There was a time in my life -- before kids, obviously -- that I really felt in control. I had to-do lists that actually got done, I had a relatively clean house, and my free time was, well, free.

But that was then, and this is now. Parenting teaches us many things, and one of the hardest lessons I've learned is that control is often an illusion. And there's nothing like the holidays to keep that notion front and center.

Then: The Christmas tree was a collection of handmade ornaments and carefully selected

Photo from stock.xchng

Photo from stock.xchng

decorations hung just so. Now: I just bring up the boxes of decorations and let the kids dive in. I have managed to maintain control over the lights, and NO ONE wants control of taking the tree down.

Then: I spread holiday cheer far and wide, baking treats or making ornaments for friends, family, co-workers and the kids' teachers/instructors. Now: A sheepish grin, hastily written Christmas card and a trip down the aisles of Target or the liquor store at the 11th hour.

Then: When hosting the holidays, I would put out quite a spread, and even would set out the good dishes and serving pieces days ahead to make sure everything was just so. Now: Bring a dish to pass, and you don't mind Chinet, do you?

Then: The entire house had to be in shape (I'd never say spotless), especially over the holidays when guests were frequent. Now: Watch your step, and please don't go into my bedroom or open any closets.

Then: Music played quietly in the background as people talked, laugh and shared a drink. Now: Impromptu piano recitals and band concerts (which have gotten much better with experience).

Then: Would work to get out any spots, stains, etc. that might be in the carpet or on the furniture. Now: A flip of the couch cushions and a throw rug works for me. And candlelight.

Then: I had a craft room -- an entire room. Now: What? I used to have hobbies?

Don't get me wrong, I still wear the Type A banner loud and proud, and there are things I really miss. But as I get older (and quite frankly, more tired), there are certain things just not worth the angst. Embracing the chaos makes for a much more relaxed house, and a much more relaxed mom. Sure, those ornaments I made years ago might be sitting in a box, but I wouldn't trade the macaroni angels for anything.

Do you have a hard time letting go? What was the most difficult thing to give up?