Alright, let’s get real. The holidays. They’re supposed to be joyous and merry, right? Filled with laughter, good food, festive traditions, and family. Oh wait. Did I just say that? Family. The one f-word that makes so many of us cringe during the holiday season. Juggling plans, traveling for visits, dealing with overwhelming expectations of who “gets” Christmas Day vs. who “gets” Christmas Eve. If you are in any kind of committed relationship, whether married or not— or even if you’re single— chances are you can relate to the stress the holidays bring when it come to dealing with family. And if you can’t and your family is perfect, then there needs to be a monument erected in your honor.
I’ve been married for 5 years. And lemme tell you—it hasn’t gotten easier. In fact, now that we have a baby girl, it’s only gotten harder. We are pulled in so many different directions and our family is pretty split between Northern California and Southern. So that means we travel during the holidays. There is no end to the stress.
In dealing with the f-word, I’ve learned a few things about how to survive the holidays. With a little luck, and a whole lotta hope, maybe we can all do more than just survive them— maybe we can actually enjoy them. Maybe.
The first thing I’ve learned is: expect the worst. Whether it’s your own family or your in-laws, it helps to just plan for unreasonable expectations to be placed on you. There’s no use in positive thinking. Yeah. You heard that right. I’ve tried the optimism thing. And all it does is set you up for some major disappointment. It’s far better to just plan that it’s gonna be rough. Then at least there’s a CHANCE things could be better than you thought. And, if not, we’ll, at least you prepared yourself! Wouldn’t you rather be pleasantly surprised than completely disappointed? Call it pessimism, negativity, whatever— but that’s how I find myself able to cope with the holiday madness!
Another majorly important thing to do is: set boundaries and learn the power of saying NO. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain about all of these things they are doing to please everyone in their family. If it were up to my mom, we would move in with her for the holidays so we could be there for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Everyone has their own idea of what you should do. The best way to combat that is to set expectations up front. Tell MIL Karen that you’ll be there the day before Christmas Eve. She can plan whatever she wants for that day, but that’s it. That’s her day. Tell Mom Linda that Christmas Day is hers after 12 o’clock. Tell Grandma Ellen that she gets Christmas Eve dinner but you are planning to be home by 7. Communicate what you are willing to give. Don’t just let everyone decide for you how you’re spending your holiday. You have every right to choose what you are going to do and where you are going to be— especially if you have a family of your own.
There is a pretty common method that I’ve seen when it comes to splitting up and planning holidays. The “taking turns” style of dealing with things. I’m sure you’ve heard of this— maybe it’s even your style. If it is and it works, great! If it is and you hate it— guess what? You don’t have to do it. Yep. You read that right. If it doesn’t work for you and your husband, you and your kids, you and your boyfriend, or just you, you can change it! My MIL is very “fair” oriented. Taking turns, being even, etc. That’s what she would love from us. But, that’s not where my husband and I are comfortable. Every year is a brand new plan of how we are going to share time with our family. Every year it’s different— and every year it is completely up to us. Our sanity is worth something. Actually, it’s worth everything. So WE decide how our holidays will be spent— and “fairness” is certainly not a priority of ours.
If you are dreading the chaos of the holidays, I feel your pain. I get it. But I SO hope that any of my advice can help you come to a place where you can enjoy them for YOU. I’m not gonna sell any of this as curing the stress of the holidays. Sorry, can’t do it. It’s pretty inevitable that there’s gonna be some frustrating moments if you have a family that you struggle dealing with. BUT I know there are ways to make it less hateful. And maybe what I’ve shared can do that. Let’s hope.
And hey, if it all comes crashing down and you just can’t take it anymore. Those cookie tins eat real well in a hidden corner of the garage. Milk please.