My 3 Jobs: Employee, Mom, Chief Holiday Organizer

I know Christmas (or “the holidays,” if you prefer) is supposed to be a time of joy and merriment and all that jazz, but for working moms, I think it feels more like you got a third full-time job dumped on you for a month or so.

I mean, you’ve got your day job that pays the bills. That’s 45+ hours a week right there (unless you’re part-time, shave off a few hours). Then there’s the round-the-clock mom/housekeeper/chef/chauffeur job, clocking in at 50+ hours a week or so (depends on if your kids sleep through the night and don’t get sick).

Then, you’re supposed to do all the Christmas stuff. You know the drill: buy and wrap gifts, send cute photo cards of the kids, decorate the house inside and out, bake cookies, do volunteer/charity stuff to help those in need, attend and host parties, take the kids to the various annual traditions around town, [insert your own Christmas tasks here] … How many hours a week is all that? And where on God’s earth do you find the time to accomplish it all?

This year, I started the holiday season with a different mindset than in previous years. Rather than dive in with a “perfect, do-it-all mom” mentality, I went with the “whatever works, it’s good enough” mentality. My main goals have been to save me money and time. So far, it’s working out pretty well.

A few examples:

    • CARDS: I used to design a lovely photo card on, order 50+ cards, then stamp, address and write personal messages on all of them to send to friends and family. Cost: $150+, 15 hours. This year, I designed and sent a holiday photo e-card with Cost: $2.99 (to send the card ad-free), 2 hours.


    • GIFTS: I used to spend a huge amount of time shopping and trying to find the perfect gift for every person on my list, then wrapping it with loving care (usually the night before Christmas Eve until 2 a.m.). Cost: Way more than it should have, a bajillion hours. This year, I’m buying all gift cards and putting them in cute, prewrapped boxes. (Sorry to blow the surprise, family members who read this. At least you’ll be surprised by where the gift card’s coming from!) Cost: A whole lot cheaper and easier to budget, 3 hours.


    • DECORATIONS: I used to worry about our home being beautifully decorated in nearly every room, as well as lights outside–even if I had to do most or all of the work myself. Cost: Varied by year, 10 hours. This season, I chose only the decorations I truly like and focused on a couple of key areas where we spent the majority of our time. We hit Target last night to get a prelit small tree so I didn’t have to set up the nasty toilet brush tree and put all the half-burnt-out lights on it, along with a couple of other easy-decor items. Also, made Hubs help out. No outdoor stuff except a wreath–if he wants to do lights, he’s more than welcome! Cost: $150, 4 hours.


  • ENTERTAINING: I used to worry about whether we hosted at least one family holiday function at our house, along with one or two friend-oriented parties or dinners. The actual cost was always high, and preparations and hosting took an enormous toll on my already-stressed out brain, body and budget. This year, we’re doing one thing: Christmas dinner. That’s it. But here’s the best part: it’s at my mom and dad’s house! All we have to do is cook. And when I say “we,” I mostly mean “Hubs.” Holiday cooking is his “thing.” Cost: $100, 6 hours.

That pretty much does it for my holiday “must-haves.” Everything else is optional. Delightfully optional. I can do it if I want to and have time and money for it. Or not. Plus, I’m taking off the entire week of Christmas and we’re not traveling anywhere, so I might actually be able to enjoy some of the holiday merriment I hear so much about. Looking forward to that.

If you’ve discovered some killer Christmas/holiday shortcuts to help you stay sane during this crazy season, please share them in the comments. Working moms can use all the help we can get!

11 thoughts on “My 3 Jobs: Employee, Mom, Chief Holiday Organizer

  1. This year I’m giving away my time as presents. Each member of my family is getting me for 8 hours. I’m picking the days and writing them in cards to hand out. That way my mom, grandma, dad ect. get what they really want, more time with me and some stuff done by me around the house. Best part: FREE and I’m picking the dates, so they will extend well in to the spring to not overload myself.

  2. I chose not to even do cards this holiday season. Sorry to those who really, really like Christmas cards.

    We also shaved down who we buy for, and it was agreeable on both sides. Makes life so much easier.

  3. Here are my time and money saving strategies: no holiday cards this year (I have no energy for it, sorry, friends and family, just check out the pix we’ve posted on Shutterfly) and no hosting holiday gatherings unless they’re with friends who don’t care if the house is a little cluttered and we serve them frozen Sam’s appetizers. We’re traveling to see all our family anyway this season, so we’ll see many of the people who would otherwise have gotten cards and party invites.

  4. I’ve never been particularly stressed out about Christmas–okay maybe a little since we had kids. But I never went in for the “buying gifts for everyone I know” thing. I think only kids should get presents, and my husband if he asks for something specific. Scrooge!
    Anyway, my new stress this year is that there is something going on daycare (between 2 kids) everyday for the week before Xmas. I guess it’s helpful, because if you can’t come to one thing maybe you can make another. But my girls want us there for everything, and THAT’S too much pressure for me!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Using American Express points to buy gift cards for family (to save a little cash and not bust the budget) and we’re giving to charity in the names of the relatives we usually buy bigger for — to a cool charity called Modest Needs where the recipient of these charity “gift certificates” can choose who and what to give the money to. These two things are massively time-saving — no spending hours hunting for the perfect gift — and keep us under our budget (we have always gone over). So, the only presents to buy are for the kids in the family and that, I am doing online.

  6. I’m not sure if these are “killer” ideas and probably pretty obvious but here goes:
    1. buy stamps ahead of line/online so you don’t have to go to the PO (Post Office)
    2. Use USPS “Click-and-Ship” option online to print postage-paid labels – again avoiding standing in line at the PO
    3. Shop online and have gifts sent directly. I always opt out of adding “Gift Wrapping” since there’s an extra charge for that – just e-mail the recipient to warn them its coming and not wrapped
    4. Send New Year’s cards or even Valentine’s Greetings. Save yourself the hassle at this time of year.
    5. Make more handmade gifts. I have so many supplies (paper crafting and scrapbooking) that I don’t even need to buy anything but can whip out some cool stationery/notecard sets or magnets, etc.

  7. Anonymous says:

    i decided a long time ago that i don’t play nicely with others after about Nov. 1. So now I make it my rabid mission to be FINISHED Christmas shopping by Oct 1. I know, too late for this year, but it might help someone for next year. I keep a list of EVERYONE i plan to buy for, once I purchase something I write what it was and the amount. That way i don’t forget and buy for someone twice.

    Being done that early leaves me more time to enjoy the other stuff. My evenings are mine. I do things like write Christmas cards LOL! (yes, i still enjoy them, but i have an EXTREMELY large family spread out all over the US.. this is the only time each year I talk to most)

    My co workers also do a cookie exchange. Each person makes one kind of cookie and we all meet and exchange one morning (at work) so that we dont have to take any personal time to do the exchange. Its much easier to make a triple batch of one kind of cookie and then swap them around. I’ve gotten some great recipes that way to.

    Wishing everyone a calm Christmas. 🙂

  8. Justice Fergie says:

    great tips! i totally screwed myself with the holiday cards this year. so much work!

    another shortcut: this year i’m only buying gifts for kids (well excpet for my mom and sis) that’ll cut down on the cost and shopping time for sure!

  9. Heather Leigh says:

    I'm a working mom of 3 kids – 12,7,& 4. I LOVE the holidays and try to make the season magical for my kids. In order to do that, though, I start doing things in OCTOBER.

    For example, I MAKE all of my Christmas cards (certainly not time-saving, but I enjoy it)…but I start those in October and by the day after Thanksgiving, I put them in the mail.

    Secondly, I fully decorate the house (tree and all) the week of Thanksgiving (I take the week off work). Fortunately, Thanksgiving itself is spent on the other side of the state, so we don't have to worry about the Christmas decorations going up before Thanksgiving.

    Third, I complete 80% of my shopping on Black Friday…by Saturday, everything is gift bagged and under the tree…except for santa's gifts because HELLO PEOPLE … SANTA DOESN'T WRAP …huge time saver there!

    The holidays are meant to be filled with enjoyment…not stress. A time for reflection and connecting with loved ones. Make it magical, whatever magical means for you and your family. It doesn't have to be perfect.

  10. attorneymama says:

    Wow, I am glad I stumbled on this blog. How nice.

    All of my Christmas shopping, sans the Black Friday specials, was done prior to Thanksgiving. By the time my kids woke up on Black Friday, I was home cooking them breakfast. (I was in line at ToysRUs at 2:00 a.m.)

    I have made present wrapping a game for my kids. They pick the paper, they pick the ribbon and they operate the tape dispenser. We do a present or two each night when I get home from work. They think it is fun!

    I am making our “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers. No baking involved and a lot easier for the kids to construct!

    I cut my personal Christmas Card list by 75%. I only sent cards to family, friends and co-workers I like. Anyone in the professional arena that needed a card for marketing/PR purposes got a firm card that was addressed by my assistant.

    Overall, my goal this season is to enjoy it with my children. Whatever makes *them* happy makes me happy. Everyone else can jump off a cliff. So, I will take off early in the afternoon for a train ride in Santa’s village. But, I will not take off early for yet another holiday party.

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