This holiday season is a magical time of year, especially when you get to experience it through the eyes of little ones. But as parents, the holiday season also comes with planning, organizing, and a lot of execution in order to make that happen. Boundaries are the key to protecting your mental health and guarding your wellbeing during the holidays. If you struggle with asserting boundaries or just need some prompts to get you started, we’re here for you, mama.
Don’t let guilt drive your decisions.
Would it make your life easier logistically and financially to just go to your in-law’s house this year for the holidays rather than both your family’s and his...but you’re dreading what your own mother might say about such a plan? We’ve all been there, but here’s the thing: prioritize what works for your family. Maybe she will be upset at first, and maybe you will have to have an unpleasant conversation about it, but if she loves you enough to really want to see you, then she’ll also love you enough to understand you can’t make everyone happy all the time.
It is not selfish to prioritize what’s best for you and your family this holiday season. It is not selfish to want your children to spend Christmas morning at their own home, and grandparents have the afternoon alternate years. Don’t feel like driving eight hours to out-of-town relatives you only make a point to see once a year? You can say ‘no.’ It is OK to draw hard boundaries about the influence of others who are making demands on your family’s time. Even if someone responds with hurt, guilt or anger, their emotional response does not invalidate your need to set a healthy boundary, so stay strong.
The more of a head's up you give someone about the boundaries you’re setting this year, the more time they have to get used to it. This may include how long you stay, where you’re going to sleep, and if you’ll need a vehicle in case you want to leave. Instead of procrastinating a potentially uncomfortable conversation, do it sooner rather than later. Try sending a quick email before the event to clarify expectations and set boundaries. It doesn’t have to be harsh, just a simple:
“Hi _______, We’re so looking forward to the holidays! Just wanted to shoot over a quick note to confirm we’ll be arriving at 2 pm and leaving at 9 am the next day. Thanks so much for letting us spend the night, we will have the kids bring pajamas and sleeping bags.”
This way you have documented proof that you’ve communicated your stance on multiple occasions ahead of time. Remember, you’re not asking permission—you’re letting everyone know what it is you’ll be doing.
Set realistic expectations.
Everyone has expectations for how they think the holidays should go. Just remember that it’s not your job to fulfill them for everyone. The only thing you can do is make sure your little ones are having a magical season with those who love them most. So, if you don't think your under-5 crew can handle breakfast with Santa followed by a cookie decorating party followed by a parade followed by ice skating, select the activity that will resonate most with your family and let everyone know when and were they can look forward to seeing you. Think you're up for breakfast and the parade? Tell them you'll be heading home for a break and naps, and then rejoining the festivities later.
Wear your baby.
The easiest way to set boundaries when you want to keep well-meaning relatives at a comfortable distance is by wrapping up your babe. Even Aunt Sally will understand when she can't hold them because they're sleeping so sweetly snuggled up against your chest. Plus, baby will be exposed to fewer germs, and is also less likely to feel overstimulated or miss a nap when they're right there with you.