Two years ago, one of my friends was talking about all the stress involved in the holiday season. It was the usual family drama, the over-booking, and the anger over having to do too much, to give too much.
I rolled my eyes and said, “Christmas is a bucket of stress.”
And I was right. It WAS a bucket of stress. First, I had to shop and buy presents that we could not afford. We went so far overboard, because we wanted to make sure that our presents “matched” everyone else’s, that they gave to us.
Then, I bought “evening up” gifts, so that one person’s gift wasn’t “bigger” than the next. I kept some extra gifts on hand, in case someone gave us something unexpectedly.
It was stressful, and it took all of the joy out of giving.
Then, there was the food. I gave everyone “food gifts” as well, because I thought they were sweet and fun. But I went overboard, making orange cordial, breadsticks, biscotti, carmel corn, and spiced nuts for everyone on my list. Not only did it get expensive, but it also kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to do the activities I wanted to do around our house.
And now let’s talk about the parties.
I worked up until December 23, at my old job, so we had one day to get ready. We would do our Christmas, with the mountain of presents, filled stockings, and a large home-made gift for the Bean. That same day, we would head to one of our parents’ homes to celebrate with them, before Beanie got a chance to play with her toys. Then, within the week, we would see my parents, both of my grandmas, both of Rob’s sets of aunts, uncles, and cousins (one set living 3 hours south of us), and celebrate with Rob’s family at their home on Thunder Bay (3 hours north of us).
We wanted to be easy to work with, so we told people any date would do. So, once year, that had us celebrating with my grandma an hour away from us, driving 3 hours north to celebrate with Rob’s family up there, then driving back 3 hours the next day to celebrate with his aunt and uncle who lived near us.
And keep in mind that we had a child with GERD and autism in tow.
While I tried to have “safe” food for Beanie with me (and “safe” food for me–too much sugar makes me feel really bad!), she inevitably got into the goodies. Which led to misbehaving, tantrums, and screaming at night.
We didn’t enjoy the holidays. In fact, we were so relieved when Christmas break was over.
Why didn’t we say anything? Why didn’t we speak up, even a little bit? Well…
- We love these people. We honestly enjoyed spending time with every single one of them.
- We didn’t want to cause drama. We thought that everybody would be angry at us, if we said, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that.”
We actually thought our solution was to buy a motor home, so that we could have a “home base” during the holidays, where we could have some consistency for the Bean, cook our meals, etc. And that would have helped, but it became unnecessary.
Why? Because some difficult events in our family, led us to change our celebrations. And everyone became more comfortable speaking up, as to what worked for them and what didn’t.
Now, all of our celebrations are in the same town. (Well, except for the ones in Texas!) Sometimes we have pizza, instead of a fancy meal. And some relatives, we visit at other times during the year, such as our “Christmas in July.”
The result: I’m actually looking forward to Christmas! We’re going to have some time to ourselves during our visit back to Michigan, and I’m enjoying the preparations.
Are the holidays stressful for you? Here are some tips that might help tame down your activities:
- See gifts for what they are. Gifts are not an economic exchange. They are an expression of love and caring. It’s perfectly all right for gifts not to match, or for someone to give you a gift, without you having anything to reciprocate. Just be grateful.
- Start small. If you want to give food gifts, then choose one thing to make for everyone. Then, if time and money allow, make something else, to add to it.
- Remember that they are your family, and they love you. They just want to spend time with you. Keeping this in mind will help when you need to set limits or make changes.
- Say, “I’m sorry, that won’t work for us,” if it won’t. If it causes drama, remember that the drama isn’t about you. There is nothing wrong with refusing to run yourself ragged. What you’re seeing is everyone else’s insecurities. Figure out why they feel insecure, or better yet, help them to figure it out.
- Say, “Can we get together at another time?” Start a new tradition, such as Christmas in July. Really, everyone just wants to see you, and they will probably appreciate the less-hectic venue.
- Suggest ways to pare down. Maybe you want to draw names for the gift exchange, or do a white elephant auction. Maybe you’d prefer pizza to a fancy dinner, or perhaps you would like to just do appetizers.
The purpose behind all the get-togethers is for friends and family to enjoy each other. So let that be your purpose! Life is far too short for this time of the year to bring stress.
Take some baby-steps now, and you will be grateful later.
Note: There is still time to buy my Advent Calendar. In anticipation of the upcoming holiday season, I am reducing the price to $0.99. Come and join us for a less stressful, more joyful holiday season!