The holidays are here. It is the most wonderful time of the year. Well sort of…um maybe we should add the most stressful time of the year? Family plays a huge role in what the holidays will be like. Here in lies the holiday debate. Where do we go this year?
Sometime when you are far away and trying to decide where to go and for how long it could be a recipe for disaster…but there is hope, it doesn’t have to be this way.
My family is a military family, which means we often don’t live close to our family. And on years when we get to go home for the holidays it is a special treat. Some families (even non-military families) must pick which family they visit when they travel home, but my husband’s family and mine live about an hour apart so we get to see both when we travel home.
When we first were in the military, friends would say, “You are so lucky, you can see both families in one trip.” My response would often be, “Sort of, but it makes for a little bit of drama and one crazy trip.” Now that I am a stay at home mom and trips to see family are less of an option the farther we move away. I’m glad we can make one trip home to see both families.
After a few trips home we have learned a thing or two
Now that we have been married for over ten years and have made several trips home we have learned how to set boundaries for ourselves. And how to make choices to make it work best for our families.
Is it completely fair split down the middle?
Is everyone happy?
But my husband and I are happy and know that we have made the best choice for our family. Now I’m passing along some of the tips I have learned to help you as you approach the holiday season.
Hopefully, some of the things we have learned will help you as you navigate this sometime difficult situation.
Set boundaries for yourself
- If you are reading this, you might have children and to quote my sister, “You hold all the cards.” You hold more of the ability to set the ground rules for how the holidays will play out than you realize. Grandparents want to see their grandchildren and if you are firm and reasonable you can have what you want and also allow families to spend maximum amount of time with your kids during the holiday season.
- This rule also applies if you don’t have children. You always hold the cards and have a say in where you go and what you do. Don’t forget the important role your voice plays.
- This rule is hard for me to follow, even though I know it. I have to continually say it outloud to remind myself that my feelings are important.
Know that someone will be disappointed, but that’s okay
- When we first started traveling home we would drive from here to there to see everyone in our short visits back. Over time we learned that wasn’t healthy and made for a very stressful “vacation.” Now we work to see as many people at big events as we can. We try to spend quality time with family, but we set the limitations that didn’t have us driving every direction to see anyone. We travel to come home and if people want to see us they often have to come the last bit of distance to see us.
- Make sure you communicate openly and clearly to everyone you want to see when and how they can see you. If you openly communicate people will be able to move their schedules around to see you. And if it doesn’t work out, then you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
Figure out what events are the most important to each family
- To come up with a plan for Christmas Day we had to ask our families what was most important to them. When we knew what event was the most important we were able to come up with a schedule that accommodated both families.
- You also have to ask yourself what is most important to you. Maybe spending time alone as a family opening gifts without the rest of the family is important. Try to find a way to make things fit together, but don’t forget rule number one, you hold the cards and ensure that things that are important to your core family are your top priority.
Enjoy the Holidays
- The holidays are about celebrating, not rushing and checking off lists. Although sometimes we cram so much into our schedules we seem to forget this. Take time to pause and enjoy the time you have with family. Especially if you are like us and don’t get to see your family very often.
- Soak up these memories and stop and remember what the holidays are all about.
Those are my top four tips help navigate the holidays. I hope they help you as you begin to plan your holiday game plan.
What tips would you add?