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Keeping The Holiday Spirit With An Insane Holiday Schedule

How to Survive the Hectic Holidays
I asked the amazing (and wonderfully chatty!) members of the Courageous Aim Facebook Community what their major family stressors are during the holidays, and there was a large amount of people who identified having to split their time between multiple families as being one of the most difficult parts of the season. This is especially intensified when you are working with blended families – resulting in even more families to divide your time and attention.

As we grow our families, and as those families shift and divide, there becomes way more territory to cover with our time in honoring our extended families during the holidays. If you’re anything like me - and family and togetherness is your major focus for the season - then this can be not just stressful but painful. As a significant other who has a blended family that has been blended again (Yes, kind of like a twice baked potato!) I know this problem all too well. Let’s see, for our Christmas Calendar we have not just my parents and sisters to celebrate with on Christmas day but also my large family gathering Christmas Eve for my mom’s side of the family. Then we have Christmas with my in-laws, which is about an hour’s drive out of town. We also work around when my oldest two need to be back to their other side of the family, as well as the schedule we need to honor for my boyfriend’s children, who also need to be back to their mother’s to celebrate along with her family plans. And let’s not forget about the five-year-old who I personally think needs to be home Christmas morning to see that somebody came down the chimney!

Are you tired yet? I am. It’s 24 hours of running around and chasing the clock and it’s totally exhausting. Please, do not confuse this as complaining. We choose to honor these celebrations because, for us, we’ve been able to “make it work.” However, “making it work” logistically does not exclude us from the overwhelm that comes with working these tight schedules. It’s still really hard, and patience on all sides frequently has to be kept in check.

Running around from one house and family to another is draining. It makes it difficult to be present and in the moment when you know you have to run and get to the next place or deliver children on time to another parent. The kids have a hard time connecting with family when time feels short-lived. They’re tired, cranky, and bitter because they wanted to spend the day playing with toys they will have to wait until December 26th to get back to.  

So why do we do this? For me, it’s because the holidays are about family.  And the idea of missing out on any of our traditions with our families is really hard. Again, for us in this moment of our lives, we can make it work and there doesn’t seem to be another practical solution. When families divide and grow, shift and change it not only spreads people apart but spreads our time between them thinner. Strain begins to happen and, although it can be stressful, we are holding it together for the sake of the bigger picture.

So why do we do this? For me, it’s because the holidays are about family.  And the idea of missing out on any of our traditions with our families is really hard. Again, for us in this moment of our lives, we can make it work and there doesn’t seem to be another practical solution. When families divide and grow, shift and change it not only spreads people apart but spreads our time between them thinner. Strain begins to happen and, although it can be stressful, we are holding it together for the sake of the bigger picture.

Inevitably if you have a blended family there are some things that can’t change.  You have to share. You have to honor the moments they don’t want to miss with their other side of the family.  There will still most likely be something kids have to miss out on, though, for both sides of their families. That’s just part of families changing that you can’t get around.

There is no easy solution for this problem. At the end of the day, the only means for hectic schedules to get better is for some type of change to happen. Whether that’s change in plans or change in mindset, change will be what smooths down the edges in the situation. Here’s some ideas for getting through the strain of spreading your time among ALL the families that love you and your kids.

Changing Traditions: I have seen more and more families choosing NOT to come together on “THE DAY” of the holiday, but instead on an alternate day so that they can enjoy their time together in a more relaxed and enjoyable way. Maybe it’s with pizza instead of ham for the third time and maybe there’s a white elephant exchange instead of Santa presents or maybe no gifts at all. I see how this can work for so many families, because after all isn’t it supposed to be about being together? However, letting go of family tradition is hard. Some people won’t like it. Some feelings may get hurt.

Deciding What’s Most Important: When thinking how you will have to divide your time with your kids or with your in-laws it is important to sit down with your spouse or kids and decide what everyone feels are the things that are most important to them in how they celebrate the holidays with each family. Maybe it means more to your kids to spend time baking cookies with grandma on Christmas Eve than being there for the bigger family meal on Christmas day. Sometimes it feels like it’s all so important, but when we realize we have to give a little we need to know what everyone is willing to give up. From there we can make adjustments that feel better to everyone.

Communicate Your Needs To Others:  Be open with your people. Let it be known that you have a lot of demands on your time and that you are doing your best to make time for everyone. Ask for patience and understanding if you can’t stay as long as you would like or if you feel it would be better to visit at a different time or day even if it’s not the tradition and you’ll miss out on seeing some folks. 

Appreciate what you have: Whether it’s having to compromise with a spouse on who’s family you spend Christmas dinner with or negotiating who gets the kids Christmas morning, it’s important for you to keep gratitude in place and appreciate when and how you get to spend time with your loved ones for the holidays. You are not less “family” if you get to spend time this way instead of that way or here as opposed to there. After all, having too much family is not a bad problem and I personally would rather have too many places to go than not any.

Give Grace: Remember the hustle and bustle is hard on everyone including your kids. Try to allow some down time if possible. Acknowledge whatever feelings are coming up for everyone and let those feelings have some space before moving on. Understand some negative behaviors may crop up, so try to have empathy while setting boundaries at the same time.

At the end of the day I just think it’s really important to do what you feel is best for your family. If it’s hanging on to the tradition like our family does, even though it’s stressful, then go ahead and rock that tight schedule. If it’s politely having those hard conversations and making it clear that you need to do something different this year (which may mean excusing yourself and family from a piece of the celebration) for the sake of sanity and a grip on the chaos, then you have my thoughts and prayers that it goes easier than you think it will.

Whether you make it all work in 24 hours or find ways to spread that love throughout the weeks around the holiday, I hope you all are able to find time to spend with one another wherever or whenever you can. Happy holidays!

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