Make a list and check it twice
Chances are you're already feeling stressed out, and there are still days to go until Christmas! Now is the time to sit down and make a plan.
Wait until your little one is having a nap, or hold out until that quiet half-hour after dinner, and write down everything - and we mean everything - that you need to get done between now and 25 December. Don't spare the details - if you need to get your eyebrows waxed before your partner's work do, put it on the list as well.
Next, go through the list with a fine-tooth comb and decide what is really, truly necessary. Put a big star next to the most important stuff, the stuff you absolutely cannot live without this holiday, the stuff that must be done before the big day arrives. Do you really NEED to buy an extra string of lights for the tree and hand-embroider your baby's name onto their stocking? Do those bread rolls for Christmas dinner have to be made from scratch, or can you live with getting store-bought ones? Set yourself a goal of culling at least 10% of the tasks on that list because they're unnecessary. Be ruthless - your mental health and the happiness of your family are at stake here.
Once you've done that (and possibly had a glass of wine in the meantime to steady your nerves after seeing all those gory details in black and white), go through the rest of the list and assign the tasks to people. Do you really need to do ALL of them yourself? What can you get your partner to do? What can you ask other relatives to take on? What can you order online and have delivered? What trips can you combine so you don't have to go running all over town to do the shopping? What can you put off until after Christmas?
If you have older kids, they can help with decorating, food preparation, or looking after the little ones while you get stuff done. For years, OHbaby! writer Katherine's holiday job at home was to wrap all the family's presents (except for her own, of course!) so her mother could get on with the rest of the things she needed to do. "I even came home from university break to wrap the presents!" she says. "That way my mother only needed to take care of wrapping mine - and after she discovered gift bags and tissue paper, it was even easier for her." Discovering what makes it easier for you is what this exercise is all about.
Last, if you're up for it, take that big messy crossed-out list and rewrite it into a few separate lists - one for yourself, one for your partner, and one to assign to other people. Asking for help can be hard, especially for women who are used to doing everything themselves to be certain it all gets done. But asking for help is necessary at this time of year, so you're going to have to learn how to do it, sooner rather than later. That's the next step in our silly season survival plan…