parent opinion

How do you actually ease the mental load of Christmas? 20 parents weigh in.

Soul Origin
Thanks to our brand partner, Soul Origin

Sometimes I feel like an absolute supermum. Smashing goals, kids are happy and we're living our best life. 

But more often than not, I am making endless mental lists of all the things that need to be done. Then with Christmas creeping up on me, and us volunteering (again) to host our loved ones this year, that mental load has officially begun.

The gift buying. The food prep. The tetris of planning how we even fit 17 house visits into the holidays to see extended family and friends. The obligatory Christmas cards to write. The WRAPPING. I'm already sweating.

I remember last year thinking; I’m not doing Christmas next year. The stress of what to remember, to buy, to clean, to factor in (with two small kids to manage) had me wanting to completely opt out. I am, however, much wiser this year than last.

While you're here, watch the things mums never say at Christmas. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I'm opting to outsource (to family, and to local businesses) quite a bit this year where we can, and wanted to share some golden nuggets of advice from myself, and also other parents who have experienced the mental load first-hand, coordinating a family gathering and all that it entails at Christmas time.

Here's what 20 of us parents said.


1. "Now, in my opinion it's the biggest focal point: Food. We all know that’s the real reason we get together for Christmas. Of course, our families matter, but the platters of endless nourishing food with lots of nostalgia fused into it is where it's at! We’ve traditionally in the past always had a mix of Sri Lankan and Filipino food as part of our Christmas spread. The amount of time this takes to prepare, and create, it truly becomes a labour of love. 

"This year we’re opting for something completely different, to ease that labour and instead use that time to spend more energy and time with one another. We’re adding in some catering from Soul Origin. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life and time altogether in the one room is precious. So, as the host I'm pivoting and redefining where we want to invest that time this year. 

"Basically Soul Origin makes catering for a crowd very simple. Soul Origin are all about the fresh, healthy, nutritious, and wholesome food, and all I have to do this year is sort out the lechon (roast pig) from a Filipino Tita (aunty) and all the sides will be sorted from Soul Origin. They literally have 18+ salads and an array of sides to pick from. Music to my ears when you have to suit all the dietary requirements attending on the day. I'm singing their praises too because their catering can literally be personalised to exactly what platter mix you’re after. They've got a 36-hour turnaround time too so it doesn’t have to be ordered weeks in advance. Absolutely my way of rollin’." - Nilu

2. "Pop a post up on your local Facebook group asking for some paid help to get the house sorted, and by that, I mean, having a local cleaner or hobby gardener to take the pressure off, whether that's tidying up the front or entertaining area out the back so the space is ready for guests. Especially if you know that you’ve invited that one family member who loves to eyeball the dust and those weeds leading up to the front door! It also gives you time back in lead-up to entertaining season." - Sandreen


3. "Depending on how large the numbers are, there is something fabulous about not having to do the dishes after Christmas lunch. Especially if you have to do it all again tomorrow with the next crowd. Highly encourage you to buy compostable everything: plates, bowls, even cutlery if you can, etc. Don’t forget to also get a heap of reusable containers so guests can take leftovers home." - Anoma

4. "We used to spend ridiculous amounts of time, stress and money on Christmas presents for every single person. Sometimes it even felt forced, and you ended up buying something for the sake of buying something. While Kris Kringle isn't a new idea, try introducing into every single group you'd usually buy for. You could end up dwindling your gifts-to-organise list SIGNIFICANTLY. Less mental stress, and less monetary comittment too!" - Annesly

5. "I never take enough photos because I’m too busy feeding the kids or running after them. Delegate to a few of your guests who enjoy snapping pics and remove that burden off your shoulders. At the end of the night, ask them to bulk-share those pics to your phone, and superhost has reclaimed that title!" - Lina

6. "Spotify to the rescue. I save a few Christmas playlists and then Bluetooth it to the speaker. There is always that warm Christmas vibe when you’ve got the tunes pumping in the background whether it be in the backyard or in the house, and less worry hopefully on the host's shoulders to keep the conversation and vibes going." - Omar


7. "I no longer cook with dietaries in mind. I outsource (can second Nilu's recommendation for Soul Origin!!), so I can remove the stress off my plate. It saves me so much time and research just figuring out recipe alternatives, when for a similar spend anyway, I can have it completely sorted for me." - Jennika

8. "We’ve stopped buying physical gifts for our families to unwrap on Christmas Day. We buy online experiences and when it’s present time, we email through their gift so they open their emails instead! They're quicker to purchase, and no extra load with gift-wrapping or carting around when we're travelling to people's houses. It’s usually a dining gift voucher to a restaurant as we’re all foodies in our family. We also like that it supports locals in the process too." - Isa

9. "See if anyone else in your family or guests can pick up other guests who are arriving by plane or train. You’d be surprised that just by asking the question, you might have more than one volunteer!" - Vick

10. "If you’ve got 20 people drinking and eating at your house, the amount of empty plastic bottles or cans quickly piles up. Encourage your guests at the end of the night to take a box of bottles home to pop in their recycling bins. It’ll help – trust me." - Ben

11. "I always find that anyone who hosts is usually so busy ensuring everything runs smoothly, that you only get to enjoy their company at the end of the day. I encourage you to involve everyone instead. Ask for help because everyone just wants to be surrounded by each other, no matter if they are putting out utensils on the table or sitting on the couch with a vino." - Lisa


12. "If you have a bath tub, stop off at your local servo, buy about 10 bags of ice (or outsource a few bags each to a few guests coming to you!), and pop all that ice along with your drinks in the said bathtub. This is fabulous if you’ve got a lot of guests and a lot of drinks to keep cold, especially if you were worrying in advance that your Esky wasn't big enough, or how you were going to organise the spare fridge!" - Amy

13. "I love making homemade shortbreads as Christmas gifts. If there is something that is relatively easy that you enjoy cooking or baking in bulk – go for it. Beats a store-bought gift, and a few batches knocked over can make plenty of gifts." - Leona

Listen to This Glorious Mess where Tegan and Leigh share their go-to last-minute gifts that look fancy and thought out. Post continues atfer podcast.

14. "To make life easier for you at the end of the night, place a few rubbish containers or baskets in areas guests are in. It’ll encourage them to just discard their rubbish, and hopefully halve the clean-up job for later." - Neil

15. "To ease your mental load, ask yourself: what are the things during Christmas where the effort doesn't really feel worth it? What tasks can you do away with that don't feel important to keep doing anymore? If it's still something that needs to happen, what's feasible to outsource to someone else? What's in the budget even to have someone make it/cook it/clean it/organise it for you?" - Shell 

16. "Get your kids involved and share the load. Even if it's not done in the way you would have done it yourself, there's only so much of your time you can give! Think gift wrapping by the kids (done is good enough!), setting the cutlery out when you're entertaining for Christmas, and having the kids decorate the Christmas tree/cookies/name tags/Christmas cards." - Andre


17. "This one's for travelling from house to house to tick off all the obligatory visits to loved ones during Christmas. Set a time limit per visit that doesn’t feel overly short or long. You could even tell the host family in advance, so expectations (and boundaries, where needed!) are set upfront before the day." - Beck

18. "Sometimes I find when we listen more to what others want, we forget what we want, and by the time we realise it, we’re in too deep. So here’s a little reminder, enjoy the magic of Christmas and do things your way." - Dione

19. "Perfection is an unattainable myth, and often burdens the load and overwhelm of the million things I feel I need to get done (and get done perfectly) at Christmas time. So it sounds simple, but majorly lowering your bar or usual standard by at least... say 20 per cent, can really help." - Avery

20.  "Opt out of Elf on the Shelf this year! Save yourself 25 nights of mental labour of trying to think of 25 creative scenarios to put the Elf in to entertain the kids and just say the Elf's on holiday's early this year!!" - June

Try Soul Origin to make catering simple for your next Christmas gathering. They're Australian owned and operated, and with 138+ stores across the country, there's a Soul Origin just around the corner.

Feature Image: Getty.

Soul Origin
Soul Origin is the family that you choose! With over 138+ stores across Australia, this Australian owned and operated QSR business has been providing fresh food and killer coffee to local communities since 2011.