Making Merry Magic: Holiday Survival Guide for Parents

A practical parent’s guide to joyfully enlisting holiday help to end the havoc

At the core of most holiday stress is a self-imposed belief that we must handle everything on our own. We become fixated on creating ‘perfect’ memories for everyone, often at the expense of our own well-being. 

It’s not uncommon to feel guilt when asking for help. Don’t do that to yourself. In a season filled with turkey, tinsel and to-do lists, seeking a helping hand and delegating holiday tasks isn’t a sign of defeat, but a testament to your commitment to creating the memorable moments you always envision. 

Welcome to my favorite new household word: outsourcing.

Outsourcing, when applied to parenthood, refers to the delegation of certain parental or household tasks and responsibilities to professionals or tools in order to save time, reduce stress and achieve a more balanced personal and family life.

Photo credit: Lauren Jeziorski

In other words, outsourcing is the holiday miracle that we’ve all been searching for. During the madness of the holidays, outsourcing isn’t just about convenience. It’s about mental and emotional well-being. It’s about self-care. It’s about being intentional with where and how you want to spend your time and energy. And I have a feeling that probably doesn’t include cleaning the toilets.

The Cooking  

Tired of cooking? Me too.

Lucky for us, there are hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t even bother. Finding the perfect pre-made holiday meal in metro Detroit is easy-peasy.

My annual favorite is Whole Foods. You can buy the entire meal, with extras, and it is always tasty. Most local supermarkets and gourmet shops, like Plum Market and Westborn Market, offer holiday meal packages. They often have a range of options from full-course meals to à la carte dishes.

Feeling fancy? Several of metro Detroit’s renowned restaurants offer holiday takeout menus. Imagine enjoying a festive meal from an establishment like Folk or Cafe Cortina without the fuss of cooking!

Detroit’s iconic delis, such as Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor or Livonia Bakery and Cafe, often have holiday specials. They offer everything from breakfast spreads to unique dinner dishes with local flair. 

Pro tip: Plan ahead. Many places will require advance orders for holiday meals, sometimes weeks in advance. Be sure to check deadlines!

The Cleaning

The holiday season is synonymous with festivity, gatherings and, often, a bit of a mess! Ensuring homes are spick-and-span for holiday festivities and cleaning up post-celebration can be a daunting, exhausting task.

Just know, it’s more than OK to get a little help. Hire cleaning professionals pre-gathering, post-gathering and for all needs in between. Starting your search early increases the chances of securing a booking in your price range.

Websites like Care.com, Thumbtack and Angi are reliable platforms to find vetted cleaning professionals. Be sure to check user reviews first. Friends, family or neighbors might also have recommendations.

Keep in mind that whether you’re looking for a deep cleaning session, regular touch-ups or post-holiday cleanup, be clear about your requirements. This will help match you with cleaners equipped to handle your specific needs.

The Decorating

How many arguments have tangled lights caused? Or misplaced ornaments? Does everyone start out decorating as a family, but then the task is left to one person? Don’t do that to yourself this year.

Local gardening centers and landscaping companies, such as B&B Holiday Decorating or Farmers Market Chicago’s Garden Center, often offer both indoor and outdoor decorating services during the holiday season. Some even provide workshops if you decide to try on a DIY approach with expert guidance.

Professional holiday decorators aren’t only for Hallmark Christmas movies. You can wow your crowd, too.

Find decorators on websites like Thumbtack, Houzz, TaskRabbit or Angi. Or reach out to local art and design schools. Students or alumni might be looking to showcase their decorating skills or even volunteer for portfolio-building opportunities.

Outsource Santa?

Personal shoppers are no longer found just on Rodeo Drive.

In a traditional vein, many upscale department stores and boutiques in metro Detroit offer personal shopping services, often complementary with a purchase. Stores like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue in the Somerset Collection have in-house personal shoppers.

But local toy shops are especially all in on the Santa game, making it super easy for parents to make a list and check it twice. For example, Toyology in Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak and West Bloomfield offers gift wrapping and curbside pickup. 

Buying locally also means you are tapping into local toy experts so rely on them to find the best gifts. Genuine Toy Co. in Plymouth prides itself on a unique shopping experience that not only includes toys you grew up with, but the best toys today that fit any budget.

In our modern world where all of your shopping can be done online, websites like Thumbtack, LinkedIn or Upwork can be invaluable resources. They can connect you with virtual or local personal shoppers or personal assistants. You can vet them based on reviews and their professional experience.

Instagram also can be a gold mine for finding local personal shoppers or stylists. Just try searching with hashtags like #DetroitStylist, #MetroDetroitShopper or #VirtualHolidayAssistant. 

When you find the right person, make sure that you’re clear about your expectations. Whether it’s a strict budget, specific brands or particular styles, the clearer you are, the better results you’ll get.

Wrap It Up

Many malls, like Fairlane Town Center, often set up gift-wrapping stations during the holiday season, offering professional wrapping for a fee or donation. Check local stores like Barnes and Noble or Sephora. They often offer gift-wrapping services, especially during peak holiday times.

 Some charities, such as local schools or community groups, host gift-wrapping stations as fundraisers. Support a good cause and get your gifts wrapped! 

Websites like TaskRabbit or Thumbtack allow you to hire local professionals specifically for gift-wrapping tasks.

Keep an eye on community boards or Eventbrite for gift wrapping workshops. Not only can you get your gifts wrapped, but you might also learn a trick or two!

TikTok Holiday Hacks to Try

The magic of Christmas lies in the details – the joy of giving, the twinkle of fairy lights, the scent of cookies baking. For parents seeking to create that magical, festive ambiance without the accompanying stress, we scrolled to find some fave holiday hacks on TikTok.

Christmas Morning Hack

Give yourself a gift on Christmas Morning: peace of mind. @muddlethroughmummy puts together a little tool kit filled with everything Santa’s helpers need to make magic. It includes all the batteries because no one wants to trudge to the convenience store for batteries on Christmas morning, multiple-sized screwdrivers because you know that you will need them, a trash bag or two and Sharpies to write names on toys.

Watch Your Tree Glow

 One thing is for sure, @kellyfitzsimmons__ has a ton of patience. That patience is rewarded with the glowiest Christmas tree that ever was. Her step-by-step tutorial shows viewers how to make their trees glow from the inside out.

Hot Chocolate Bomb 

This delicious viral TikTok recipe by @areesa for the ultimate hot chocolate bomb was released in 2020. According to the reviewers, this hot chocolate bomb creates the most decadent cup of cocoa this side of the North Pole. If you have the willpower, you may even be able to stash some away to give as gifts!

Paper Snowflakes

Paper snowflakes made with brown paper lunch bags took the world by storm a few years back when introduced on social media. @thekwendyhome shares a beautiful instructional video on how to use them in decorating the home. Her video has been viewed more than a million times since first released. These snowflakes are as inexpensive as they are stunning! Kids can make them, too.

A Wrapping Weekend

This is my favorite hack of the season, and I am not alone; 248,400 people agree! @McKelligan began checking herself into a hotel two years ago for one weekend each December to wrap presents. Well, watch a bunch of TV, eat take-out, wear jammies and wrap presents. Not only is she checking off her holiday list, but she is getting in some much-needed R&R before the big day. This is the kind of hack that you can’t mess up!

How to Have a ‘Silent’ Night 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time of joy, laughter and, of course, deafening cacophony that could rival the world’s wildest jungles. But who says the holidays have to be all about merriment and cheer? There is no written rule for how to do this whole holiday thing.

If you’re secretly longing for some peace and quiet amidst the chaos, try these five tongue-in-cheek strategies to ensure that you experience a truly silent night during the holidays.

The Gift of Unwanted Presents

Who needs those cheerful family conversations? Gift your loved ones a series of perplexing and unwanted presents, from life-sized garden gnomes to do-it-yourself accordion kits. You’ll have them scratching their heads in bewilderment and rendered completely speechless at any attempts at polite conversation.

 The Soundproof Festive Wardrobe

Introducing the latest in holiday fashion: the Soundproof Festive Wardrobe ala your teenage son. Hood up and earbuds in. This cozy, yet trendy, ensemble will not only protect you from the cold, but also turn you into a walking mute zone. Just be prepared for a few odd glances at the dinner table.

Caroling the Non-Carol Way

Why engage in the age-old tradition of caroling when you can stage your very own “silent” caroling protest? Gather your willing family members, or the dog, and silently stand in front of your neighbors’ homes staring at the front door until they open it to check on you. Then walk away. This should leave them puzzled until at least April when they may try striking up a conversation again.

The Unconventional Feast

Ditch the traditional feast for an avant-garde culinary experiment that’ll leave your guests speechless, literally. Imagine a menu of experimental textures, colors and flavors that leave everyone pondering the meaning of taste itself. Just remember, you’re not hosting a food tasting; you’re conducting a symphony of silence.

The ‘Do Not Disturb’ Decor

Deck the halls with giant “Do Not Disturb” signs, adorning your living space with holiday-themed notifications of forced tranquility. Add extra layers of confusion by placing them next to festive decorations and mistletoe, effectively turning the season of togetherness into a puzzling maze of personal space where everyone is encouraged to blissfully skate on their own ponds. This is therapy in action.

It Works!

Jamie Wallner

Mom of two boys, 4 and 8

  • I use minted.com for our holiday cards because they address them for me. I also send Thanksgiving cards instead of Christmas, so I don’t have to worry about them in the peak chaos.
  • I start making my dough and cookies and gift quick bread loaves a little at a time starting at the end of September and freeze them.
  • I order edible gifts for most of the adults on our list because I’ve found they don’t typically want more stuff and appreciate unique delicious food items. Plus, I love supporting small businesses.

Ericka Woods

Mom of 3 kids, 23, 18 and 2

  • I think what works best for me is asking for help. When hosting Thanksgiving dinner, I will ask my family/friends to bring the pops or plates or something to help take some of the load off me.

Maureen Brock

Mom to four, 15, 12, 9, and 7

  • I just started using Task Rabbit for things I’m not good at like deep cleaning my shower tile. I’m going to use them for wrapping presents this year, too.

Martha Oram

Mom to five, 11, 8, 6, 3 and 6 months

  • We host our big Christmas party after Christmas but before New Year’s! Many people are off work/school and things are a bit more relaxed.
  • For all our siblings, we have agreed to only give donations to charity in one another’s name! We love opening up the envelopes to see what organizations have been helped. Since the amount is not shown, it’s easy to adjust for our budget and not feel bad.
  • We spread gift opening out over all 12 days of Christmas so our kids don’t get overwhelmed and we get to savor the season more.

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Steffy McCourt
Steffy McCourt
Steffy McCourt brings over 15 years of experience in education, parenting, and travel writing for esteemed publications like We Are Teachers and LA Family Travel. Recognized for her commitment to advancing literacy and writing skills, Steffy is honored to be a Fellow of the National Writing Project. She collaborates with educators nationwide to enhance teaching practices and empower student writers.

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