By: Katie Wargo, NLASA

For most people, the Holiday season is the most stressful time of the year. We feel the pressure of making the time to see all of our family members, finding time to make these Pinterest worthy meals, decorating the picture-perfect house for the perfect family photos with the perfect matching outfits, all so we can send them around to our favorite social outlet, so we look like we have it all together.

This doesn’t even include the worst and most stressful part: Christmas gifts. The stress and anxiety of making sure that we as parents play the perfect Santa Claus. For me, I have four children, ranging in ages twelve all the way down to three. Three is my favorite year all the way around, and at Christmas, it’s truly the best. They’re not old enough to be greedy yet and they believe and see the full magic of Christmas at its max potential. My oldest is at that age where he is more afraid to not believe because maybe, just maybe, if he says those words out loud, that Santa is not real, he won’t get that eight-hundred-dollar gaming computer he asked for that he knows his parents can’t afford. Then, in between I have a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old, both greedier than Hell. Christmas to them is all about what they’re getting. All that aside, it doesn’t change the fact that Santa is still the one that magically puts all those gifts they’re asking for under the tree. To them, they’re not being greedy because Mommy and Daddy do not buy those presents, they’re all free from Santa Claus, built by his little Elves, the best toy makers in the world. As parents, we want to make these Christmas mornings, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa Days and any other Holiday we might be celebrating as perfect and magical as we can, but at what cost?

The pressure of the holiday season can cost families in more ways than one. Christmas sends more families than not into major financial debt. Trying to be the perfect Santa causes stress, anxiety and even depression. We fall behind on bills because we are “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” then we spend the next couple months playing catch up only to turn around and do it all over again 6 months later. This causes fights between spouses, parents to fall into deep depression, have anxiety attacks and more. I know for me trying to make the perfect Christmas gets me every year. I spend most days during December crying myself to sleep, wondering how we will make it work. How do I cut back this year without making the kids think Santa skipped over them? Or, if Santa didn’t skip over them, then Mommy and Daddy must have skipped over them. When do we take a step back and say, “I can’t do it”?

This year the holidays are very tough for not only my family, but every other family in America and across the world. With Covid-19 at a record high, our country is about to go into another lock down, parents are out of work and have been for 8 months, unemployment payouts have been cut back, and the “Cares Act” is about to run out for housing extensions. How do we as a nation still choose to play Santa and make this day the happiest day of the year? How do we choose to buy our child a gift when the next day we have to start packing because we are being evicted from our homes?

They say, “We are all in this together”. We are not. We are all in a hurricane; we are all drowning, and we all have on a life jacket but some of us have a cruise ship, some a yacht, a few are in a speed boat, but most of us are in a canoe or standing on a paddle board.

Mental health is so important right now to pay attention to. Instead of making it worse and harder on ourselves, we should take the time to redirect our little ones. Make a new tradition that doesn’t cost anything. Since it’s recommended that we don’t have large gatherings, use the extra time that was once used to travel from house to house on playing with our children. If we are one of those fortunate enough to be on a cruise ship, don’t brag to the ones standing on a paddle board. Be humble and thankful, quietly give back, don’t announce it. This is our new normal, so now is the time to make those changes and learn to adapt. Let’s protect our mind, body, and soul. Now is the time for us all to learn a lesson and the TRUE reason for the Holiday Season.