Why I’m Giving Up On “Perfect” Holidays

Remember those Bad Mom movies? Mila Kunis and her crew play a group of worn out, over-the-BS moms who decide to say to hell with being perfect. The second movie climaxes with a disastrous Christmas that got me thinking: Why am I still putting so much pressure on myself to make every holiday “perfect?” More importantly, what makes a holiday “perfect” anyway?

I’ve talked about removing the word “perfect” from my vocabulary before, but the holidays are the one area I always struggle with. I blame all of the Hallmark movies with their gorgeous sets and heroines who never miss a blowout. (But seriously Hallmark, never stop making those movies. Humanity needs them.)

If you also find the pressure of holiday perfection to be a bit too much, I have a few things to keep in mind that have helped prepare me for this year.

There is no singular definition of “perfect.”

Everyone’s ideal holiday celebration looks completely different. How else do those magazines come up with new spreads every season? There are so many ways to do it. From the food to the decor — there are endless options, so why get caught up in comparing how you celebrate (or don’t) to other people?

Think about it this way: Every house on your block will be decorated in a different way. Some people have lights on every feasible surface. Others go for inflatable characters on the lawn. There will always be the one with all white lights next to the one that looks like a gingerbread house. And guess what? The people inside each house think they nailed it. Because they did. If it makes you and your family happy, it can’t get any better.

The unexpected will always happen.

What’s that expression … “We make plans and God laughs?” Never were truer words spoken, especially around the holidays. Year after year I would make a list a mile long of festivities, recipes, and decorations to create that picture-perfect holiday season, and every year it would fall apart. There are never enough hours in the day and everything from sudden schedule changes to cooking mishaps, colds, and surprise visitors all derail whatever I had in mind. And you know what? That’s fine. 

Now, I go into this season with a more rough plan. I have an idea of what we want to do and eat or how I want the house to look, but I do so knowing it will evolve and change. I may plan a six-course dinner and then on the day decide it’s going to a Chinese takeout feast instead because that’s about as much as I can manage. There is no judge or jury present. Being less stringent with a schedule and to-do list helps me enjoy the holidays, however they come together. Then I can get back to my Type A ways once the added pressure is gone.

Remember the memories are the priority.

When all is said and done and your house is a battlefield of torn wrapping paper, fallen ornaments, and half-eaten pies, all that matters is being together. The memories you make as a family are the most important part of the holidays, not that dessert with 45 steps that nearly drove you to the brink. When we reflect on past holidays, we may have favorite dishes or activities that stand out, but we usually remember the feeling they brought most.

Your plans will change from year to year. This holiday season may still be a far cry from those in the past. But if you focus on creating happy memories instead of Instagrammable tablescapes and piles of pristinely wrapped presents, you’re sure to enjoy it more. As I’ve said before, “perfect” is a myth, all year round. So try to stay in the moment. When things get overwhelming, take a step back and a long look around. We have so much to be grateful for.

How do you stay in the moment during the holidays and not get hung up on the details? Share your advice in the comments.

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