Bah Humbug and all that Jazz

Posted on | November 17, 2010 | 17 Comments

Ahhhh…. the holidays. A time of joy and laughter. A time of magical wonder and sugar-plum fairies.

Or, if you’re in your first few years of marriage?


Every year, I’m taken by surprise when the holidays get here. Crazy things start happening, like Mary Poppins’ evil twin sister is working her negative mojo. My heretofore lovely and wonderful husband becomes a veritable stranger to me… an enemy of my state of mind.  Beginning around the middle of November, we both start to scratch and claw at each other and at the four days surrounding Christmas.  We take to negotiating like we’re involved in the damn Cuban Missile Crisis. There are peace talks. There are safe words. There are a lot of tears, a little yelling, and a Christmas Card from the nice clerk at the liquor store who we pretty much keep in business for the next month.

The holidays: a time I used to love more than anything in the world. A time I now dread like the second coming of… I don’t know, labor?  When you are a two-income family who live approximately five hours from both sets of parents, the holidays become less about quality and more about quantity.  Husband and I have limited time off around Christmas. To be exact, both of the firms we work for have, wait for it… one day off. Anything other than Christmas Eve is personal or vacation time. So we’re left trying to figure out how to drive approximately 15 hours at a minimum in four days while maintaining the sanity of each other and now our child. 

Around this time every year, things get… shaky. We try to appease the parents. And the grandparents. And the siblings. And the crossing guard at the mall. Basically, the holidays become one big argument of who gets the most time with their family. And it sucks. Because here’s the thing… it isn’t Christmas to me without my family. That’s not meant to slight my husband’s family in any way. They are wonderful and fun and I enjoy being with them at the holidays. But it’s not Christmas to me unless my parents are there. And my sister. And my brother. And now my brother in law and my niece and nephew.

Yes, I know. Nuclear family and all that. Husband and J are my family now; that’s true. And yes, technically Christmas is wherever we are all together. But for me? In my heart of hearts, Christmas is when we’re all together with my family. And for Husband, it’s the same. Only with different people posing as brother and parents. It makes for a very unhappy November in the Law Momma household.

When we first got married, we thought we were so smart. We had heard that people argued about the holidays so we set out a plan: one year at his parents’, one year at mine. Only we didn’t actually specify what we meant. As an attorney, I’m appalled at our lack of clarity. Because what happened was, we spent Christmas EVE and Christmas DAY with his family the first year. Then we hightailed it to my parent’s house later in December for another round of Christmas. Second year we both had to work so we did “actual” Christmas in Macon, Law Momma Christmas pre-holiday, and Husband Christmas for New Years. Third year? Christmas eve and day with my family, Christmas with his family later.

Did I mention it is EXHAUSTING?

Now, just for fun, take all the craziness of being semi-newlyweds who can’t iron out their Christmas plans… and add a baby. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? Now that we have J, we’re trying to be doubly and triply cautious about appeasing everyone. We don’t want anyone to feel slighted or shafted or left out of the mix. And we want J to bring his special kind of charm and joy to both sets of Grandparents.

I don’t know why it has to be so hard. I really don’t. Because I miss Christmas being about… Christmas. Now it’s just an excuse for yet another fight about who spends more time doing what and who loves who more. It’s so tiring. It makes me want to forgo the whole thing and just stay at home and order pizza.

Fa la la la la. Or something.


17 Responses to “Bah Humbug and all that Jazz”

  1. Suzanne
    November 17th, 2010 @ 1:57 am

    In exactly 1 week, we are driving FIFTEEN HOURS with a toddler, a dog, my huge pregnant butt and all the necessary stuff to visit my husband's family for Thanksgiving. Because "technically" it's their year for Christmas and I oh so selfishly ruined that by having a due date of December 26th. And crazily, I thought that meant I got the WHOLE holiday season off from travel so my complaints now are met with blank stares.

    I feel the same way about the holidays as you do – his family is fun and yes we have a nice time but it is NOT CHRISTMAS unless we do things the way my family does, while my family is there. It gets even more complicated because MY family is more than willing to travel to US (sooooo much easier with a toddler) but his family refuses to even consider it. So it's off to Ohio we go every. single. year.

    My goodness. I just emotionally vomited all over your blog. Apologies.

  2. Cate @ RealLifewithKids
    November 17th, 2010 @ 1:58 am

    Oh, yeah. I was just thinking today about how many folks – me included – have very little happy anticipation of Christmas now.
    It's so much simpler when we're kids – and single.
    Here's hoping that you find that balance and that you all and J enjoy each other at Christmas. Take comfort – maybe? – in the fact that so many others are trying to find that same place. 🙂
    Merry Christmas!

  3. Jenn
    November 17th, 2010 @ 2:49 am

    Can you just stay home? Start your own traditions? Make your own 'Christmas'?
    Because – your favorite holiday memories are with your parents and siblings, and to give J that same special warm fuzzy feeling would mean spending stress-free (is that even possible at Christmas) time with his M&D.

    Just thinking the future is more important than the history here.

    We're struggling with the same thing – my family is a plane flight away, DH's 2 hr drive. We alternate years b/c it's impossible to do both in the same year, but then we never get time with just 'us'. I want my son's memories of Christmas to be cozy and happy, and I don't really get that from an airport or a stressful drive in the snow. Apparently I should take my own advice. Good luck!

  4. Elizabeth Phillips
    November 17th, 2010 @ 2:58 am

    I used to feel this way too. But now we have 2 kiddos and so we get to say "Hey, we're staying home. Any and all are welcome to join us." Because you don't want your kids memories of the holidays to be the videos they watched in the car on the way to grandma's…

  5. Jennifer
    November 17th, 2010 @ 3:30 am

    You think it is hard now just wait until the baby is a little bigger and you want to stay home for him. It is really hard to be a parent and a child. After a while you realize you have to do what is best for your child and try to get everyone to do what you want. Or just take a whole lot of vacation during the holidays.

  6. Dawn Marie C
    November 17th, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    Every year we drive to NY to spend the Holidaze with all the family (we are blessed that both sets of parents live only 45 minutes away from each other – we are not blessed that they do not want to celebrate together.)

    I made a decision when my hubby said he wanted to have christmas AT HOME without the parents (make our own memories) and my mom INSISTS that every year we get together at christmas (on all sorts of pain of tears and guilt)…we celebrate Solstice…and its been the best present ever.

    We have a great Solstice eve dinner, get the kids excited about Santa coming (I called, he understands) and we wrap and listen to music and eggnog ourselves. Then the kids get all loud and awesome in the morning and open everything and its great. And then they go to school (they don't care…we do, but *they* don't) and they ANNOUNCE to the world that they had solstice and got this and that. We got a few strange looks at first but when I explain it to the teachers they nod and smile (one even called me smart – woo!)

    We love our little christmas at home and then we get to see our families on that day…and your right, it is christmas when we wake up and gather around the tree in my mom's house…but Solstice is my sweet morning with my family.

  7. Heather
    November 17th, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    I'm Jewish, you'd think we'd have it easy! Almost all the big holidays have at least 2 days. But NOOOO. Everyone gets all "Well we want you to come for the FIRST night", and so there is still a pecking order for who is "important" enough to merit the first night. Not to mention, my sister is doing the same exact dance with *her* in-laws, and…. yeah.

    Thankfully Channukah is actually not a big holiday (this becomes more of an issue for Passover seders or Rosh Hashanah), but I feel your pain….

  8. KSBA
    November 17th, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    Have a second baby. I now refuse to travel for any holidays that I don't want to. Granted, we are going to Denver next week on my son's first flight, but I wanted to do that and its being paid for by others.

    Put your foot down, everyone can now visit you where you are, you have kids. That's part of the benefit of having kids!

  9. Nicci @ Changing the Universe
    November 17th, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

    I positively DREAD the holidays. Both of our families celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. And neither family is willing to compromise that. So each year, one of us has to sacrifice the holidays with our parents.

    So we made out a schedule. Every year we would switch off which family we spend Christmas Eve with. Then whatever family we didn't see on Christmas Eve we would see for Thanksgiving and have them over to our house Christmas night.

    Then last year happened. A HUGE snowstorm on Christmas Eve. So we didn't get to see EITHER of our families since we didn't want to drive with a 6 week old baby. That was awesome. Until this year. Technically it should be the year for my family, but since Tim missed out on Christmas with HIS family last year, it's only fair that we see them this year.

    We've made the decision that's best for OUR family of three. I just can't IMAGINE the guilt trip my mother will put me through when I tell her.

    Next year? Florida. Then both families are equally as pissed off 🙂

  10. Mama Fisch
    November 17th, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    The Facts:
    Husband's Family- 45 minutes from us
    My Family- 2 hours from us
    Siblings (both sides) – 10 minutes

    Surprisingly, I am actually going to probably make you pissed at me because all in all I have it pretty good. Christmas is not negotiable. Never has been and never will be. My husband's family does not have any traditions. So, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning is with my parents. At 1pm we live for my inlaws. We get there around 3 and spend the night leaving in the morning.
    We alternate Thanksgiving every year.
    I think us girls always think our families are better with traditions because we are drawn to our families more than our husbands are. My husband could really care less which for this situation is LOVELY.
    I think you and your husband should think about what is important to the two of you. If you don't get the time off, is the hustle and bustle worth it? Maybe stay at home of see if your family would come to you for a year. The driving on Christmas is just not worth it.
    The holidays are stressful enough. Hang in there. Hopefully you will reach a peace treaty where neither side has to compromise too much.

  11. Delia
    November 17th, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

    OMG this is exactly 100% how I feel. I want to be with MY family for the holidays. I want them to see my child. But…my husband feels the same way. The best solution would be to create clones! Instead I'm with you – I'll keep my local liquor store in business and just power through it trying not to yell, scream, kick or cry too much.
    Last year we were forced to stay home since DS was so young and it was awesome. I missed family, but it was so nice not spending so much time in the car.

  12. Mommy C
    November 17th, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    I have to tell you that on your Facebook post of this post it previews Suzanne's comment and not your actual post…however, I didn't realize that and so when I saw "In exactly 1 week, we are driving FIFTEEN HOURS with a toddler, a dog, my huge pregnant butt…" I was like, "WHUCK? When did she announce she was pregnant?" Then I scoured your post looking for those words…only to realize that it was Suzanne's words and not yours.

  13. Diana @Hormonal Imbalances
    November 17th, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

    So there. I keep thinking, "We are a family, we spent our holidays at home when we were little, when is that going to happen for us?" I feel like our tree is just some sort of a Christmas-is-coming thing and we celebrate it somewhere else.

    Hopefully we get it figured out soon.

  14. KLZ
    November 17th, 2010 @ 8:00 pm


    What if it were at your house??

    Don't tell anyone I said that…

  15. Caroline
    November 18th, 2010 @ 2:06 am

    We are changing up our traditions this year and our parents are going to have to deal. I called my brother to see if he can do Christmas Eve, since my parents are cool with whatever, and we dropped the news to my in-laws that we will be there the week after Christmas. I don't think they realize yet that that means we won't be there Christmas morning. So we'll still see both sides, but we're going to be at OUR house with OUR son on Christmas morning.

    Now, we're busting our butts to do both sides of the family for Thanksgiving, but this is the last time that will happen. Next year (and from here on out) my family gets Easter and his family gets Thanksgiving. We're just pretty sure it's my grandmother's last Thanksgiving so we didn't want to cut it out just yet.

    You're probably just going to have to make them mad and start to establish your own traditions with you, hubby, and J. They can come to you, or you can travel another time.

  16. Hoosier Momma
    November 18th, 2010 @ 2:06 am

    OMG, you are reading my mind. My husband and I also agreed to "alternate" holidays, which just results in us making holidays last longer by making extra trips for each holiday in order to see everyone. We swore that once we had kids, it would be different. We want our daughter to wake up Christmas morning and come downstairs in her PJs and spend Christmas as a family. What are we doing this year? We are driving 4 hours to my in-laws with our one-year-old for Christmas.

    And, since this is our year for Thanksgiving with my family, we are driving 4 hours to his family this weekend to have "Thanksgiving" there. How is this supposed to make things easier again??? I, too, love my in-laws, but the holidays always feel more like the holidays when you are with your own family

    Good luck!

  17. Brigitte
    December 9th, 2010 @ 6:40 am

    We live 6 hours from both of our families … so we do 2 Christmases as well, with 3 kids & our hyperactive spastic dog. i love seeing our families, but hate all the crap we have to do to get there twice.

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