Have a good enough, imperfect Christmas — it's much more fun!
To be honest, Christmas should be in July not December, which coincides with the end of the Australian school year.
The last school term is maybe the most stressful as there are so many extra things happening — exams, final assemblies, graduations from pre-school through to final year, schoolies to survive, and all sorts of decisions to make for the upcoming year.
This timing also coincides with work Christmas parties and dinners — more late nights and possibly more headaches, often alcohol induced.
The end of the year is also a time of increased stress for many families who have someone working in sectors like education, health or defence, where contracts expire or jobs change at the end of the year.
Not only are they exhausted like all the other families, but they may have to find a new job or pack up house and move for work — often interstate.
A removalist once told me December was the busiest month in his trade and they work around the clock.
On the list of major life stressors moving house is one of the top two.
Add on top of this stress the gift buying for loved ones in a crazy world of consumerism, insanely busy shopping centres with scary fat men in red suits, endless loud Christmas music and department stores with appalling service — if they have any at all.
Attempting Christmas shopping with children should be an Olympic event as it requires massive endurance, stamina and fitness — and that's only the first 20 minutes.
What is it with the popularity of advent calendars? They're everywhere! I love the concept, however we tried to do these a few times and with four busy lads there were days we missed.
Then I felt it was another way I was failing — another thing on the end-of-year to do list that I had failed to do.
So we gave up on them and reduced a little more stress.
Then it's so hard not to be influenced by the perfect images everywhere, from magazines to Pinterest, of fabulous homes with impeccably decorated Christmas trees with matching everything.
These are topped only by the unbelievable images of table settings again with every damn thing matching and beautiful.
Heck, for so many families getting food on the table is a challenge, let alone making it look like a cross between Disney and House and Garden.
When do families with kids of any age have the time to be that prepared and make their house look that good?
Maybe they stop doing things like changing nappies, having kids take naps or sleep at all, going to the end of year catch ups, shopping for everyday food, cooking, maybe reading to their kids and doing bedtime rituals.
You can't do it all — there are simply not enough hours in the day.
The kicker is when parents get stressed, so do kids — it's called emotional contagion.
This means we are influenced by the emotional states of those around us, especially when strong emotions are present.
Chaos and unpredictability mess with our kids' heads and will increase meltdowns and sibling fights.
Having a fabulous time around Christmas means we grown-ups need to be realistic about what is possible and what is verging on impossible.
Lowering the bar a little may be the best gift you can give your family.
Your kids want you to be happy and to have time to hang out with them having fun. Simple.
They don't care that the Christmas tree is uneven, or has decorations that are not colour-coded.
Indeed every year our Christmas tree fell over — it was like a ritual, 'oh no Mum has done it again!'.
So the one year it didn't fall over I pushed it over and we all thought it was so incredibly funny.
Your kids don't care if your dinner plates don't match your serviettes. They just want to eat yummy food surrounded by people they love. Simple.
My top tips for the Festive season
It's absolutely OK to say "no" when you are struggling with end-of-year stress.
It's OK to choose the easy options around food — instead of aiming for MasterChef.
It's really OK to ask people to bring a plate of food or a dessert.
It's OK to say "no" to more than one outing with children under the age of 15 in one day.
It's occasionally OK to have good quality fruit and nut chocolate before breakfast if required.
It's totally OK to aim for an imperfect Christmas while being realistic about your choices given the other massive stressors of this time of year.
Finally, make sure you make time to wander around your town or suburb looking at the fabulous Christmas lights on other people's houses and be grateful you don't have their power bill.
Happy good enough Christmas!
Maggie Dent is one of Australia's favourite parenting authors and educators with a special interest in the early years, adolescence and resilience.
She has authored 10 books and is a 'good enough' mum to four adult sons and a very grateful grandparent. www.maggiedent.com.