My 11-month-old daughter toddles around the tree, entranced by the twinkly lights and bright ornaments. Her voice screeches with delight as she attempts to walk on her own, and when she tires she holds my hands and bounces up and down to the Christmas music, adding a whole new element of celebration to the season.

But we haven’t always spent our Sunday afternoons drinking hot chocolate and clapping along to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

My 11-month-old daughter toddles around the tree, entranced by the twinkly lights and bright ornaments. Her voice screeches with delight as she attempts to walk on her own, and when she tires she holds my hands and bounces up and down to the Christmas music, adding a whole new element of celebration to the season.

But we haven’t always spent our Sunday afternoons drinking hot chocolate and clapping along to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Turn back the calendar to 2009, and my house is dark, treeless and quiet. I am sitting the first of two open houses, enjoying someone else’s Christmas decorations and platter of homemade wreath cookies. My phone is sited within a one-ring "hello" next to my laptop — which is open, the screens flipping from Constant Contact to Facebook, and from blogs to the multiple listing service.

I waste no time in sending out "VERY IMPORTANT MARKET UPDATES," replete with the latest price-reduced homes and sales statistics for each quadrant of the city. I scroll through my cell phone and invite fellow Realtors and neighbors to come over and enjoy some hot tea and a biscuit; one more "Holiday Party" on a Sunday afternoon.

Sounds joyful, doesn’t it? Not really.

I hated that Christmas. I let other people run me ragged until I had nothing left for my own friends and relatives. I didn’t even find time to watch the holiday comedy, "Elf." And a Christmas without Will Ferrell in tights is just sad. Yet, I would place cash bets that most Realtors reading this have spent the holidays in likewise situations. And all of us would say it was necessary. We live on commissions, and if we’re not working we’re not making money. And then what?

I’ll tell you.

We miss precious and irreplaceable time with our families.

Hey, the best part of being a Realtor is supposed to be the flexible schedule! Right? Right! So make it so! You still have time this month to sit down with your calendar (or smartphone) and decide when you will show houses and when you will play Scrabble. Just because we can work 24 hours a day doesn’t mean we should. A person does have her limits.

So my point is this: Don’t let the fear of a missed sale or the nagging calls of a vacation buyer ruin this Christmas season (or any holiday season you celebrate). Instead, make a point to have hot chocolate with the kids (with big marshmallows and whipped cream). Put lights all around your house … on the tree, in the kitchen — heck, around the bathroom ceiling. Turn on the 24-hour Christmas radio station. And hug your family.

Happy holidays!

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