It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? Whether you are a dad, grandparent, mom or caregiver of any sort, this time of year can be challenging, especially this year! In this episode we talk about the various challenges that the holiday season brings for our families and how we’re really feeling about “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. Listen in as we talk about our self-care plans for the coming weeks and how we’re working on our perfection problem.

Notes and Mentions

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Tina: Hi everyone, I’m Tina!

Serena: And I’m Serena.

Tina: And we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Serena: Welcome to our podcast, No Need to Explain. We are so glad you’re here!

Tina: First, a quick disclaimer. We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.

Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You will find mental health resources in our show notes or on our website,

Tina: is that time of year again!

Serena: You mean, the most wonderful time of the year?

Tina: Yeah, that’s it.

Serena: Hmm. I detect a note of sarcasm...

Tina: I can embrace a lot of things about the season but let’s get a little real here. Is it really the most wonderful time of the year?

Serena: Well, I would say, not for everyone, right?

Tina: I would agree. So Christmas for me, growing up, was quite wonderful and joyous. It was always something I looked forward to: watching my sister and cousins enact the 12 days of Christmas, eating my Polish grandma’s delicious cooking and waiting for Santa. Then fast forward to my parenting years and there was quite a bit of anxiety that came with the holiday season. Christmas didn’t seem as joyous a time as it used to be. Maybe part of that is that I was adulting rather than just being a kid? But I think a lot of our stressors around Christmas had to do with the anxiety. As my child struggled with anxiety, it was, we had our joyous moments, but there was so much that went along with Christmas that it was not the most wonderful time of the year. I’ll just say it.

Serena: I totally hear you. There are, I would say, so many expectations wrapped up in the holidays. I have a lot of fond memories of the holidays...and some not so good ones as well. Just the idea, for me, that it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year is honestly a bit exhausting and unrealistic.

Tina: Yeah! So let’s talk about some of the challenges that come up this time of year for families. Not only our own families, but perhaps some of the families that are in our world. Holidays are pretty uneventful in your house, right Serena?

Serena: Ah, there’s that sarcasm again. We are the houseguests that no one ever wants; especially this time of year.

Tina: Well, we hope to be the perfect house guests and let’s just say it never quite turns out that way. So tell us about one of your “Wardventures” Serena Ward.

Serena: Mmm. So I would say that between the excitement and the special foods, Christmas Eve always involves wrapping presents and cleaning up vomit. I really, I wish this were an exaggeration, but I assure you that this has happened every single year. And there was even an extra-special year in which there was an injury, followed by passing out and then vomiting. So, at this point, I think we’ve just come to accept this as one of our family traditions.

Tina: I remember that year! You guys are so amazingly resilient and brave and I love that you can laugh at yourself after the fact.

Serena: I guess sometimes that’s all we can do, right?

Tina: Uh-huh….So, I would say one of the challenges, other than perfection, at this time of year are the transitions. That used to be very, very hard for my kids. And not just the holidays, but the ending of school and the starting of vacation. And we traveled every single year of our parenting lives to visit extended family between 1000 miles and 400 miles away. I love my family AND being with your anxious children around family, in a new setting, is incredibly challenging. Others have different expectations, let’s say, about behavior that we’ve had gotten used to and there are clearly different rules in different households. And what I guess I struggled with most, most is the general lack of understanding for my child’s mental health struggles.

Serena: We have trouble with transitions as well in my family. Anytime something throws us out of our regular routine, we all suffer the consequences. And I would say one huge piece of that is sleep. Sleep is a challenge for my kids on normal days and then when things change, everyone gets thrown off. So, days off from school, traveling, staying up later than usual for special events, sleeping in an unfamiliar place...all of these are major sleep disruptors.

Tina: And for our family, sleep equals magic.

Serena: Hmm And how about the holiday perfection problem Tina?

Tina: Oh the perfection problem! It’s certainly a problem for me year-round and especially around the holidays. From the wrapping of the presents to….yeah….

Serena: Yeah for me it's about a lot of different things like holiday traditions, and decorations, and finding the perfect gifts and I feel like these things are all complicated by a child who needs and wants things to be exactly the same every single year and I disappoint, I feel like I disappoint no matter what I do.

Tina: Preaching to the choir. I am the Queen of making every cookie look exactly the same.

Serena: And I bet, and I know from experience that they all taste good even if they don’t look the same. So I am curious if there are cookies being left uneaten because they are less-than-perfect?

Tina: Never! I, in fact, I had a party where people took the cookies as their parting gift and there was not one cookie left. My husband was disappointed with that and yes, they were all gone. It definitely, everything needs to be perfect for me, and if I don’t get things perfect, I feel less than. Yeah...not enough….not enough comes up again.

Serena: Yeah, I hear ya and I think, even though it often is, we really should not be tying our self worth to our imperfect gingerbread houses. Since mine collapses every year...

Tina: So that brings me back to what’s so wonderful about this time of year. And I can certainly embrace some Jingle belling, and the magic of Santa Claus coming to town, Frosty and his button nose and there was one song I heard this morning that said that, ( I am not going to sing it, you know that) that parents can hardly wait to get their kids back to school again right and I can embrace that, I can totally embrace that! And Walking in a Winter Wonderland, totally awesome. But the most wonderful time of the year….ughh...just not so much. So Serena, the question for you is, if it is not the most wonderful time of the year, how do we take care of ourselves around this? Not our kids, because we are always taking care of our kids, but how do we take care of ourselves around this?

Serena: Right, I would say that we need a plan! What’s your plan Tina?

Tina: So it’s interesting that you ask. I will totally normalize that we are in a pandemic, first of all, and totally normalize the fact that I have been struggling. So I started seeing a therapist, and I first of all am super happy, she is awesome and really helping me. She and I are working on a plan so that I can make it through the holidays feeling maybe not happy but fulfilled, and boundaried which is so important right? Making sure I do things that are for me and not just everyone else.

Serena: That’s amazing self care. A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker say, “No one should be out on the 2020 street without a therapist”. And It was funny and so true. I’m so glad that you sought out the support you needed.

Tina: Yeah I couldn’t be happier that I made the choice. And I had practice making a plan at thanksgiving. We didn’t go anywhere. We stayed home as we were asked to do. And the therapist, really she kind of pushed me on what it was that I wanted to have that day look like. So I thought about ways to interact intentionally with other people which seemed important to me because I am a people person as you well know. And really the details of the whos and whens and how longs. I will add two of the most special parts of the day: Facetiming my mom in the morning and having Pumpkin pie for breakfast and the second was making Grandma’s famous chocolate mousse pie over Facetime with my adult daughter and both of those things were incredibly intentional and quite awesome.

Serena: So that all sounds really great Tina. And what about your plan for the upcoming holidays.

Tina: Yeah, so after practicing I would say that we are planning to have much shorter interactions with extended family and really still spending some quality, again, intentional time with people either in person or virtually after we quarantine of course. I plan to spend the rest of the time really intentionally relaxing. Spending time with my husband and my dogs, knitting, watching Christmas movies which I love, Elf is my fav. What about you Serena? What’s your plan for self-care over the holidays?

Serena: My plan is to try to be as intentional as possible around the holidays. There really are so many things that I love about this time of lights, baking, spending time together as a family...and I want to be intentional about those pieces so that I don’t lose them amidst the stress of everything else which sometimes happens. And since we’re clearly not embracing the idea that it’s, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” how about instead we talk about, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”?

Tina: Are you going to sing about that?

Serena: No…no I am not singing

T: Yes! The walking part! The walking part?

Serena: Yes, definitely part of my self-care plan too. So I was reading a list of winter self-care suggestions and one of the ideas was to write your own holiday story. Now, I think the concept behind that was to write a holiday-themed story, but I started thinking of it in the bigger sense of writing your own story and I think that by creating a plan we are, in a way, writing our own holiday story.

Tina: That is a super cool idea.

Serena: So Tina and I are working on a more extensive self-care themed episode for the new year, which we are excited about but for now, we invite you to make your own holiday plan. We would love to hear your ideas! You can send us an email directly from our website,

Tina: If you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe, leave us a review and share our podcast with others.

Serena: As always, please take good care of yourself while you are taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks so much for listening. Bye!

Serena: Bye!