My husband and I both come from large extended families. He has several siblings, nieces and nephews. I have two brothers and a plethora of cousins with whom I’m very close. Our families live several hours away, which means planning trips to visit takes time and effort on our part. We drive north and south a few times a year but we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like.
That sentiment rings especially true during the holiday season. Every year, I’m suddenly made very aware that we don’t live near our immediate families. People start making plans and we’re forced to make the tough decisions.Where will we spend Thanksgiving? What about Christmas? Is there a way we can see everyone over the course of a long weekend?
How do we work it so everyone is happy? Is that even possible!?
Do you find yourself in a similar dilemma? Your respective families are reasoning (pleading, even?) for you to visit on Thanksgiving. Guilt-tripping you into a visit for Christmas?
My husband and I came up with a plan to combat the issue and help alleviate some of the stress that comes along with planning trips and visits over these sacred holidays.
Separated But Equal
We decided early on in our relationship that’d we’d divide our time equally between our families during the holidays. Thanksgiving in South Dakota followed by Christmas in Oklahoma one year. The next year, we’d change it up: south for Thanksgiving, north for Christmas.
It seems simple but it wasn’t easy at first. If I’m being honest, I was a complete mess about missing my first Christmas away from my parents. It seemed silly, seeing as how I was a grown woman, but I’d come to love the warm and fuzzy feelings I’d get waking up on Christmas morning in my childhood home. I had similar feelings about missing my family’s Thanksgiving the following year. My mom makes a pretty mean feast. It wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t home! I was reluctant to go that first Christmas. We weren’t married yet, and I had only met his family a handful of times but it turned out to be more than OK.
Make the Most of The Situation
Do I wish I could be home with my family for every major holiday? Of course. My husband’s family ended up having their own set of traditions which made it feel like Christmas, if that makes sense. They served similar dishes during Christmas dinner and by the end of the day, the kids were running around playing with new toys while the grownups visited amongst each other. Much like what we’d be doing at my home in South Dakota.
As time went on, this little arrangement we had come up with became our norm. It worked well for us and having this sort of “schedule” laid out took away some of the pressure we’d feel as the holidays approached. Our families knew our plans in advance and understood that we were doing our best. It’d be unfair of me to expect my husband to come to my side of the family for every single holiday. Likewise, he never expected me to miss all of the family gatherings on my side of the family.
Adapt to Changes
We did this little back-and-forth for a few years until we had our first child. Our daughter is a January baby and those last few months leading up to her birth were uncomfortable. I was very pregnant and traveling for the holidays was not appealing to me so we decided to invite our families to Kansas City for Christmas. Not everyone could make it, but it was still very much enjoyable. We were still surrounded by loved ones and, possibly most importantly, my 9-months pregnant belly got to sleep in its own bed!
Now that we have two little girls, the way we celebrate the holidays may change again. We’re creating our own traditions within our family unit. Whether we travel or stay home, we’re always thinking of ways to see our families and spend time together. It’s important to us that our kids get to know both sides of their family tree.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter to me where we celebrate the holidays. I’ll be with my husband and my girls, making memories. And that right there gives me all the warm and fuzzy feelings I’d need.