The Christmas Shuffle: Managing Multiple Families During the Holidays

IMG_4764If you take most Christmas songs at face value, you’d think the holidays were just about home-cooked meals shared by loving, smiling family members and followed by joyful walks through the snow-covered park.  Isn’t that how everyone spends the holidays?

Well, no, of course not, because we don’t live in Winter Wonderland.  We live in the real world, where planning out how we will spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year can sometimes feel like scheduling a world tour.

Perhaps there are some people who have all of their loved ones in the same town and can manage to have everyone in the same house at the same time without encountering a disaster, but if I had to guess I’d say majority of us don’t have it quite that easy.

Take my family, for example.  Between my husband and myself, we have anywhere from 5-10 family gatherings per holiday.  That includes parents, in-laws, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  To say the least, I understand how challenging (and stressful) life can get as Christmas approaches.  And yet, it does not have to be (and should not be) stressful!

As a veteran at working around multiple families during the holidays, I am now sharing my strategy with you, our wonderful Austin Moms Blog readers.

First of all, decide what your priorities are for YOUR immediate family.  For us, it is very important that we spend Christmas morning at home with our daughter.  We make that clear to our extended families very early on so they are prepared for us not to be available until around lunchtime on Christmas day.

Second, take inventory of who you WANT to see and who you MUST see.  For instance, we know we must figure out time to be with our parents and siblings, as well as any close friends who live for away and are only able to visit once a year.  Everyone else – including grandparents and the rest – go on our “want to see” list.  (Is putting grandparents on the “want” list rather than the “must” list ideal?  No. But in the past we have always had very limited time to see a lot of family, and that meant we might have to visit with certain family members during other times in the year.  Every family is different, of course, so prioritize based on your own needs).

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Third, communicate with your family as early as possible about their plans and expectations for the holidays.  It may be that one part of your family can only meet together on a certain day due to flight schedules, etc., while others might be more flexible.  The sooner you discuss these things, the better.  Knowing what everyone else has in mind will help you develop a schedule that will hopefully include everyone.

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Finally, put together your “master schedule” (on paper!) and do your best to stick to it!  Because we have so many places to be, and we must factor in naps for our daughter, my husband and I schedule our visits down to the hour.  That may seem a little extreme to anyone less structured than myself, but it works for us!  Your schedule doesn’t have to be exact, of course, but you will be much less stressed and more able to enjoy the time you do have with your family if you are not constantly worried that you won’t have time to make it somewhere, or that you’ll leave someone out.

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