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I Said Goodbye to Mom Guilt and Had the Best Winter Break Ever


I Said Goodbye to Mom Guilt and Had the Best Winter Break Ever

Mom guilt is especially high around the holidays. My kids deserve a fun mom, but being a teacher takes so much time and energy I don’t have much left for my own kids. I always try to make up for it with the two weeks I have off for winter break. My goal is always to orchestrate grand adventures and experiences they’ll remember their whole life. But I was so tired I could hardly get off the couch this year. 

Teaching in 2020 has consumed my time and energy. I wasn’t able to spend my weekends in November and December putting up lights, decorating the house, and trimming the tree like I usually do. Winter break started with exactly zero halls decked in our home. Mom guilt kicked in right away. I shamed myself for not being in the holiday spirit and for being too tired to make the house festive.

After weeks of promising my kids we’d put up the tree “soon,” I finally put it up the Sunday before Christmas. But I threw a huge curveball by letting go of the pursuit of the perfectly decorated tree. Everyone was shocked when I let the kids go crazy decorating the prelit, artificial tree completely on their own.

They wanted it to be a surprise so they sent me to my room. Big sister supervised while I got in a delicious nap. They were so excited when they came to get me for the big reveal. The ornaments were all clumped together with large bare spots and the top of the tree was empty because they couldn’t reach. But they were so proud of their work. They even made paper snowflakes and taped them all over the house. They beamed as I raved about their work. We didn’t have our usual Pinterest-worthy tree, but they thought I was a fun mom for letting them be in charge. 

We usually make my grandma’s sugar cookie cutouts with multiple colors of homemade royal icing. It’s a whole day affair that ends in a kitchen (and children) covered in flour and food coloring. I just didn’t have it in me this year. So we baked refrigerated cookies from a tube and decorated them with sprinkles instead. And because it was so easy, we actually did it several times over the break, giggling as one cookie always ended up with a huge blast of glittery red and green sprinkles from a heavy-handed preschooler. 

Past years included a big holiday party with all our friends where we did makeshift hayrides around the neighborhood caroling and looking at lights. Then everyone gathered inside to eat homemade soup I’d simmered all day, followed by hot chocolate made from scratch in the crockpot. And, of course, those trademark sugar cookies. The kids played, made ornaments, and watched movies while the adults worked hard to control the chaos. It was the ultimate fun mom holiday spectacular with hours of cleanup afterward. 

There was no party this year. I never even got around to putting up our lights. We took family drives to see other people’s lights instead. Everyone piled in the car in their pajamas and we explored different neighborhoods, oohing, awwing, and ranking the displays. I started to feel mom guilt, but then I realized how much easier it was to focus on my children’s happy little faces, mesmerized by the lights, when I wasn’t rushing around playing hostess with the mostess to a whole bunch of other people.

I wanted to be a fun mom on the go during winter break, exploring the local parks and trails. But the work required to bundle everyone up, pack all the needed supplies for a day out, and then deal with all the mud and sludge afterward deterred me. Instead, I hunkered down on the couch catching up on bills or texting friends I hadn’t had time for while the kids built an epic blanket fort around me. Then we spent the afternoon in the fort playing on tablets, reading together, watching YouTube videos, and tossing goldfish crackers into each other’s mouths. 

I’ve always had so much mom guilt for not having enough time to cook during the school year. Therefore, past winter breaks were filled with homecooked family meals at the table to compensate. This year was mostly popcorn and frozen pizza dinners in front of the TV. But you know what? There was so much family bonding. We ate while binge-watching old seasons of Survivor, picking our favorite players and rooting them on in the challenges. We even tried some of the challenges ourselves right there in the living room. The kids laughing at my wobbly balance and inability to squat for more than 12 seconds. 

In past years, I poured way more energy than I had to give in to making everything perfect. This often resulted in more of a cranky mom than a fun mom, despite my best efforts. This year looked different, but we still spent winter break together as a family. I did my best to be present in the ways that I had the energy to handle. The kids had a blast doing things I usually discourage – like eating dinner on the couch while watching TV and getting cookie sprinkles all over the car. Perhaps these will be the memories they actually hold on to for years to come.

This has actually been one of my favorite winter breaks. I’m so glad I said goodbye to mom guilt this year.

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at [email protected]
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