A Christmas Miracle: You Can Say No During the Holidays

Writing posts — like this one — for the holiday season is a tough topic for me.

I think it’s tricky because I don’t want to add to the unrealistic and inescapable narrative of “Do all the things! Have the perfect decorations! Find the limited edition xxx that your xxx has always wanted!”

On the other hand, I’m thankful for the beautiful content others create during the holiday season. I like scrolling through Instagram and seeing houses decorated for the holidays. I enjoy reading my favorite food blogger’s “ultimate holiday meal guide” or seeing an influencer’s family photoshoot in the snow.

What I don’t like is the feeling of should-ing all over myself. Should-ing as in …

  • I should have a house with holiday decorations in every room.
  • I should want to spend hours baking sugar cookies with my kids.
  • I should take my family to see the holiday movie that I really don’t want to go to.
  • I should bake my holiday dinner rolls from scratch.

(I could go on . . .). For me, it’s a tightrope walk between enjoying holiday content and slipping into should-ing. Many times I start out enjoying the content but by the time I’m done scrolling, I’m feeling pretty inadequate  . . . and pretty guilty.

A few years ago, a wise friend helped me realize that if I don’t want to do something I could think about saying no. She helped me see that no and yes are opposite sides of the same coin — so by saying no to some things, I have space in my life to say yes to others.

Since saying no to some of the holiday things I used to shame myself into doing, I’ve made space for other folks in my orbit to participate in some fun and special holiday traditions with my family.

Here are a few of the things I’ve said no to over the past few years during the holiday season:

  1. No to baking holiday cookies (unless I want to). Yes to ordering holiday cookie boxes from a local bakery.
  2. No to sending stacks and stacks of holiday cards. Yes to buying a fun gift for a few close friends.
  3. No to picking out Santa gifts for my kids. Yes to letting my husband do it from purchasing to wrapping. (He’s way better at it than I am anyway!)
  4. No to wrapping gifts, I don’t buy. Yes to letting my kids and husband wrap the things they purchase.
  5. No to putting together gingerbread houses with my kids. Yes to my mom and kids Zooming with each other while they put the house together.
  6. No to making more than 3 dishes for our holiday meal. Yes to purchasing everything else.
  7. No to having an opinion about the outside decorations. Yes to letting my kids and husband live their best gaudy lives in my front yard.
  8. No to driving around to look at holiday lights. Yes to letting my kids go with their grandparents while I have the house to myself. Graphic: A Christmas Miracle

I could not have imagined what the yes looked like on the opposite side of the no when I started saying no to things, but in saying no I allowed other people to say yes.

And frankly, some of the yeses that came into my life are Christmas miracles.

Enjoy the Holidays in Iowa City 

Ultimate Guide to the Holidays in Iowa City | 2021

Kate is the mom to Jack (2006), Liz (2007), and Alice (2011) and an avid Cubs fan through marriage. She's an assistant professor of mathematics and STEM education at St. Ambrose University and also moonlights as a mathematics teacher at South East Junior High in Iowa City. Between soccer, running club, tumbling, and piano lessons she likes to cook, run, and do yoga. She's also a sucker for 5Ks with cool swag and awesome medals.


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