Holiday Boundaries

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I don’t need to write a blog about how the holidays are stressful. You know they are. No matter how big or how small your celebration there is a lot of stuff that comes with the holiday season.

That stuff can look a lot of different ways. It could be that you hate the commercialism of the holiday season and you want it to be over as quickly as possible. Your stuff could be that you lost a loved one and this holiday season is particularly unbearable. Your stuff could be that you love the holidays, but damn they are a lot of work! 

That’s my stuff. I love the holidays. I specifically love Christmas because it is one moment in my year that is solely dedicated to spending quality time doing the things I cherish, like making 1,000,000 lbs of food or devouring Christmas cookies. I love all the planning, finding good deals, the cooking, the consideration. But, just because I love it doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

In fact, because this time of year is so important to me, I can get pretty intense and emotional about how the day looks and feels. 

Every year I want to capture a certain feeling. For me it’s a bustling house full of people doing last minute oh-crap-tonight-is-the-night activities, with the smell of sauce on the stove and the excitement of knowing family will be walking through the door in a couple of hours. And there are presents under the fake, but glistening, tree. 

And of course there are certain hallmarks of my family Christmas that must be adhered to. I must make square (meat) and circle (cheese) ravioli (my sister once took this job over for me and switched the shapes; there was an uproar). We have to make oyster dressing even though no one really eats it. We have to lament about an annoying Christmas bear on a tricycle that was purchased years ago. We MUST read The Grinch out loud and in sync. Us girls have to ceremonially unwrap matching pyjamas Christmas eve and rush to put them. 

As you can see, we have a pretty strict routine.

So when that routine is disrupted, or new elements are introduced, I struggle. It breaks up the plan. 

When Henry and I started seriously dating we had to balance out how we were going to spend the holidays. I’ll never forget our first shared holiday season. There were a lot of fights about how long we were going to stay, where we were going to eat, where we were going to sleep, and who to get gifts for. 

It turns out, he also wants to capture a certain feeling for his Christmas.

I’m not going to lie, it took me a couple of years to really internalize this fact. Other people — Henry included!! —have a vision and plan for their holiday experience just like I do. Everyone has stuff. 

I’d love to tell you that we have our holidays all smoothed over and there’s no problems any more, but that would be a lie and I don’t like lying to you.

Every holiday season there is something. Some years we want to travel for Christmas. Some years we have a global pandemic. Some years other family members come to Chicago for Christmas. There is always something that I feel deviates from my “traditional” holiday plan. 

So what I’ve learned to do is create holiday boundaries. I create a boundary by speaking up about what is important to me. I have identified my Christmas non-negotiables that help me have that sparkly holiday feeling. For me, we have to have Christmas Eve dinner with my family. I have to make the ravioli. We have to open the pyjamas. We have to read The Grinch. These things may seem silly but they are critical to me so I make sure they happen. The rest is negotiable. 

Additionally, I feel that the holidays can be extra tough because you want everyone to be happy, but the truth is you can’t make yourself and other people happy all the time. I work hard to be confident in my decisions and not care how that may affect other people’s feelings. So if you stick to what’s the most important to you, it will be easier to tell others “no” because you are doing exactly what you want to be doing. 

If you choose to leave at 9pm before the second bottle of eggnog is passed around, and that makes your family sad/mad/disappointed, you can leave knowing that you are choosing this. YOU. If you want to bring a vegan SPL dish to dinner because you are trying a new lifestyle, you can eat knowing that YOU are choosing this. If you and your partner only want to spend $30 on each person because that’s what you can budget this year, you can give a gift knowing you chose this. 

Now that I speak my priorities, and I let Henry speak his, we create a shared holiday experience that we both cherish. We no longer have to feel hurt or misunderstood because we aren’t having the type of Christmas we want. We can spend time with our loved ones in the way that we feel most comfortable and fulfilled. I know we will continue to work on this as our family grows and holidays get more complicated. Truthfully, we’re really working on it this year as the pandemic is on us and nothing is normal. 

I hope your holidays are full of boundaries that bring you the joy you deserve.


About Meghann

I’m just like you. My life can be hectic and cooking, cleaning and getting that workout in are sometimes the last thing on my mind. But, I’m here to share my tips and tricks on how to make adulting a little more enjoyable.

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