The holidays mean spending time with family and friends—and for many families, this calls for travel, travel, and more travel. Even if you live across the street from your parents, the question of whom you are spending the holidays with can come into play. Do you eat dinner at your parents' house and drive over to enjoy dessert with your in-laws?
Whether you're pregnant, are raising little ones, or have older children, holiday visits can become an adventure in diplomacy. Despite the guilt trips you may have to endure, you should keep your priorities in order and your immediate family your top concern.
Travel on Off Days
You should first decide what will make the holidays meaningful for you and your family. Would you rather your children have memories of the highway or of Grandma's house the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah, when traveling is almost always easier, faster, and more convenient?
Even though it may be scary or ruffle some feathers you might want to play hostess. This solution allows you to invite both sides of the family and possibly friends. True, you might have to pull the turkey baster out of your mother-in-law's hand with the jaws of life before she'll give up the role of hostess. Yet, for stress relief it might be worth it to extend an invitation. As your family and extended family grow, compromises will need to be made and traditions changed.
For many families, this will be no small task: You'll need to check everyone's schedule to make sure that other family members will be there. But with a little extra planning, you can spend some special holiday time with the entire family.
Celebrate ... in the Summer?
Is your family far flung across the country (or the world)? Try planning for a big family reunion in June after the kids get out of school or when you can take a fair amount of vacation time off from work.
Watch the kids climb trees in the city park, pitch tents at a local campground, or host a backyard barbeque. It is easy to lose the meaning of the holidays when trying to bend time. Being a little creative can help you rediscover the magic of the season.
Have a Low-Key, Lock-In!
Instead of stressing over who will share your turkey dinner or where you'll be sleeping after you've stuffed yourself on pumpkin pie, consider instead a casual family lock-in.
Rather than traveling, let your extended family know that you and the children will be enjoying a pajama day at home roasting turkey, baking potatoes, and playing board games or cuddling up on the couch with a tub of popcorn while watching your favorite Disney DVDs. Or plan a family holiday date: Bundle up and go for a walk, take a day trip to a close-by attraction, plan a family bake off, or gather around the kitchen table and create art projects (or make holiday gifts) together. Of course, feel free to extend an invite to nearby family members, but don't play hostess; instead, relax and let family know that having no formal plan is your plan, but they're welcome to join you (pajamas and all!).
Plan another time to visit family, offer to host a small family get-together (at a time when travel won't be so hectic or expensive), and instead take this holiday off to focus on your children, your partner, and yourself.
Remember, if the biggest problem you have this season is whose house to visit, then you should consider yourself blessed. Make these holidays special for everyone involved by allowing yourself enough time. Planning now can save you much stress later!