The holidays (whatever they are for you – Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or a Secular celebration of family and friends) can be many things to many people, and many different things over time to any of us. For children, it’s often a time of excitement, anticipation, and indulgence. For single adults, it can be a time of loneliness and a longing for a family of one’s own. For parents, it can be a time of trying to make everyone happy: children, grandparents, visiting relatives from out of town, and friends. It can also be an expensive and wildly busy time. It doesn’t have to be. This blog is about rethinking holiday responsibilities.
There are often enormous and sometime rigid expectations at the holidays. You HAVE TO spend equal time with each side of the family. You HAVE TO make those cookies of yours that EVERYBODY loves, and they’ll be SO DISAPPOINTED if you don’t. You know Grandma likes everyone there NO LATER THAN 10:00AM, and she’ll be SO UPSET if you’re late. And on and on and on it goes, until it feels like there is nothing joyful that remains about the season. New parents, and especially parents struggling with PMAD (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders), can’t always meet these expectations. But oh my, the guilt. So lets give this a bit of a re-think.
Maybe your family lives in town, visiting often, and you want to give your partner’s family, who are in from out of town, a little extra time with the new baby. Perhaps between breastfeeding, and pumping, and middle-of-the-night feedings, the last thing you have energy for is baking batches of cookies. What if baby’s morning nap runs from 9am to 11am, and you already know there will be a miserable time for all if she’s awakened in the middle? What if now that you have a family of your own, you want to start your own holiday tradition with your spouse and kids? There is hope! There is a solution!! There is magic to be had!!! You can conjure the magic thusly: “I’m sorry ____________________ (fill in the name of the family member or friend who’s laying on the pressure), but we can’t this year. What we CAN do, is _______________________ (fill in the activity you are up for, whatever it is).” We can spend Christmas Eve with you, but we’re spending Christmas Day with Dave’s family this year. We can bring some rolls from the bakery, and maybe we can make the cookies next year. We can be at Grandma’s by 11:30, after Emily’s nap, but feel free to start without us.
This is what we can do, and it will have to be good enough.
Will you get flak? Maybe. Probably. Will anyone die? No. Will everyone get over the changes? Very likely. Does it really matter that much if your holidays are doable and maybe even enjoyable? I hope not. Remember: family/friend or not, those who can’t make room in their traditions for what you need, don’t require you to make sacrifices for them. Happy holidays!!