It was wonderful to spend quality time with many relatives over Christmas. But, it was also much more tiring then I anticipated. Even with our extended family taking care of most meals. Even with relatives continuously jumping in to give our kids lots of attention. Even with everyone doing everything they could to make our vacation as enjoyable as possible, it felt far from a relaxing vacation.
Recently I've read a lot about the mental workload of motherhood. And I definitely experienced a much heavier than usual mental workload this Christmas. Rather than just relax and let the holiday unfold, I tried to stay one step ahead of our kids. I wanted our kids and our relatives to both fill the end the year with many positive memories. I packed extra outfits, snacks, and toys. I tried to feed our kids before they were too hungry. I tried to get our kids outside to play in the snow before they became too antsy indoors. I waited until baby was content and well fed before offering her to someone else. I mentally ran through each of our kids "must do lists"- conducting science experiments with grandma, baking cookies with their aunt and doing sticker books with their uncle, a trip to the Field Museum - and I tried to find the best time to do each one. I took lots of photos. I reminded our kids to say please and thank you. I tried to keep track of all of our toys - hot wheels that accidentally vroomed under beds, Lego pieces that fell off tables, and a handful of special stuffed animals and blankets. I attempted to keep track of where we packed medications, extra sweaters, thank you notes, sticker books, and everything else we lugged with us all the way from California.
I'm not sure where we will celebrate Christmas next year. But if we travel to relatives again I'm going to try to let go of some of this extra mental load. We might accidentally leave a hot wheel or two under the hotel bed and we might accidentally forget a stuffed animal at great grandma's. But next year I hope to spend less time managing our kids (and all of our stuff) and spend more time celebrating. Maybe the next time we fly to Chicago for Christmas I can spend a bit more time sitting, relaxing, and enjoying some wine and conversation with the adults in our extended family - something that I should have made more of a priority this year.