By: Gwen Rodney of Meraki Lane

Brought to you by Mattel and TheCo

My life as a work-at-home mom is pretty amazing. I don’t have to endure a morning and evening commute, the lack of distraction, socialization, and office politics allows me crazy amounts of focus and productivity, I get to set my own hours, and I can hit the gym or run errands whenever it suits me without having to clear it with someone else first.

It often feels too good to be true, but I promise you that working from home isn’t always glitter and glamor, especially when you’re at the mercy of your child’s school schedule. I often find myself walking on egg shells from September through June waiting for the next sickness and/or school closure to send me scrambling, and the winter holidays are when I struggle most.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love having my daughter home and enjoy spending time with her and making memories together as a family, and while I like to think I’ve mastered a pretty good work-life balance, sick days, PA days, and bad weather days coupled with 2 weeks for March break and another 3 weeks at Christmas can really complicate the lives of work-at-home parents.

The good news is that I’ve been juggling the working mom life for 6 years now, and I have a lot of parenting hacks up my sleeve to help me maintain my sanity while still being supermom AND rocking my job, and today I’m teaming up with Mattel to share 7 parenting hacks every working mom needs to survive the holidays.

Mattel provided us a super cool Holiday Sack filled with the hottest toys of the season a few weeks ago, and my daughter insisted we include a list of the best Christmas gifts for kids at the end of this post as well to help inspire you during your holiday shopping. We hope you like her ideas!

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7 Parenting Hacks Every Mom Needs to Survive the Holidays

Plan ahead and always have a back-up plan. While we can’t always anticipate sick days and school closures, winter holiday dates are set in stone by school boards months and months in advance, allowing working parents ample time to plan ahead. Of course, life happens. Work schedules and commitments change, and babysitters get sick, leaving even the most organized parent scrambling at the last minute. If this sounds familiar, my advice is to:

  • Keep and maintain a family calendar
  • Double and triple check said calendar before accepting last-minute commitments during the holidays
  • Always add a buffer on year-end work project timelines
  • Line up back-up babysitting/daycare options ahead of important work days

Embrace online shopping. When I was a carefree 20-something with little to no commitments, I used to enjoy hitting the mall mid-December to find the perfect gift for everyone on my list. Oh, how times have changed! I now reserve one day per year to do all of my holiday shopping at one go, and I do it all from the comfort of my couch, thankyouverymuch.

Need gift ideas for the little ones in your life? My 7-year-old predicts these are going to be at the top of every child’s wish list this year!

Barbie® Dreamhouse®

While I was a huge barbie fan as a kid, I never had any playsets, so receiving the Barbie® Dreamhouse® before the holidays wasn’t just a dream come true for my daughter – it literally made me scream with glee! And let me tell you, this house DOES NOT disappoint. Standing at 3 feet tall, it has 3 floors, 8 rooms, a working elevator, a slide and pool that can be filled with water, transforming furniture, and tons of accessories. And did I mention the oven and stove top make noises, and that the toilet makes a flushing sound? My daughter has so much fun engaging in imaginative play with this house both independently, with her friends when they come over for playdates, and with me. If you’re looking for a gift idea for a child aged 3 or older, I highly recommend this. With Barbie, you can be ANYTHING!

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2018 Holiday BarbieTM Doll

When I was a little girl, my BFF received a Holiday BarbieTM Doll each year, and she had them all displayed on a special shelf in her bedroom. I was equal parts jealous and in awe of her – I didn’t have anything as glitzy and glamorous on the shelves in my bedroom, and I have no idea how she resisted the temptation not to open the boxes so she could play with the dolls. So, when we received the 2018 Holiday BarbieTM Doll, my excitement got the best of me and I let my daughter tear the box open. We had so much fun creating fun scenes with our Dreamhouse!

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Hot Wheels® Corkscrew CrashTM Trackset

While my daughter has certainly developed a preference towards playing with dolls and playhouses since starting full-time school, we’ve never been a family to discriminate between girls and boys toys. She rocked a ‘boys backpack’ all through grade one, and when the boys in her class come over for playdates, we never have a shortage of cool playsets for them to enjoy together. So, when we received the Hot Wheels® Corkscrew CrashTM Trackset, my sweet girl went WILD! Geared towards kids aged 5-10, this set sends cars flying around the track at a dizzying speed. What I love most about this – aside from the fact that it keeps my little one occupied for long periods of time – is that it challenges my daughter’s problem-solving skills by encouraging her to find ways to launch the cars into the corkscrew without having them wipe out. Oh! And if you have other Hot Wheels sets at home, you can connect them with this set and create an ultimate track for your littles! After all, Hot Wheels is all about crashing and bashing action and making it EPIC, right?!

PooparoosTM SupriseroosTM

If your child is anything like mine, chances are he or she has a bit of a poop obsession. I sometimes feel as though every store we go into these days has a blind bag, toy, or game about poop, so it was no surprise to me how much my daughter loved receiving a PooparoosTM SupriseroosTM! It came with a mini toilet, unicorn, and scoop, and inside the ‘tank’ of the toilet were 3 little white packets of ‘toilet paper’. We put these into the [pretend] toilet bowl and added water, and when my daughter used the little scoop she removed a miniature poop, dog bone, and watermelon slice. She fed these items to her unicorn, sat him onto the toilet seat, and showed me that he could poop each item into the toilet with a little squeeze from her. She was ecstatic!

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Pro Tip: The season’s hottest toys sell out FAST, leaving last-minute shoppers scrambling and often overpaying for gifts. Have your child create his or her holiday wish list at least 6 weeks ahead of the holidays so you have time to find, order, and avoid rush shipment charges!

Simplify. We live in a day and age where we’re encouraged to overschedule ourselves and our children as much as possible, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and cranky, and while it’s nice to spend the holidays with friends and extended family, the holidays are a time for us to rest, relax, and create memories with our kids. Protect your time like a newborn child and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to social commitments.

Create (and stick to) a daily plan. I recently started a new trend on sick days and school holidays, and it has really helped save my sanity. If it’s a work day for me and my daughter is home from school, we spend ~10 minutes after breakfast writing out a plan for the day. I make sure our schedule is structured in such a way that my daughter has a good balance between active and independent play ideas at her disposal, with a little tablet and TV time built in for good measure (LOL), and when the 2 of us start to climb the walls, we head to our local coffee shop for a hot chocolate while I catch up on my emails and my sweet girl enjoys her favorite on-the-go toys. She’s currently crushing on:

Polly PocketTM Compact

Do you remember Polly PocketTM? I do, and I have had a lot of fun re-living my youth through my daughter with our Cake-tastrophe set. In case you’ve ever wondered why Polly is so small, my daughter explained it’s because she owns a magical locket that allows her and her friends to shrink themselves down to a super small size. These sets are the perfect on-the-go toy if you’re traveling and/or visiting friends and family this season. Tiny is mighty, right?!

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MegaTM Breakout BeastsTM

If your kids love slime as much as my daughter does, he or she will fall head over heels for these buildable beasts in gooey slime! Each egg contains a slime surprise, and kids have to work their way through the slime to remove all of the different pieces needed to create their beast. This is a great sensory travel activity, and it will keep your little one occupied for a long time.

Jurassic World Hatch ‘n Play DinosTM

What I love most about the Jurassic World Hatch ‘n Play DinosTM is that each baby dinosaur has a special feature that is unique to its species (for example, T. Rex’s teeth grow), and that kids can put them inside their egg and re-hatch them over and over again!

Get outside! As tempting as it is to spend the winter holidays lounging in our PJs in front of the TV, experience has taught me the importance of ensuring my sweet girl gets a little outdoor time each day. This could be as simple as walking to our local grocery store together, but if the weather cooperates and we’re all feeling healthy enough, I like to do something active to help us

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all get a little energy out. Not only does this prevent us from going stir crazy and improve our moods, but it also helps ensure my daughter sleeps well at night.

[I don’t know about you, but sleep is VERY important to me!]

Schedule one-on-one time. I know this is going to sound super counter-intuitive, but one of the best tips I’ve ever been given as a work-at-home mom is to ensure I schedule some good ‘ole quality time with my girl. I’ve tested this concept six ways to Sunday, and what I’ve found most effective is to spend 15 minutes or so of distraction-free time with my daughter shortly before I need to do something that requires 100% of my attention (chatting with a client, writing an article, snapping photos for my Instagram feed, etc.). This typically fills her attention basket long enough for me to hyper-focus on whatever task I’m trying to finish without any interruptions, keeping everything calm and peaceful instead of stressful and chaotic. It’s a win for everybody.

Games are a fun way to connect with your child, and we’ve recently had a lot of fun with Flushin’ FrenzyTM as you can see from the GIF of my daughter below. HA!

To play the game, you flush the toilet to roll the die, and when you see what number appears on the die, you have to plunge the toilet that many times. Someone will eventually unclog the toilet, and a piece of poop will fly into the air! The first person to catch the poop earns a token, and if you catch the poop mid-air you earn TWO tokens.

Sounds a bit silly, I know, but I promise you it’s fun and that your child will thoroughly enjoy playing this game as a family!

Take time for yourself. I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the winter holidays. I find myself longing for time off from work deadlines and the general craziness that comes along with having a school-aged child to just relax at home with my family, but once we’re about a week in, I start longing for routine and structure and a little time to myself. Of course, babysitters are few and far between during the holidays, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to find ways to grab a bit of time alone so you can recharge and be more present with your kids and significant other. Contrary to popular belief, self-care isn’t selfish – it’s necessary!

10 Best Christmas Gifts for Kids!

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I referenced a ton of great holiday gift ideas throughout this post, and since I’m all about finding ways to simplify the lives of the mom warriors in my life (that’s you!), I wanted to call them out separately below along with my thoughts on each so you can click and purchase from the comfort of your couch. I also included 2 more toys suitable for the younger kids in your life!

2018 Barbie® Dreamhouse®

Ages 3 and up

Standing at 3 feet tall, this house has 3 floors, 8 rooms, a working elevator, a slide and pool that can be filled with water, transforming furniture, and tons of accessories. And did I mention the oven and stop top make noises, and that the toilet makes a flushing sound? My daughter has so much fun engaging in imaginative play with this house both independently, with her friends when they come over for playdates, and with me. If you’re looking for a gift idea for a child aged 3 or older, I highly recommend this.

2018 Holiday BarbieTM Doll

Ages 3-8

Whether you choose to leave this 30th anniversary edition Holiday BarbieTM Doll in its package as a collector item, or let your child rip the box open and play with it as his or her leisure, this is a great Christmas gift to consider. The beautiful red gown worn by this year’s doll is reminiscent of the dress worn by the first Holiday Barbie and is sure to add a little festive cheer into your child’s imaginative play.

Hot Wheels® Corkscrew CrashTM Track Set

Ages 5-10

Don’t let the simplicity of this Hot Wheels® track fool you! While it’s great fun to send cars flying around the track at a dizzying speed, this set also encourages problem-solving skills by encouraging kids to find ways to launch the cars into the corkscrew set without having the cars wipe out. Your child can also put their creativity to work by connecting this set to other Hot Wheels tracks they already own!

PooparoosTM SupriseroosTM

Ages 4+

If your child gets a kick out of anything and everything related to poop, this is a great stocking stuffer to consider. It comes with a mini toilet, surprise squeezable animal, and scoop, and inside the ‘tank’ of the toilet are 3 little white packets of ‘toilet paper’. Add these to the [pretend] toilet bowl and add water to reveal tiny and trendy food surprises. Feed these items to the surprise animal in the set, set it down onto the toilet seat, squeeze, and watch the animal ‘poop’ each item into the toilet for extra laughs!

Polly PocketTM Compact

Ages 4+

These compact playsets are perfect for on-the-go fun, allowing the little ones in your life to engage in pretend play while traveling and/or visiting friends and relatives. Each set comes with 2 micro dolls and 2 accessories, allowing for hours of pretend play and make-believe.

MegaTM Breakout BeastsTM

Ages 5+

If your kids love slime, these are a great stocking stuffer to consider! Each egg contains a slime surprise, and kids have to work their way through the slime to remove all of the different pieces needed to create their beast. Compact, portable, and perfect for travel, this doubles as a great sensory activity for kids!

Jurassic World Hatch ‘n Play DinosTM

Ages 3+

Kids can re-hatch these over and over again, and each baby dinosaur has a special feature that is unique to its species. The T. Rex’s teeth grow, Baby Blue the Velociraptor comes with food pellets that can be fed to her and then they come out her other end (LOL), and the Triceratops grows horns, to name a few. Add to your child’s stocking and/or keep a few in your purse for on- the-go fun this season!

FlushinFrenzyTM

Ages 5+

If you’re looking for a fun family-friendly game to enjoy, this is a great one to consider. To play, each player takes turns flushing the toilet to roll the die, and then they have to plunge the toilet according to the number that appears on the die. Someone will eventually unclog the toilet, and a piece of poop will fly into the air! The first person to catch the poop earns a token, and if you catch the poop mid-air you earn TWO tokens. Sounds a bit silly, I know, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to develop a child’s hand-eye coordination!

Fisher Price® Think N Learn RocktopusTM

Ages 3-6

This set allows kids to explore different musical instruments, beats, etc., and you can download the FREE app to your smartphone or tablet so your little musician can create his or her own music videos with their new Rocktopus friend. What I love most about this toy is that it will grow with your child over time, allowing him or her to get creative and compose his or her own tunes.

Fisher-Price® Little People® Take Turns SkywayTM

Ages 1.5-3 years

I wish this set had been available when my daughter was a toddler as it offers lots of opportunities for pretend play, turn-taking, and also develops fine motor skills. Also? It’s just plain fun!

Whew! That was a lot of information, but I hope my collection of parenting hacks every working mom needs to survive the holidays helps you maintain your sanity during the winter break, and that my daughter’s list of the best Christmas gifts for kids allows you to wow the little ones in your life with the click of a finger!

Whether you’re a stay-at-home, work-at-home, or work-outside-the-home mom, there’s no denying the fact that parenthood is hard, and no matter how good your intentions are leading up to the holidays this year, there will be many moments in which you question yourself and your parenting skills. It happens to the best of us, and if I can impart one last piece of wisdom on you, it’s this: embrace the chaos.

Your time is precious, so waste it wisely!

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

If you liked this collection of parenting hacks every working mom needs to survive the holidays, as well as my list of the best Christmas gifts for kids helpful, please share this post on Pinterest!