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Splitting time with family over the holidays

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Jennifer Surles Jennifer Surles 6 years ago.

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    We have a new baby in our household and I’ve already started to get the questions from both my husband’s side of the family (his parents are divorced, so there are two separate groups of family members on that side) and mine regarding where we’ll be celebrating the holidays this year. Before the baby, this was a bit of a struggle, and now it seems like it’ll be that much more intensified! With so many family members it’s difficult finding a fair balance. Yet at the same time, we really want to find some time to just be alone – just us 3 as our new little family.

    How do you handle special events and holidays? Has anyone found success in doing this juggle? It seems impossible to be everything to everyone.


    My husband and I had exactly the same problem last year at Christmas (our baby girl was 8 months old).  LIke you and your family, EVERYONE wanted to be around her every day of the holidays, and it really seemed like no one was concerned with the fact that we wanted to have our own special "first Christmas" moments with her alone.  It ended up turning into a huge argument the week before Christmas between myself, my husband, my family, and my husband’s side of the family.  While I really wish it would not have gotten as out of control as it did, we actually ended up setting ground rules for future events (with all family groups) as a result of the blow-up and so far, this year, things seem to be going MUCH more smoothly and I do not have the ridiculous sick feeling in my stomach I have gotten every year when I think about how we will split our time.

    First, my husband and I talked things through and decided that in the end, our immediate 3 person family is what comes first when it comes to where and how we spend the holidays.  We both knew he would be miserable if we just did what I preferred, and likewise with me.  So between us, we came up with a compromise to split our time.

    Second, we made a deal with each other that no matter what, we would decide between us what we will do each year and we will stick by it and stand by each other.  (As I am sure you know, it is usually very easy to say to your spouse  that you will do or say one thing to stand up to the parents, but when it comes to doing it, it is a little more intimidating … even now that we are older.  :smileyvery-happy:).

    Third, we sat down with all of our parents (I, like your husband, have divorced parents, so that adds a whole extra set of "family time" to the mix) and told them what we decided.  We were sure to let everyone know that we love them and we want to spend time with them at the holidays first.  Then, we told them that while we want to spend time with them, boundaries have to be drawn so that WE are able to enjoy the holidays as well instead of only stressing and running back and forth between households and meals.  We also explained that neither of us had memories of running back and forth between grandparents and houses on holidays, and it is not fair that our daughter has to have these types of memories simply because her grandparents won’t "share."  To our surprise, all of our parents were VERY understanding and VERY accommodating to our requests.  As with most "problems" in life, when we are able to sit down and think and speak to each other calmly and rationally, fewer feelings are hurt and more reasonable plans can be made!

    As an example, this is what we have as our "holiday" rules, and like I said earlier, I do not have the usual sick feeling in my stomach this year because my husband and I, along with our parents, know just what is planned and they all understand that they will not be "forgotten" when it comes to spending time with our daughter and us this year:

    For Thanksgiving, I do not eat many of the "traditional" foods that are served at Thanksgiving dinner, so my mom agreed to make a special "Thanksgiving breakfast" that will include all of MY favorites.  We will spend the morning with her.  My dad usually does Thanksgiving with his girlfriend and her family, so "thankfully :)" I do not have to worry about hurt feelings with him for this day.  Then, we will go to my mother-in-law’s house to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family.  The added benefit to this is that we don’t have to "save room" for two Thanksgiving dinners — we can enjoy breakfast AND dinner this year!

    For Christmas, our biggest concern was that as our daughter (and future children) age, they will resent Christmas because instead of getting to relax and enjoy their new toys and family time, we will be rushing from house to house and they won’t get to play until that night, or worse even, the next day!  Each past year, we would visit BOTH sides on Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.  In addition, we typically work on Christmas Eve (except this year when it falls on a Saturday!), so this makes the time even more stressful.  This year, though, we have ALL agreed to the following "schedule:"

    • December 23rd — Christmas "dinner" with my dad and his girlfriend
    • Christmas Eve — Christmas with my mom and family (my mom’s favorite thing when I was younger was to let me open pretty much all my gifts… she’s not patient enough for Christmas … so now she will forever get to justify doing that with my daughter!)
    • Christmas morning — For ONE hour (that my husband and I choose… most likely around 9-10ish), all the grandparents together are invited to MY house for a light breakfast and coffee and to see their grandbaby’s excitement on Christmas morning)
    • Remainder of Christmas day — Christmas with my husband’s family (his mom and sisters are very much into making Christmas dinner and the Christmas DAY traditions, so this works out well for them, also).

    I know this is SO long, but I hope it helps a little!!!  The most important thing is the the holidays make GOOD memories for you in the long run and not just bad ones!!! 🙂

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    Thank you so much for all your insight! Sounds like you know allllll too well what I’m struggling with this year. I think I can learn a lot from the type of ‘scheduling’ you’ve outlined below. I like how you have creatively incorporated everyone in some way, and how you’ve found ways to incorporate the parts of the holidays that each family member holds dear. But, it looks like somehow you are still finding time for your own little family – well done!

    I know this year will be hard as we work to set some of our new traditions, but I’m sure it will get easier over time. I hope! So much great advice – thanks for sharing.

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