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The working mom’s Thanksgiving survival guide

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When it comes to big holidays, most people could use a survival guide—not for getting through the big day itself, necessarily, but for dealing with all of the hoopla that goes along with it.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday (Friends! Family! Nothing to wrap and give except leftovers!), but if you work a paid job in addition to (unpaid) parenthood, that annual Thursday holiday can really do a number on your sanity.

What’s a working mom to do? Here, let me be your Thanksgiving sherpa:

Be realistic about your availability. It’s a three-day work week for many people, but that doesn’t mean you really have only three days worth of work; there’s still a full week’s worth of stuff to get done in addition to holiday prep, cooking, and cleaning up. I’m not saying “Tell you boss you can’t do XYZ,” because, really, we want to stay employed, don’t we? I’m saying try to remember that, if the work week ends on Wednesday, it’s not realistic to expect that you’ll be able to work on Thanksgiving day if you’re traveling or hosting.

Prioritize. Which is more important: decorating the table in a manner that would make Martha Stewart proud, or loading it up with food? I pick food. My decor might be sub-standard, but everyone will be too full to notice.

Outsource. Do you really need to spend hours baking and cooking? Chances are, you and your guests will be just as happy with a pie baked by the market. And if you’re super-busy (or hate to cook), there are plenty of places that are very happy to sell you an entire Thanksgiving meal, ready made. Transfer everything into your own serving dishes and dig in.

Make memories. The most important thing you can do during the holidays is make sure you remember them. You don’t have to haul out the camera, necessarily (though my kids love watching old videos of themselves so much I wonder why I haven’t made more of them), but keep in mind that time together is precious and goes by so quickly. Embrace instead of trying to impress.

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