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Why we ditched our families for Christmas

Splitting the holidays just gives me a splitting headache.

“OK, so we’ve got my family’s Christmas the 27th, the Thanksgiving party at my uncle’s at 2 o’clock and your mom’s at 1 — if we let the kids sleep on the way there, maybe they could get a nap in long enough so our lives aren’t a scene from hell.” my husband summarized to me.

I just stared at him blankly, already exhausted before the madness of the holidays had begun.

With families that buck tradition and actually enjoy getting together for the holidays, this season of festivity comes fraught with decision-making for our own growing family. How do we choose who to spend time with? Like the children of divorced parents, we often are left wondering how to choose sides without hurting feelings or feeling like someone is going to get left out.

While my husband and I were dating, splitting the holidays came easily — we would each spend time with our respective families, coming together only to spend time together as a couple wherever the night seemed to end up. But now, with our own four children, the holidays have nothing to do with us — and everything to do with our children. Of course, we want them to see all of the grandparents that they are lucky enough to have. So what’s a well-meaning parent to do?

Here’s the truthful answer I’ve come up with after almost seven years of parenting — nothing.

With one or even “just” two children, splitting the holidays came easier. We could still coordinate naps, make everyone happy and still feel like we had enjoyed a rather restful get-together. Once we become a family of five, and then six, however, the holidays suddenly went from a fun time to see our families to a dreadful nightmare spent trying to coordinate war-like strategies, complete with attack strategies. (Except the attacks were more like ways to sneak in our toddler’s nap.)

Finally, I called it.

No more trying to make everyone else happy while making ourselves miserable in the process.

No more trying to hit one house in the morning, another in the afternoon and yet another in the evening.

No more hoping that the kids would make up the lost sleep for the next week and a half.

I declared that from here on out, the holidays would not be spent running ourselves ragged. I claimed Christmas — our holiday of choice — as our own, to be spent at home with zero guilt. No splitting, no “stopping in” and no excuses necessary.

And for the most part, it is has worked. Our families have adjusted so that we can plan gatherings that work for everyone’s schedule and if the plans get ruined with a kid who can’t handle an upheaval in routine, I give myself permission to do what works best for our own little family. Because what kind of holiday memories am I creating if all my children remember is a stressed-out, frazzled mom?

Family comes first, even if that means putting some family members to the side for the holidays. Sorry, Mom.

More on family Christmas

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