It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are upon us. With that comes our favorite movies, Christmas music, matching pajamas, and all the seasonal treats. It also arrives with quite a bit of stress especially when it comes to deciding where and when you will spend your time with your kids during the holidays. I get it – this is tough! What can make this even harder is when you live locally, or ‘just close enough’ that you can make more than one appearance happen at multiple holiday celebrations. While it’s wonderful to have so many options and families that are opening their doors, I have personally experienced the hardships that this can also bring. Toting children to different homes over the span of a day or a weekend can be. so. stressful. Hurriedly making dishes to bring along to each party with small children underfoot, all while naps go out the window? No thanks. And the pressure that comes along with it from family members? Forget it. This is a quick recipe for disaster and easily becomes a way for moms to feel exhausted and resentful of a season that could be a time they typically enjoy.
My spouse and I found ourselves in this position (again) this year with multiple invitations spread across several days throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. After years of trying to make it all work, and recalling how insane last Thanksgiving felt, I decided to do something about it for 2022. Together, we have made some active choices on where and when we will go to certain family members’ homes (aka we are only going to ONE home on the actual Thanksgiving day…and nowhere else for the remainder of the weekend!) and I have to admit I already feel the pressure off and am looking forward to the plans we have made.
Here are a few tips and thoughts that helped me determine what was best for my family this holiday season:
Make a plan early and let people know what your plan is early.
I know, this one can be hard because some plans are not made until after Halloween or even later. For many families though, there are recurring events each year that may happen at the same place. The earlier you can tell the hosts or in-laws that you are opting out or arriving at a different time, the easier it will be. You can cross this off your list as early as September knowing your plan is set in stone. This gives time for your family members to understand what you are doing and make their own plans accordingly.
Ask yourself: what if I just don’t? Or to be even more specific – what if I just don’t, this year?
I heard this on a holiday podcast episode and was immediately intrigued by this simple question. What’s the downfall? The worst that will happen? Will some relatives be upset? Maybe. But I promise you that they will get over it. I know that is easier to say out loud than actually experience it, but remember that the brief moments of discomfort from ‘rocking the boat’ will be quickly overridden by the joy you will get for taking the holidays into your own hands. You will always look back fondly knowing you and your family politely and independently chose to do exactly what worked for you.
You can’t please everyone.
I am full-on admitting that this one is extremely hard for me. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all want to see my children, and that can evoke some serious guilt in a people-pleaser like me. But, if you are local, try to get together with relatives every few months or so. This can be something easy, like going out for lunch or having them over to your house for a quick play date. For far-away relatives, send a photo album or videos to keep them posted on what your kids are up to. Partaking in activities like this all year round helps with the pressure that mounts around the holidays.
This is not meant to make you feel guilty for the plans you have already made or talk you out of a busy holiday season (if that’s what you want!) Self-sacrificing our own enjoyment for other people only builds resentment, causes stress and makes you miss out on the joy the holiday season brings. My hope for these words is to help give you permission to find the traditions and celebrations that work for you and your immediate family. At the end of the day, mamas, don’t forget: you deserve a magical holiday too!