Holiday Blues

I always wondered how some people could hate the holiday season so much.

After all, I grew up in Leave it To Beaver land. My parents were not divorced and I had lots of family around. I always got lots of presents, we had huge meals and then we played board games. It was straight out of a friggin commercial for cryin out loud. So I naturally assumed that everyone had the same experience and wondered how the hell anyone could hate the holidays.

MJ had a different experience. No need to go into details, but her parents were divorced and she felt like she was often choosing who she loved more by having to decide where to celebrate the holidays. It ramped her anxiety up so much that eventually she began skipping the whole process by spending part of the holidays in Florida.

Just before we got engaged in Dec. 2004, my parents asked me where we were spending Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I asked MJ and her face went white. She was so unhappy just thinking about it and I quickly realized not everyone shares the joys of the holiday season. When I started mapping out how we could make it to my parents, then her mom’s, then her dad’s she kind of went nuts. She told me that was too much jumping around. Then, she begged me to just do our own thing and let people come to us if they were interested.

To be honest, I was appalled.

I love MJ, but in my eyes the holidays are a day for family. Not to spend either Thanksgiving or Christmas with family is just foreign to me. It would feel all wrong. In short, I would hate it and I made that plainly obvious. Then she basically curled up into the fetal position and said the words every guy dreads:

“Fine. You decide what to do and I’ll go along with it.”

We have faced this dilemma every single year since. She wants nothing to do with the holidays and I want to visit everybody. And now with Will in the picture, it gets even harder. EVERYONE wants us to come around. And I don’t have a problem with that, but the thought of going to three different houses on a given day just crushes MJ. Seriously, it makes her physically ill. But if we decide to do just one person per holiday, she feels just as bad because she feels incredibly guilty for leaving anyone out.

Her ideal scenario is to host the holidays at our condo and let anyone interested come to us. But there are problems with that. First of all, we don’t have a lot of space and things would be cramped. Second, a lot of family members are allergic to our dogs and cats. And lastly, some of our family members have hosted for as long as we can remember. Other family depend on them to provide dinner, and I don’t think we can expect them to say “Oh well, we’ll just drive all the way down to the Cape and forego all tradition.”

My big mistake though, was that I told MJ when we had a kid we’d let everyone come to us. I admit, I said it. But I didn’t think it through and I think it’s impossible now. I can’t imagine withholding Will from any of our family members on his first Christmas. I know it’s tough to drive around everywhere, but I would do it. MJ, on the other hand, told me I could bring Will wherever I wanted but she’s staying home. As if that’s really an option.

So, I have no idea what I’m going to do. Anyone have any solutions?

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26 thoughts on “Holiday Blues

  1. I hate to say it, but I have to say that I think you should stay home and let them come to you. I HATE holidays with a passion. I am the biggest scrooge. My kids are old enough now that they just know not to discuss holidays and X-mas around me. And once I had my first child I told my husband, “they want to see the baby, they come here to us”. We also live in a condo so I knew space was an issue, but too bad. I was not about to drive around in the cold carting my baby everywhere. It is a day for families, even if it just means your immediate family. And mostly everyone I know felt the same way. Once you have kids, you don’t do all the traveling that you used to. You start your own traditions with your own families. We spend the day at home, just us playing games and relaxing. Maybe you can travel to see family on Christmas Eve instead?

  2. Been there….still dealing with it. No matter what I do I always feel like someone gets let down. Even now, living near only my family I still feel bad because that means my husband’s family is missing seeing my son at christmas. Do we travel? Do we stay home? I am in favor of staying home but it’s my family that is nearby. If you come up with a solution to the problem I’d love to hear it.

  3. Jump off the Sagamore? Some holidays I feel like it.

    Parents always expect the “kids” to come “home” because that’s the way it is.

    MJ has to suck it up and take one for the team in this case.

    Personally, I am facing 1200 miles of travel to visit my mother and in-laws for the season. Just gotta do it.

  4. If you have any of your weekends open in December, see if it is possible for you to visit the three locations on different days and celebrate Christmas early…or save your parents house for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and do the other two on different days?

    I know what it is like to loathe the Christmas holiday season…I used to until I met my husband. And since Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday, we have decided to do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his. Works out really well for us and there’s no guilt.

    Whatever you choose to do, start your own family traditions – just the three of you…that might make the holidays a little bit better for her. You have your own family now and it’s important – not just for her – for you to recognize that.

    Good luck!

  5. Whew…I’m in the same position as MJ (child of divorce with parents remarried, etc). A couple of years ago when my brothers and I got married (and we had son #1) the plans evolved because those lovely sit down dinners with china on the table and the game on in the family room no longer suited a kid friend Christmas. Here’s what we do, and it may not work for you, but it does for us.
    All the grandparents want to see my boys open presents and feed us. DONE!
    We go to my mother’s a week before Christmas (when everyone’s schedule is free) and we do a huge food spread on Sunday watching football in one room and kid movies in another. We open a couple of presents and eat some more.
    Then we go to my father’s place for Christmas Eve mass and tamale fest. YUM.
    Christmas morning is at home with our boys in jammies. My in laws are a little older and have actually gotten excited that they get to come to our house to watch the boys open gifts. (My food spread is less fancy, more family style.) I get one of those premade/planned meals from the local deli. It comes fully cooked with sides, all I do is throw it in the oven and heat up the stuffing, veggies, etc. We get a pot of coffee going, throw in mimosas and beers for those partaking and just lounge.
    It’s easier with kids who get up early and open presents to be mellow and let them crash for naps in their own beds, in their own place. Any of our parents, brothers & wives, friends working Christmas Day can pop in and grab a quick bite, watch some tv and play with whatever Santa left the ‘kids’.
    My boys will be 3 and 8 months when Christmas arrives so dragging them, in holiday clothes, with their gear for eating/diapers/etc. someplace where their toys AREN’T is not in any way appealing/relaxing for hubby and I.
    Hope this helps, and remember that you are going to remember Will’s first Christmas more than most others that follow. Wherever you guys decide to go/stay, someone will have to adapt and they will love just spending the day with Will.

  6. Can you explain some of this to your family or hers? Maybe see if one of the families can do a big Holiday Party after Christmas. That way, there is no pressure to go that day, and you still get to see everyone. Maybe host it at your house.

    Rick’s family does that. The weekend after Christmas, the whole family gets together and we eat and do a gift swap (they actually invite all the in-laws too). That way we don’t feel guilty going to my parents on Christmas day, and spend a quiet night alone together on Christmas eve.

    I know it’s not the same as getting together on that day, but it could be a nice compromise.

  7. I agree with Beachdog. It matters to you and your primary family. MJ needs to “suck it up.” Maybe when Will gets a little older you can start new traditions based at your house. How will Santa find him if he is not at home? :-)

  8. I competely disagree with beachdog and chelseadawg. You people must be heartless. It can extremly traumatic dealing with the guilt of having divorced parents. Mj will suck it up because she wants to make you happy. Just remember that all that running around with a young child will throw him off of his schedule. So when he his fussy and screaming and your wife’s suffering because her chrone’s is acting up from all the stress, YOU wanted “YOUR ideal holiday”! You said you’d stay home be a man live up to your end of the bargain or at least allow her peace of mind and let her stay home.

  9. I’m in the same boat however I have a few more years experience. I LOVE the holidays – already have my Christmas Tree shining! My husband had a similar upbringing to your wife’s (but his mother has had 5 divorces so you can just imagine). Here is what we do:

    I let one family have Christmas Day, the other Thanksgiving Day. Then I switch each year. Now the other family could still have Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas for example but we do block off Christmas Morning for just our little family unit. The reason I blocked off that special time just for us is to make my husband relax and realize why people like us like the holidays. He gets to see his daughter’s faces light up. They cuddle. Rip paper. Sit in amazement over thinking about Santa having snuck into the den that night. He gets it now.

    Just a suggestion? Oh… and another thing, out of town guests really need to stay in a local hotel to avoid your wife thinking she has to entertain 24/7 AND keep the house nice for guests. The hotel suggestion is for her sake (and those with allergies).

  10. Maybe you could celebrate Christmas early (or late) with one side of the family and do the other on Christmas. That’s what we do here. We have “Little Christmas” with my husband’s family the Saturday before Christmas (unless Christmas is on a Sunday and then we do it the week before) and then Christmas with my family on Christmas day. That way everyone gets to see everybody else but it isn’t all packed into one day. I agree with MJ in that respect – visiting 3 places in one days is just too much.

  11. Oh, I just read the other comments and Glamour Girl’s idea is a good one. Block off Christmas morning JUST for the 3 of you. That’s something that we also do here. We do Christmas dinner with my family though.

    And I meant to say “one DAY” not “one days” in my other comment.

  12. I should add, Christmas morning is blocked off for just the three of us. That is an absolute must and we’re in total agreement on that.

    And it needs mentioning, the other problem of saying “Everyone come to us” is that her parents live within a mile of us, so it’s much easier for them to come visit whereas my family lives an hour away.

    And Alicia, you need to calm your ass down. I love you, but settle! I’m trying to work out a compromise, not impose my will on the holidays. That’s why I’m looking for suggestions. My mind isn’t made up. But to say I’m single-handedly ruining my son’s sleep schedule and causing my wife to be sick is out of bounds and flat out wrong. So cut it out.

  13. I know you and MJ will figure something out. You always do! I just don’t agree with the advice that MJ should suck it up. Let me rephrase my post, don’t try to do all that traveling, It will stress out all of your systems. The baby will be fussy, MJ will be sick, and you will not have your ideal Holiday. You agreed to stay home after the baby. Try staying home this year. Maybe MJ will miss the family so much she will change her mind next year. All of your families love you so much they will miss you but they will understand. They do get to see you regularly. I know full well the stress the holidays bring. Enjoy each other with the little extra time you get off from work and be thankful you have each other.

  14. Hmmm….

    I don’t have the same problem, but I am really not looking forward to the holidays this year. Dealing with my IL’s is too stressful. BUT, we’ve made it so that everyone has to come to us for the holidays. We go across town, and that’s is.

    I don’t even presume what to tell you to do for poor MJ. Can she drink heavily?

  15. I hope that with Will in the picture that soon she will have fond memories of the holidays for yours and her sake.

    I don’t think she needs to “suck-it-up” as some others point out, but you can’t change the past…the future though-IS in her hands.

    She needs to remember it’s not about what happened, it’s about what she can create with you and Will and those who wish her a MERRY Christmas and a Happy Thanksgiving.

    I’m also with those who suggested another “holiday”.
    My parents are split, but they were both open to an alternative date, usually ends up being my father as he knows it’s much more important to my mom for us to be together.

    You have your OWN family and someday Will will bring his children to your house…hopefully “Grandma” will have a better perspective then.

    See if she can focus on the happiness that Will can have…Santa’s coming right?! That’s the best!

  16. PS: I wanted to mention but completely forgot-that you CAN have a stress free holiday even with all the crazy traveling-switch it up each year…your families will appreciate you being there every OTHER year or every THREE years rather than have you at home.

    I don’t know Will and his schedule but to us (with two young children) we just deal. If you make it a happy time, it will be a happy time, well usually. When David was little we didn’t expect anyone to come to our tiny apartment. Although we did invite them and they came! We also took him everywhere and he was a better traveler for it. With SOME family being close by your so lucky! Our closest relatives are about 45 mins away! Life’s too short to stay in, I think.

  17. We do what Glamour Girl does… This is the best way.
    My parents are divorced too, my husbands are not. But we share the main days with my mom/stepdad and his parents and my dad get’s one of the days around…. This will be the first year we celebrate with him in about 10+ years, so you can see why I’m biased to my mother… He chose it to be that way… Just saying. Though I have to say, one hour being the most you travel?! This can’t be that hard… We have to travel across states! Try that with a baby!

  18. I’m not impartial here. But I want to say something.

    I’m a child of divorce too. Everyone handles it differently. No one can say howyou should feel or react. Everyone is different.

    I would not want MJ to come to my house if it is making her sick. That does not sound like a lot of fun.

    I always took my kids everywhere. It may not have been the right thing to do, but we did it. Doesn’t mean anyone else has to.

    Staying home with just the three of you on the holidays might sound nice, but I think you would be depriving Will of the total family experience. And because MJ had a bad experience doesn’t mean it can’t become something better. But in the end, you have to do what is right for you.

    Imagine the future. Will grows up, gets married, has a family. Then he tells you hen is staying home for the holidays and if you want to see him you have to come to him. But you have family you have been havingholidays with for generations, and you can’t bring them. How would you feel?

    There are compromises. Different dates, whatever. But make no mistake, this is a sensitive issue.

    Alicia says your families will love you no matter what you do. That is very true. But the results of something like this can be very painful all around. I guarantee you, MJ might not be the only one sick around the holidays.

    If you want to make the holidays all about you and MJ, you can. It will be accepted. I just ask that you think about it for a lot of reasons. Family is good to have and they give you a lot of advantages. Evry once in a while they pose you a disadvantage. It is hard to aceept all the advantages and avoid all the disadvantages. Family will always be there when you need them, no matter where you spend the holidays. But taking advantage of that fact is not always the best course.

    Like I said, I’m not impartial. I just thought a little perspective fromt he other side of the issue might be in order.

  19. In rereading your post and the comments it looks like we may be missing something. It’s not just that MJ doesn’t want to get to three places in one day…she doesn’t want to go anywhere on any day. All these suggestions about “celebrating” the holidays on different days (like the weekend before, etc) misses the point. Pack Will and MJ in the car and drive to your parents. When she sees how “Leave it to Beaver” it can be and when she sees the look on Will’s face surrounded by truly loving family it will all work out.

  20. Seems to me that if MJ was that traumatized there’s a good chance that the holidays weren’t about celebrating so much as which parent won that year. The holidays don’t seem like they were about making her happy at all. Instead of putting you guys in this situation maybe all the grandparents involved should find a way for everyone to get together in one place. If there are some that don’t get along, well, it’s time for THEM to suck it up. If everyone wants to see Will on the holidays then THEY need to figure out a way to make it happen.

    I’m lucky that my family all gets along and happily congregates at my house for all the holidays. We did go through this on Halloween though. Every year we were expected to parade the kids around to various places so family could see them dressed up. They ended up spending a lot of time in the car shuttling from place to place and did little actual trick or treating. I called a halt to that mess this year. It’s not fair to the kids. So either they came to the house or they could wait for pictures.

  21. After Thought:

    Find a way to deal with this before Will gets old enough to feel the stress it’s creating. That’s not something you want to pass down to him.

  22. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I can’t believe no one has said it yet. The solution is obvious. Play favorites. If you don’t have a favorite *cough* bullshit *cough* then the answer is even more obvious. Start a bidding war. Duh.

  23. DO what will make you happy as a family. There will always be some form of compromise just learn to bend when you are able to. Someone will al
    ways be unhappy but if they love you guys they will understand

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