Ah, the holidays! Such a wonderful time of good cheer, peace among men, women, children and relatives--you wish!

You planned ahead this year--none of that last second holiday rush for you. You requested Friday afternoon off months ago so you could attend your eight-year-old’s stellar debut as a camel in the holiday school play. You assigned chores to each member of the family and instructed them meticulously so all would be ready for the onslaught of relatives. You bought all the necessary decorations and supplies right after Thanksgiving.

Yet, here you are, Friday afternoon of the school play, doing emergency fill-in duty at the office for your co-worker who called in sick with the flu. Your mother-in-law and your Aunt Ethel, the two biggest criticizers in the family announced their early arrival, before you’ve had a chance to thoroughly clean the house and get all the decorations up. What's more, the coconut snowballs you baked last night turned into inedible charred rocks and need to be redone.

Whatever happened to your perfectly planned holiday? Nothing is working the way it was supposed to. Your child will be terribly disappointed, your mother-in-law and your Aunt Ethel will be gossiping to everyone about what an appalling housekeeper you are, and you’ll be reduced to store-bought macaroons. But most of all, you’re now stressed and frustrated--a dreadful way to experience the holidays. You want to shake everyone and everything that stood in the way of your perfect holiday and yell: “It works my way or I’m out of the sleigh!”

Which, of course, you can’t. There are too many people and plans depending on your participation. But instead of dragging yourself through the holidays because things didn’t happen the way you envisioned, practice a little “peace among men” with yourself.

Perfection is impossible, so relax. Trying to please everyone, meet everyone else’s standards of cooking, cleaning, presents, decorations, etc. not only won’t happen, it isn’t the point of the holidays. Remember, it is a time to get together with those we love, and remember the essence of our common humanity--love, compassion, caring.

You’re not the only working parent who missed a child’s performance and your child, although disappointed, will survive. Your mother-in-law and aunt will gossip no matter how diligent your housekeeping skills. Your special dinner will still be special even without homemade macaroons. Take a deep breath. Step back. Remind yourself of what a good and worthwhile human being you are, day in and day out. Decide to enjoy the holidays, however imperfect they may be. Look upon those you love with a happy heart. Be easy on yourself and them and your holidays will indeed be happy.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a respected psychologist, consultant, speaker and author. Her most recent book is "The Power of Appreciation in Everyday Life (Insomniac Press, 2006). For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives--at work, at home and in relationships. Dr. Nelson welcomes your comments via email (nnelson@dr.noellenelson.com). You can visit Dr. Nelson anytime at www.noellenelson.com.