I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for the holidays … the cold weather, the exciting events, the yummy food, and most importantly, the time spent with family. For as long as I can remember, I always looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed this time of year. Now that I am older and have two children, my excitement has definitely dwindled as my role has shifted from invitee to hostess. All of the parties that were so much fun as a child now require coordination and planning and my most precious commodity – time.
Before we had children, my husband and I gave little thought to the traditions we hope to create within our immediate family.
Our parents lived relatively close, and so we often saw everyone for every holiday. It was pretty much a non-issue. Then, I had my first baby, and traditions started to matter. I come from divorced parents who separated when I was 3 years old. So all of my holiday memories are of being shuffled between houses. My parents did the best they could with our situation, and we saw both families for every Christmas. Thanksgiving was rotated: one year with dad, the following year with mom, repeat. But I have to say, my experience had a profound effect on me, one that I did not fully realize until after I had my first child. I knew I had to explain to my family that I wanted things a particular way for the holidays; especially, Christmas. I do not want to travel with my kids for Christmas. I want to be home, and I want them to wake up in our house and open presents together as a family. I have done this for the past three years, and my heart swells when I think of these three Christmas mornings.
Now that I have my tradition for Christmas morning established, what about the rest?
Recently, our team was discussing our holiday plans and whether travel was involved. The majority of us split up our holidays to see all of our families. Because of the way that plays out, it leaves many of us super stressed over the holiday season. Ever since we broached the topic, I have been thinking a lot about how I allow myself to get stressed about all of the family get-togethers. I know I said I don’t travel, but I only meant that I will not spend Christmas night away from my home. Believe me, there is lots of traveling. My mom and stepdad live in Baton Rouge, my dad and stepmom live in the greater New Orleans area, and my in-laws live in Orlando but have family in New Orleans. In order to see everyone, we are either going to them, or they are coming to us.
A few weeks ago, in the middle of one of my rants about how on earth were we going to juggle all of our plans, my husband, who is great at giving me perspective, said “isn’t having so many family members want to spend time with us a pretty good problem to have?” And just like that, he was right. Let me explain that I really do enjoy seeing everyone, but with two young children who are no fun when they are tired, it adds an element of stress that nothing but a nap will solve. All that’s to say that we will continue trying to see everyone over the holidays, and we will do so regardless of the logistics and planning. I will admit that seeing everyone is easier for me because my parents live nearby and my in-laws are always welcome at our home.
But what if your family lives hours away?
What if your families have their own traditions they do not want to let go of? What if your kid’s naptime does not coincide with your sister’s kid’s naptime? This is when it becomes tricky. Personally, I think you have to be on the same page as your spouse with the traditions you want to create within your immediate family. Then, you can move on to deciding which other events you incorporate. Because let’s be honest, sometimes with children, it is just not possible to go to 3 Christmas dinners. Although, I think it is important to see family around the holidays, I also believe in boundaries. You have to be honest with your family, and they should respect your wishes. Prioritize, and as an alternative, celebrate the holidays on another date, or be the host and have everyone come to you. Try not to get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of it all. After all, chances are you are exhausting your children as well and ensuring a good night’s rest. Unless they got into grandma’s candy stash. If you want to spend Christmas day with your children and husband in your pajamas all day, do it. But if you do that, make time in the week surrounding to celebrate the holiday with the family that loves you.