The holiday season can be a magical time, but can also be an extremely stressful time. It can be triggering for some, or full of too many demands and plans making us so busy that we don’t actually have the opportunity to FEEL this time of year, but most just survive through it.
Tell me, do you find yourself extremely busy through the holiday season? All the school events if you have littles. The holiday parties at work. FriendsGiving and holiday get-togethers with your friends and family. Then the actual holidays arrive and you have to split your time amongst family and be on the road for most of it? Sound familiar? You can’t see me but I am raising my hand right now. This was me.
I am child of separated family. As a child I had to have my holidays split and be shuffled from one place to another in order to see both my parents and both sides of our families. It’s exhausting, even for a child.
Let me tell you a story. It was our first Christmas in our new home as our little family. We had Christmas morning at our house and quickly had to pack up and move on to the next home to visit my mother. Once we were done there, we had to go onto my mother-in-law’s home. From there we had to get my daughter to her father so she could have Christmas with him and his family. All of this had to happen by lunch time. My poor daughter never even had the opportunity to play with any of the gifts she had received because we were whisked from one location to the next, to the next.
We were on our way back to my mother-in-law’s house for lunch when my husband and I began to argue in the car. My husband pulled the car over into his elementary school parking lot and we had a screamfest. No joke. It was not a proud moment, but to be totally honest, our anxiety was through the roof! This was our first holiday together and it was nothing but anxiety, driving, traffic and frustration. I will admit I had envisioned our first holiday together in our new home to look much different.
It was in that moment that we made a promise to one another. Never, ever would we run around like we did that day to make everyone else happy, and suffer through OUR holiday together. It’s not how we wanted to remember our holidays. It’s not how we wanted our daughter (or future children) to remember their holidays.
We had to set boundaries. As a recovering people pleaser, this was really hard for me. I didn’t want anyone to be mad at us. I didn’t want people talking about us behind our backs or sharing their opinions with others. It was really hard, but I didn’t want to look to the future and have a redo of what that year's Christmas turned out to be. Something had to give.
I will not lie, this conversation did not go over well with our family. People were disappointed and upset, but we were prepared for that. We had to remind ourselves that by creating these boundaries, we were giving ourselves the opportunity to be intentional with our holidays and enjoy them. It was hard, but it was worth it.
So, what do our holidays look like now?
We stay home. Yup. We don’t leave the house. Thanksgiving is in our home. My husband’s work graciously gives us a beautiful fresh turkey every year. We stay home all day and watch the Macy’s Day Parade in our comfys, play, cook and eat dinner together as a small family. Later in the day we pop over to my brother-in-law’s house where he has hosted a large group, and we enjoy dessert all together.
Christmas Eve is a big deal in our family. We get the ENTIRE family together for the holiday at our home and switch off with my sister-in-law every other year. We have a small home but squeeze in 20+ people as best we can. This last year instead of doing a Yankee Swap (or White Elephant) and having people spend additional money for the holidays (which I think is a whole OTHER post in itself), we did the “Minute to Win It Games” with lots of belly laughs.
Christmas, ah, Christmas. We honestly don’t leave our house. We wake up when the littles wake up and quickly get to the tree first in order to capture their reactions on video. We make coffee and toss the monkey bread in the oven. *Have you ever had this before? DELICIOUS and SO bad for you! We start with our stockings and have a beautiful, slow Christmas morning. When we are all done with our gifts and our breakfast, our oldest will get ready and head to her father's house for the rest of the day. It’s perfect, but it only got to that point because we reflected back to that moment in that parking lot and learned from it. We did the hard work to set those boundaries.
I am sure people are yelling at their computers right now. They’re shaking their fists at me and telling me how selfish we are. That the holidays are about being with family and celebrating together. I get it. I agree, but for us, it just looks different. By having this mindset we actually find other ways to spread out the holiday season and make memories with our families. This includes a day after Thanksgiving lunch with part of our family on our way to the Polar Express. For another part of our family we have a cookie making brunch that allows us to get our snacks ready for Santa. For another part of the family, we go to the town's annual Santa Parade and have lunch together. We still see our family, we just don’t try to cram it into one day.
Let’s not forget the meaning of the holidays. It is not to add additional stress and anxiety to your lives. It is not to say yes to everyone else, and no to what is best for you and your family. The meaning of the holiday season is to have gratitude for the life that you have. I want to FEEL the holidays. I want to see the excitement and magic in my children's eyes and not be rushed or stressed or pre-occupied because I am trying to make timelines. I want to slow down and enjoy the simple things.
Setting boundaries is not selfish. Taking time to take care of yourself during this busy time of year is not selfish. Making both of these things a priority will only allow for you to be the best version of yourself, which in return will allow you to show up for your family and friends. Don’t dread the holidays. Don’t regret that you were not present for your holidays. During this time of year, let’s slow down and enjoy the simple things. Let's make it a holiday to remember.
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