Dear Is This Normal,
With the holidays approaching, we’re already being pressured by my in-laws to make plans with them. After not being able to gather with either of our families last year, we spent the holidays together at home, and it was so nice! It was relaxing and stress-free, which is the opposite of what holidays are like with my in-laws. We haven’t committed to anything yet (with either family), but I’m really not excited about the idea of driving our kids all over on the holidays to make appearances where we’re expected. My partner agrees with me and also really enjoyed our holidays last year, but is afraid to say anything and upset their family. Help!
Not So Happy Holidays
Oh, I imagine this very conversation is taking place in homes all over the world right about now. The holidays are always tricky when you’ve got multiple families all vying for a piece of the proverbial pie! There is only so much time to share with everyone, and it can feel like what you want gets pushed to the side in order to make everyone else happy. And that’s not very fair, is it? You may have family traditions on both sides, but you should also be able to make your own traditions for your family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it sucks that you have to walk this tightrope. If you don’t want to spend holidays with in-laws, that’s fine! That’s more than OK. But it’s going to take some teamwork and communication to smooth that over without ruffing too many feathers in the family.
The first thing I would suggest is for you and your partner to sit down and decide, together, how YOU want to spend the holidays this year. Set aside any other potential familial commitments, and just talk out what your perfect holiday would look like. What would make it the most special and memorable for your kids? Once you’ve decided on what you want your holidays to be, you need to talk about what you’ll miss (or what you’ll need to decline) in order to make that happen. I’ll level with you here: there likely won’t be a scenario where everyone walks away happy. It’s a bummer, but it’s best to go into this prepared to piss some people off. Is it nice to spend holidays with your in-laws and other family? Sure! Is it required? No, no it is not. Are you willing to potentially create some friction over it? That’s a decision for you and your partner.
If you do decide to skip the in-laws this year, it’s important to communicate with them as soon as possible that you and your partner have already made plans for the holidays. If you’re open to negotiations, then make that known! Perhaps you spend one holiday with them, and the others at home. Or maybe you take a look at what you have planned for those days and decide that you can split your time and still have the holiday you want for you and your partner and your kids. Before talking with your in-laws about this, make sure you have an alternative to bring to the table. But make sure it’s one you’re both happy with, and one that will not add a lot of stress to your plate. Remember, you and your family should be able to enjoy the holidays, too. And you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about wanting to make your own holidays with your own family a special and enjoyable time.
Personally, I’m a fan of designating a family holiday day that falls just before or just after the actual holiday. I learned very early on that trying to fit it all into one day was nearly impossible, and as my kids got older, I didn’t want to sacrifice their special day to make someone else happy. We celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we would do a ‘family’ Thanksgiving and Christmas the day after the actual holiday. That way, we were still able to celebrate the way we wanted in our home, while celebrating with our extended family right after. Plus, that meant TWO Thanksgiving dinners and TWO Christmas celebrations, which honestly? Way better, all around.
I want you and your family to actually enjoy the holidays—they’re such a special time when you’ve got kids! And if that means having to say no to protect your space and sanity, then that’s OK. You’re allowed to do that. I’m hopeful that you and your partner are able to come with a solution that makes everyone happy…more or less. Just remember: everyone else’s happiness shouldn’t come at the expense of yours.
Home for the Holidays,