Handling Holiday Stress Together
Don't get me wrong, the holidays are a beautiful time, but we all know they come with at least some amount of stress, particularly once you start blending families. We've been together for seven Christmas seasons, for one of those we were engaged and this will be our third Christmas together as husband and wife. Next Christmas, we will have a little one joining us for the holidays.
We both love our families tremendously, but we have learned when to put our foot down for our sanity and when to just stand back and go with the flow. Here are a few tips for doing just that so you can protect your relationship with your spouse first and foremost, but also with your families:
Talk scenarios with your spouse early on.
My husband doesn't like planning, but I encourage us to go ahead and talk about how the holidays might work as early as I can. Usually this is in October. Here's kind of how the talk went this year:
I am not scheduled to work this Christmas, however our daughter is due the following week. I know we have to see my family, your family, and now your sister has her husband's family. Last year we did a Christmas day dinner with the three families and that worked out. Let's do that this year and have someone else do all the planning that isn't my parents or myself because if we are in the hospital or if she comes early we may not even be present.
Discussing thoughts with your spouse early on helps you two to be on the same page.
We can have a few "back up" options in case others disagree or need something else but also so we know what is most important to us so that we can stand firm where we need to.
Keep future Christmases in mind.
Next Christmas is going to be rough for us two. I'm required to work next Christmas. I'm a nurse so I have one Christmas on and the next off, and rinse and repeat. Christmas and New Years, unlike the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, is two shift requirements: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Years Eve and New Years Day. So the Christmas Eve and Day I'm on track to work will also be my daughter's first Christmas. That's 26 hours of work jammed into 48 hours of Christmas Eve & Day, not to mention I should be sleeping about 80% of that time I'm not working. But my daughter's very first Christmas? I don't want to miss that, regardless of her age and if she'll really "remember" it. So I'd like to do what I can to be present.
Obviously, I can't host Christmas because I'll be working. I'd like my parents to host next Christmas. My parents live the closest to us and to my hospital so if they host I won't be wasting precious time traveling and I can at least fit in some Christmas celebrations around my work schedule.
Establishing this now with my husband and briefly mentioning this with the family this year makes me feel like things will work out favorably for me next year and if people forget at least I know my husband and I will stand firm together; though I truly dont anticipate problems. But this year? We are very flexible and will do as we're told. Needless to say, sometimes there is a lot of give and take when it comes to family and holiday celebrations, especially once families start getting more and more blended with marriages. This year we may be easy going, but next year I won't be, so it's kind of like picking and choosing your battles when it comes to holiday plans.
Find time just the two of you.
Next year it will be the three of us, so for one last time (unless our daughter comes early) it will be just the two of us this Christmas. I'm not saying we have to stress over finding an hour on Christmas day every year if the 25th has jam-packed plans, but to find time during the season to get out and do something holiday-themed together and create a memory just us two (and just us three next year!) is important. This will be our private mini-Christmas celebration. Maybe we'll open our presents for each other then, maybe we will wait to open with others, who knows. I'm sure we'll play it by ear, but ensuring moments just the two of us (or us plus our kids), helps bring calm to our hearts in the midst of a busy season; especially if you are introverted like my husband and I are and find peace in personal events and smaller gatherings rather than large gatherings.
Create new traditions and (maybe) let go of old ones.
When you get married and have kids some old traditions have to be let go or modified while you're often forced (for the good!) to create new ones. The first year I had to split Christmas with my in-laws was very emotional for me. Of course, in many ways Christmas has only been improved by having more family, but at first I was selfishly not having it. However, Christmas is about family and sometimes compromise is necessary in order to spend time with the family you love.
With compromise comes a change in traditions. Maybe that means some old traditions are replaced by new ones but maybe it just means extending your celebrations. For example: last year, we celebrated my one major family tradition (Christmas breakfast) on December 26 instead of Christmas day. This year, it might actually be on Christmas day. But at the end of the day, does it really matter what day it it's on? Of course not, as long as we gather at my parents' house for our traditional Christmas breakfast at some point during the holidays. After all, it's about being with family and creating memories.