I was a fully solo parent during the holidays back in the years when Amazon only sold books. (This is my version of saying that I had to walk to school four miles up hill both ways in the snow.)
Back then -- and it seems like ages ago now -- Christmas shopping meant begging my neighbors to watch the kids while I slipped away to Walmart or the PX for an hour. Or hired a babysitter. Or traded off childcare with other moms — an option that always seemed like a good idea to me until I realized that it meant having to watch other kids, too.
This year marks my sixth solo parenting holiday season and I’m proud to say that I’ve completed every bit of my Christmas shopping, weeks ahead of time, without entering any stores other than to buy groceries -- and I could have bought a lot of those online, too.
I’ve been Christmas shopping every night from my computer after the kids go to bed. The boxes arrive while they’re at school and all I have to do is keep them hidden until it’s time to start wrapping. Maybe I’m jinxing it, but I think I’m getting pretty good at this.
Must Have Parenting is never easy and the holidays make it even harder. But I have picked up a few tricks that take away a bit of stress and free up some time. Ordering presents online is the biggest one, but here are 11 more:
Holiday Hack #1 -- Skip the cards.
Everyone loves receiving holiday cards, but very few people actually expect them anymore. If it’s going to make you sad to send out a family picture with one person missing, or the idea of spending hours ordering cards and addressing envelopes makes your pulse quicken, just don’t do it. You can try again next December. No one who really cares about you will hold a grudge.
Holiday Hack #2 -- Free shipping day is December 18.
If you haven’t finished your online shopping yet, that’s the day lots of online retailers are offering free shipping with no minimum purchase and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.
Holiday Hack #3 -- Let the TV do some babysitting.
Did you know that there is a wholesome, delightful, Christmas movie on TV every single night in December? There is. And you’ve got like 1,000 channels, right? Don’t be afraid to let one of them help you out, especially during the school break.
Holiday Hack #4 -- Find the Santa with the shortest line.
Nothing frays my nerves like waiting in lines. Add kids and holiday crowds and -- I can’t even. We don’t get pictures with Santa every year, but when we do, you can bet that it happened on a Tuesday afternoon, or at some other off-peak place and time. Peak hours are for suckers.
Holiday Hack #5 -- Crafts.
Yes, this is still my column. This is the only time of year when you will find me encouraging crafts. Kids are out of school for WEEKS during the holiday season, and that’s crazy-making stuff for MHPs. But Pinterest is full of great, cheap, craft ideas. For instance, did you know that you can make a realistic version of snow with just baking soda and shaving cream?
Holiday Hack #6 -- Glitter polish.
If you’ve got a party to go to and no time to fix your nail polish, just brush a layer of glitter polish over the top. You’ll look festive, not chipped.
Holiday Hack #7 -- Put the fear of Claus in everyone.
Likewise, you don’t need to spend hours on make-up this time of year. White eyeshadow, mascara and bright red lipstick looks elegant and holiday appropriate and only take seconds.
Holiday Hack #8 -- Wrap the biggest presents first.
Still using wrap on a giant collection of gift bags? Wrap the big gifts first, then you can use the leftover pieces for the smaller gifts. Otherwise, you’ll waste paper wrapping the small ones and will have to go out and buy more. Or you’ll be the one walking in to a party carrying a patchwork franken-gift.
Holiday Hack #9 -- Candy canes were made for vodka.
Candy canes (like the ones your kids keep bringing home from school) + vodka = peppermint schnapps. Just put the crushed candy and the vodka in a jar and let it sit for several days, shaking occasionally. Peppermint schnapps is the perfect thing to drink while you’re wrapping presents and playing Santa. (You’re welcome.)
Holiday Hack #10 -- Go left, young traveler.
If you’re flying for the holidays, go left instead of right when you get to the airport security lines. People are more likely to go right so the left lines are often shorter.
Holiday Hack #11 -- Steal some time for yourself.
There’s so much to do this time of year and when you’re the only adult in the house to do it, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Find 30 minutes every day to go for a run, read a book, take a long bath or just sit in a comfy chair and stare at the wall. Whatever recharges your batteries. Holidays are supposed to be fun!