I remember opening presents at my Dad’s, but my sister had already opened hers earlier that day.
I remember being so lucky to have so many people who loved me and so many gifts and so much celebration… and such little time.
Holidays have been stressful for me as far back as I can remember. Even as a child I was constantly aware that time was short. Christmas Eve with Dad. Christmas Day with Mom. Thanksgiving with one, Halloween with another.
And so I always told myself that things would be different with my kids. When I had kids holidays would be about our family and spending quality time. Time has always seemed to allude me but with my kids it would be different. With my kids we would make sure they had that time.
And yet I fell in love with a man who has a daughter from an earlier relationship. A daughter which whom he shares time. And this same man has a family. A family that includes nephews whom I adore and love to spend time with. And a child of divorce grows up to be an adult of divorce. Meaning time with my family is still divided.
So what do you do?
What do you do when life is busy and time is oh so short? When you would love nothing more than quality time with everyone but time is so limited and its the holidays and you’re being pulled in a million different directions and…and…
Last year was the first year that I had to work with my husband to make sure his daughter was our priority when it came to the holidays. Our first act as a family of three was to claim Christmas. Just for us. And it was magical. There was no rush. No hurry to get anywhere. There was just the three of us and there was time.
But there is still the matter of family. And holidays mean so much more when you share them with the people you love. And yet time is short. You know you need to treasure the people in your life while you can. So how do you stay true to your immediate family while still celebrating with extended family and friends?
Here are some ideas that my husband and I have tried and/or will be trying this year:
1. Start an advent calendar for activities. We used a “12 Days of Christmas” theme but be creative and use what works for your family. When you map out these activities make sure you include different parts of your family. This will help make sure you plan time with everyone plus it builds the anticipation for Christmas.
2. Plan an annual event. Last year we did a family dinner with my husband’s brothers and their families. Afterwards we took the kids to look at lights and then exchanged gifts to put under trees. We plan on doing this again and will probably do it the first weekend in December. It gives all three individual families less stress of who we need to see around the actual day of Christmas.
3. Host a Christmas party. Last year it was (and its looking like this year will be) hard to plan time for my step daughter to see my Dad and that side of my family. My husband and I knew we would see them but during a time she was with her Mom. So early in December (again planning early) we threw a “Grinchmas” dinner. We watched the Grinch, had roast beast and let my step daughter spend time with my family. This will probably become another annual celebration. And best part is we did it on a random Tuesday. It made the week more fun and saved us from cramming one more thing into a weekend.
4.Compromise. Do you have an overbearing mother in law who insists on throwing a family celebration on Christmas Day? This may be the hardest part of the holiday juggling game. But if you are like me and want to avoid dragging the kids around on Christmas this conversation is necessary. Explain your position and offer solutions. Offer to help plan a Saturday after celebration with her instead. If a big family celebration is something you can’t avoid (or maybe something you love!) plan a day that can be focused on just your family. Maybe the 26th every year is the day you all stay home and enjoy each other.
How do you handle the holidays? What ideas do you have to help families avoid some of the hustle and bustle on Christmas Day? How do you deal with the limits of time during the holiday season?
Whitney is a newly wed and new stepmom to a beautiful nine-year old girl. Being a child of divorce and a stepdaughter four times over, she never expected to one day have a stepchild of her own. She blogs about this new-found role and her perspective as a stepdaughter on: www.stepwithcare.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on twitter: @stepwithcare