret. You deserve to enjoy your holiday no matter who you decide to spend it with or without.