Do the holidays stress you out?

I have a confession to make.  They totally don’t stress me out.  I find them to be totally relaxing.  Holidays are awesome.

And yes, I’m the one with kids.  And yes, we celebrate Christmas.

Now, the end of the semester is a bit stressful.  Finishing up classes, then the final exam, then grading.  Also the OMG everybody is about to disappear we must have these last 50 faculty meetings to discuss urgent business.  Oh, and the 20 referee reports that are due right in the beginning of December.  And the 30 letters of recommendation.  That part is kind of stressful.  When all of that is over and the students are gone, it’s hugely peaceful.  So our Christmas season doesn’t really start until classes end (sometime in the late teens or early 20s of December, depending on the year).  The kids don’t seem to mind an abbreviated season at home even if school and stores start at Thanksgiving.

Do we make Christmas cookies?  Sometimes.  If we feel like it.  Ditto Christmas breads.  I like buying a little live rosemary tree a week or so before Christmas and we decorate that.  Christmas shopping mostly happens online.  Stocking stuffers (the only thing “Santa” brings) get bought at Target when we pick up gift cards for the teachers.  We’ve taken the oldest to see the Nutcracker.

Having the kids home 24/7 can be a little stressful, whether it’s Christmas or not.  (At least until DC2 learns to read like DC1.)  We try to arrange family visits so they overlap at least a little with kids’ vacation so that they can burn some of their energy off on the relatives.  Spread it out, so to speak.  We definitely use daycare as much as it’s open, and DC1 goes to daycamp for one of the weeks that ze is off (same place ze goes in the summer).

This time of year articles start popping up about the Elf on the Shelf and all sorts of crafty etc. time-consuming holiday traditions that moms can do to make things magical.  And that’s great for the parents who get utility out of doing stuff like that.  We love that DC1’s best friend’s mom is doing another gingerbread house party this year.

But what about people who feel compelled to do all the Christmas stuff even though they hate it?  The folks who are totally stressed out because they have to remember to move the elf every night, or they would rather watch a movie than make cookies, or they have a racist uncle Mike that they hate seeing every year at Christmas dinner?

Think about your sources of holiday stress (if any).

What happens if you:

1.  Don’t do them?  Would the world end if you just didn’t visit your racist relatives and stayed at home with the family you chose and you love instead?  If you don’t do outdoor lights?  Will the children be scarred for life if the elf moves to another house and never returns?

2.  Pay someone else to do them instead?  I learned this year that I will never adopt a family and go shopping for them again– instead I’ll just give money for someone else to shop with.

3.  Get someone else in the family to do them?  Why is it always mom’s job to bring holiday cheer?  Maybe another family member can step in and take the kids to see the lights or bake cookies and clean up the kitchen etc.

4.  Change them so they’re less stressful?  Maybe instead of getting a big cut tree you can get something that’s more manageable.  Maybe you can change a tradition so it’s more chill.  Instead of 12 different batches of cookies, maybe one or two.  Maybe it’s time for Santa to drop off the packages early and to leave them with some assembly required after they’re unwrapped.

5.  Reframe them so they’re not as stressful?  Sometimes you can just will yourself to enjoy a long drive (in the snow) to see the grandparents.  It’s an adventure instead of a chore.  Sometimes that’s not possible, but if you can’t get out of doing something, might as well make the best of it.

Do you have holiday stress?  What tips do you have for avoiding holiday stress?  What have you tried that’s worked for you?

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84 Responses to “Do the holidays stress you out?”

  1. L Says:

    Buh-Rilliant suggestions!
    My kids all have four feet and a tail; de-stressing the holidays long ago means no tree, light strings, or other critter-destructible decorating (and it doesn’t have to be stored 11.5 months of the year either). Sometimes I make the gifts, sometimes I buy online — immediate family only. I don’t send more than a dozen cards, to those I do not gift. I avoid shopping areas at all times but especially now.
    More people following your excellent ideas might just make holidays less crazy, you think?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh, cards, YES. I think lots of people find it stressful when they get those cards with pictures of the family looking happy and cooperative, and the detailed letter about everything everyone did this year, all printed on glossy paper, personalized, sent to 100 people… stop the insanity! I enjoy getting cards but don’t send them anymore because I can’t be arsed.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I love getting the family letters from people. And I assume my friends do have happy and cooperative families. Me, I send a cheap card back in response (I don’t send out cards except as a reaction). No biggie.

      • chacha1 Says:

        LOL last year I just sent cards, this year I enclosed a letter with a “highlights” list and some pictures. But it was b&w and on regular printer paper at least. :-)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I would have read it all the way through!

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        If one wants to do cards, New Year’s cards (traditional in France, and, I believe some other places) work better with most academic schedules. Not that I always get even those out; at least I’ve learned by now to buy cards with fairly generic winter scenes, and “happy holidays” greetings. In a pinch, if one really wanted to connect at least once a year, one could send Valentines instead (or, if one has the summer off, begin a tradition of summer solstice or Fourth of July greetings, or spread it out with birthday cards personalized with a note).

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    This is the first Christmas that I haven’t felt overwhelmed in six or seven years. At my old job, we had a ton of December events – a holiday grief seminar, a service of remembrance, a holiday seniors trip, a Christmas party, etc. Anyway, each event fell on a Saturday in December so I spent the entire month planning these events and attending them. On top of that, we had our regular holiday stuff and we drove to Minnesota to see Greg’s parents for 3 or 4 days. The whole month of December was awful.
    This year I barely know what to do with myself. We’re still busy but it’s nothing like it has been. I don’t feel so rushed and I feel slightly more sane.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Those do sound like important services for a funeral home, but it’s nice that you no longer are in charge of them.

      • Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

        Each individual event was wonderful. The fact that they were all in one month made it really hard. Greg’s new employer sponsors a few similar events financially but doesn’t actually plan them or attend them. It’s nice not having so much responsibility this year.

  3. Leah Says:

    I hear you! This is how I feel too. I do stuff if I have time. If I don’t have time, that’s okay. I like to decorate, but my decorating is low-key — mostly just a tree and exchanging a few normal decor items for Christmas ones. I have one bin full of Christmas decorating items plus a small fake tree, so it’s easy to store.

    I like Christmas. I especially love the church services, and those are easy. Dress up and go :-) But I prefer to just let waves of Christmas wash over me rather than fighting like a maniac to get to some pre-determined point.

    Re: Elf on the Shelf, I personally find it creepy anyway. I like Santa in the sense of generous giving, but I don’t like the moralistic and Big Brother overtones. Really, if you’re bad, you won’t get presents? I’d rather show my (theoretical) kids I love them separate from their behavior, and we’ll deal with the behavior in other ways.

    Right now, my sources of stress are a thesis proposal that is just not writing itself and a lack of quantitative research on my topic. I had a brainwave last night that kept me up late, so hopefully that will resolve itself shortly. Once that’s done (due Friday), I’m excited to just go enjoy the snow and the season.

  4. OMDG Says:

    This is my holiday stress — I must get my revise and resubmit out the door before the end of the year, and figure out how we’re going to do an analysis for an abstract I’d like to submit for mid January. Oh, and how are we going to entertain the pickle when daycare is closed and so is everything else? (we don’t have relatives nearby who will help in any way, shape, or form). OMG TRAPPED IN THE HOUSE!!!!

    I don’t do a) cookies (unless my friends come over and we do it together as a fun break for me), b) tree (unless I feel like it), c) church (just… no), d) what the heck is elf on the shelf?

    Last year was really nice. My in-laws came to visit from Italy, and I went to school and worked on my dissertation the whole holiday. I got a lot done.

    I guess we might try to do Santa this year… but I am debating whether I should cajole my husband into doing it, or if I should just do it myself.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Last year I submitted a paper on Christmas Eve. (Fortunately my RA last year was Muslim and asked if he could work over Christmas.)

      Elf on the shelf is this make-work thing where you have a stuffed elf and you pretend that he moves every night on his own because Christmas magic. It seems to be a great source of stress for people. (I’ve never actually seen one in person, but this time of year news stories and blog posts abound… the news stories with cute pinterest pictures of the naughty things their elves have done over night and the blogs complaining about the stress of it all.)

      • Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

        I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one not doing the creepy elf deal! I don’t get it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I imagine most people aren’t. We probably just hear about every single person who is!

      • Ana Says:

        Yes “most people aren’t”. Exactly. I don’t think this “problem” is as pervasive as bloggers would have us believe. People who do it make a big deal of it and we hear about it. Ascertainment bias?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Availability heuristic maybe?

      • Cloud Says:

        One advantage of having a kid who figured out the truth about Santa quite early (she’s 6): no way she’d buy the Elf on the Shelf nonsense. My 4 year old is still quite excited about Santa, though, so we’ll be making time to visit him this weekend.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think mine went from being unclear on the Santa concept to not believing. DC1 is both a late and an early bloomer. DC2 is still not talking much beyond animal sounds and food words, so who knows.

      • Shannon Says:

        I hate that Elf. As a result, my husband takes care of it or we would have the laziest elf on the planet. One of our friends had her Elf leave a note to the kids. It said he hurt his back moving around the house (after a day) and so wouldn’t be able to move. The note said a helper elf would come visit at night to collect reports, so the news would get to Santa – he just wouldn’t move. Problem solved.

    • Leah Says:

      Also, the Elf is a spy who takes news back to Santa. They don’t call him a spy, but let’s be honest. His job is to report whether or not the kids are naughty. And, sometimes, the Elf gets up to mischief too.

      They sell a book and an elf in a box set. My in-laws do the whole thing with the grandkids.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        The elf actually looks a lot like one my grandmother had (’50s? ’60s? ’70s?), but the book and other nonsense is new.

        Santa Mouse, however, is a wonderful tradition (we had the book, which, I think, instructs you to put a yellow light at the top of the tree to guide Santa Mouse — easy to do if you’ve already got multicolored strings. And then Santa Mouse left small, stocking-stuffer type presents in the branches — a tradition that went on long enough in our family that toward the end the presents were books of stamps for “children” old enough to be paying monthly bills by check).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Awww.

        I hadn’t heard of Santa Mouse.

      • Contingent Cassandra Says:

        Santa Mouse is wonderful — offers some room for creativity on parents’ (and kids’) part, but it’s a one-time performance, with plenty of simple solutions, and absolutely no “big brother” elements. I think the book we had was actually the second one: _Santa Mouse, Where Are You?_: http://www.amazon.com/Santa-Mouse-where-are-you/dp/0760706840

  5. First Gen American Says:

    My son came home from school and started asking about elf on the shelf. I was like..well we haven’t pulled him out of the box yet…and he was like, how come ours isn’t magical like everyone else’s. I think I may have made a reference to not wanting to be watched or something like that. and just appears and moves around. The elf came from sister in law. I think many of these “traditions” come from peer pressure and there is just too much to keep up with.

    I do bake cookies every year and make hundreds for customers too. The thing I cherish most is time and giving homemade cookies is my way of saying I am giving you the thing that’s means the most to me.

    We don’t have the elf but we do cut out snowflakes every year. That is a tradition that I find fun. I love the holidays even though they are stressful. The best decision I made is not to travel around to visit everyone (again, peer pressure) unless I actually want to see those people. The family members that were the most rigid on time, date, place, and attendees don’t get visited anymore. The family members who’s values don’t align with ours don’t get visited anymore. The complainers and Debbie downers don’t get invited to our house anymore. That was when the holidays were stressful…when I used to visit people I didn’t want to see and drove all over carnation to accommodate their needs at the expense of everyone who I actually wanted to spend time with. I am getting to old for that crap.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I agree. My biggest stress reduction was getting away from the pressure to participate in the long and complex series of traditional family activities in another state. I will still occasionally go visit my family for Christmas, but we’re more likely to stay home and celebrate by ourselves, or go see his family. I love my family but it’s a Production. A production I love, but…. a Production nonetheless.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Since we moved to the South, we’re more likely to get visited in the winter than us visiting them.

      • Rosa Says:

        I did this for myself successfully for ten years, but my husband was so terrified of standing up to his mother on any tiny detail that after 8 years (none of it was my problem until I was summoned as the Mother of the Grandchild) I have managed to whittle the stress down only by about 1/3. Maybe half if you count the fact that we went and got therapy and no longer have epic midnight Christmas Eve fights about my failure to fit perfectly into his mother’s ideal Christmas family extravaganza.

        Last year we switched out his Family Christmas for my Family Christmas Season Destination Wedding and that was, amazingly, less stress. But we are paying this year for last year’s respite.

  6. Yvonne Says:

    My main source of holiday stress is that my mom has a huge Christmas celebration (gingerbread houses! Tree decorating! Sledding!) and invites all my siblings except me.

    Her reasoning is that two of my siblings don’t like me (I don’t know why, since they won’t talk to me) so if she wants to see them, I (and my family) can’t come.

    Yes, we have our own Christmas at home. Yes, we do fun things and see friends. But the whole thing is very stressful and I don’t know how to stop feeling bad about it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Sounds like you’re better off without them! Too bad we can’t choose our extended families. Sorry they suck and make you feel bad. :(

    • Yvonne Says:

      Actually, after reading the previous comments, it occurs to me that my mom is likely reducing her own holiday stress by not inviting me and my family.

      Still, that doesn’t make me feel any better.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, the Miss Manners thing to do would be to invite everybody and to graciously accept the declines from your two siblings. She is not doing the right thing. Unless, of course, you’re like openly racist or homophobic or something, in which case she’s justified. (But we assume our readers would be no such thing.)

        But that’s cold comfort. Sorry your mom is making bad decisions. :(

      • OMDG Says:

        Yvonne — That is just so wrong. I’m sorry your family does this to you.

    • Contingent Cassandra Says:

      I’ve got somewhat similar family dynamics (except it’s my stepmother who doesn’t like me, or want me around). Of course, it reflects badly on her (and my father, who goes along with her decisions), not me, but yes, it still hurts. And holidays seem designed to remind one of such situations.

    • Rosa Says:

      that’s really horrible. She might be reducing her own stress but in that case she should (at the very least) just not have anyone over.

  7. bogart Says:

    Right there with you (my grumblings elsewhere notwithstanding). Like you, I work on a campus, which pretty much drains out for about 3 weeks (staff, me, are expected to be here — mostly, we do get some time off — but things are quiet). For the past 3 years, we have traveled to a campground shortly before or after Christmas and spent 1.5-2.5 weeks in our camping trailer. This of course involves its own complications (2/3 times, the weather has been lovely), but keeps us away from the maddening crowds, and vice versa. This year we won’t — extended family are coming to visit (but will be staying with other family in the area, not us), which is both a bummer (former) and a thrill (latter). We may camp from the 21st until the 24th (preceding family’s arrival), but are waiting to see what the weather will be like. If we do, we’ll go clos(ish) to home, which is a bit of a nuisance as I don’t trust the deer hunters and that limits my access to the woods. But so it goes (we usually camp on the coast, where they are not present).

    Much of our extended family is divorced — DH’s parents (now deceased), my parents, DH’s older kids’ parents (i.e. DH). While that complicates convening everyone (not in a “we can’t stand to be in the same room” way, mostly, more in a “everyone is scattered and doing their own thing” way), it’s pervasive enough that we just abandon hope and enjoy the company of those we can, when we can. There’s no sense that if e.g. stepdaughter can’t join us for Christmas eve dinner specifically, then everything is ruined, ruined!

    I try hard not to set foot in retail establishments between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as already noted in comments on this blog. Thank goodness for online shopping.

    I do get a bit — stressed is too strong. Irked? In a generalized sense, not “at” anyone — at how much we end up spending. Not in an “OMG Christmas is so expensive!!!” way, but in an “Oh right, I also need to contribute a reasonable amount (whatever that is?) to the collection for the custodial staff at work” way, but we are fortunate that those kinds of extra expenditures are an irritation/setback (again, not *at* anyone, just a need to reevaluate other expenses/priorities), not a crisis. And obviously I could do better and keep records and budget year-to-year for this sort of thing, but I don’t.

    Right now, we’re in the have-a-tree phase, but I’m not committed to that for life (and we did skip it the one year when we weren’t home on Christmas day itself). DH likes it (me too, but not as important to me), and DS is at an age where I think it’s relatively important to him. We have never partaken of (and I don’t like) the elf thing, and when I couldn’t find my advent calendar this year (saved from an earlier year, but just a plain paper calendar with pictures), I didn’t worry about it. Though I may order one to use for next year, and try to keep track of where it is. The one I still have somewhere will probably show up, though.

  8. plantingourpennies Says:

    For me the most stressful parts of the holidays are “traditions” which can get to feel like mandatory obligations that no one really wants to do. We put up with them to a minimal extent with family and at work, but with the two of us we’re pretty chill and that helps a lot. Even when others get a little crazy this time of year we can still come home and not worry about things with one another.
    Mr PoP actually really needs that this time of the year. The end of Q4 is probably the most stressful part of the year at his job – trying to close as many deals as possible before fiscal year end. Many cookies and treats are baked and sent with him to work… (and to family and stuff too!) – it helps everyone deal with the stress a bit better.

  9. oilandgarlic Says:

    The answer is Yes! I don’t even know why because I’m pretty good at saying no and keeping the holidays low-key. I do like to decorate and eat through the holidays. I do 90% of my shopping online (and don’t have many gifts to buy anyway). Everything else feels mandatory. It’s not that I hate seeing extended family or immediate family but for an introvert like me, all these social gatherings are exhausting.

  10. oilandgarlic Says:

    The answer is Yes! I don’t even know why because I’m pretty good at saying no and keeping the holidays low-key. I do like to decorate and eat through the holidays. I do 90% of my shopping online (and don’t have many gifts to buy anyway). Everything else feels mandatory. It’s not that I hate seeing extended family or immediate family but for an introvert like me, all these social gatherings are exhausting.

  11. Rented life Says:

    This Thanksgiving was most relaxing ever–we deliberately didn’t see his fam and my parents and brother came here. Usually we trek to aunts house for a total of 6 hrs in the car in one day. Hate it. Most of Christmas is usually enjoyable excepted the extended family that shows up at moms on Christmas Eve. I don’t want to not go to moms but I wish they wouldn’t come.

    I make one type of cookie which I do t enjoy doing but I love eating them enough to compensate for the work. And I enlist husbands help (depending on his schedule) so that it goes faster. We have a tree and I always decorate but I enjoy both of those a lot. Usually the holiday stress is what to get people but even that’s been figured out this year.

    As for visiting relatives you don’t care for, if you can’t avoid it, reward yourself after. That helps me.

    • Rented life Says:

      Oh yeah, for our four legged kids, we put soft ornaments on the lower part if the tree and there’s no tinsel bc they’d eat that. We bought pretty glass icicle shaped ornaments instead of tinsel. The cats don’t climb the tree , they just like to lay under it.

  12. GMP Says:

    I am completely devoid of all holiday spirit and often feel pretty guilty about it. On the upside, you don’t have to buy me presents ever, for anything, on the downside, I don’t want to buy you presents ever. My husband does the holiday shopping for the family, as kids expect presents. Other than that, no traditions really — just put up a fake tree and decorate it (it’s actually a pretty nice one) and wait for Santa. We do low-key stuff, like bake cookies and watch TV, but generally not much. We have no family within reasonably priced travel distance, so it’s just us, chilling.

  13. Liz Says:

    Biggest holiday de-stressing option for me: Don’t buy *everyone* a present.

    I was a little surprised when my Dutch friend told me that they simply don’t do presents for Christmas. They do a little something for Saint Nicholas day (Dec 5/6), but no huge exchange o’ gifts. Instead, he (maybe all of them?) give gifts throughout the year if they see something that reminds them of the intended recipient. Taking this philosophy in hand, I decided to stay within my budget and focus on getting quality gifts for people on my list for whom a great gift could be found. I’m not worrying about finding the perfect thing for everybody – just if I see something that really works, and I can afford it, well, then, I do! And if the others are not satisfied with simply my presence, a handmade card, and/or homemade cookies, then… tough $h!t.

    Other options that have worked on a group level have included Secret Santa (one great gift for a known recipient), and White Elephant (a humorous gift-giving game and potluck experience).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Gift giving is a big deal in DH’s family so he keeps a little list in the back of his dayplanner throughout the year and when he figures something out, he puts it on his list. In my family, it isn’t as big a deal. And we really don’t get Christmas presents for anyone else, except, of course, #2 and I sweep through each other’s amazon lists near the end of the season to get what we really wanted (or think the other person needs).

  14. Ana Says:

    Yes and no. The only “yes” is the traveling to visit extended family part. We were going to skip it this year and got guilted into it and are going on a way too long trip to visit MIL. The pressure is more related to my son’s birthday (12/26) than the holidays, though. And its more fun for us to go visit when all my husband’s (much-loved) cousins will also be around, rather than some random time of year when its just us and we’re bored. Also excited about the weather down south and being able to go running outside.
    But the rest is fine. I like going to an occasional party and wearing something sparkly (we say no to most work-related things, we are each picking one to go to, both happen to be this week), I like the minimal decorating we do ( I LOVE Christmas lights in any form…so soothing in the dark days!) and baking cookies. I like drinking fun drinks and watching holiday-themed movies. I used to do gifts for work folks but stopped doing it the year I had my christmas-time baby and never started back up. I got one gift for each kid and for my niece and nephew. My husband and I don’t do gifts with each other and no one else in our families does gifts for adults. All 4 of us have some sort of secret-santa/polyanna thing and I got all 4 gifts on amazon prime while I was on a conference call yesterday.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have a Christmas baby too, and DH’s brother was also a Christmas baby (though on the other side of Christmas as ours). So far it’s been pretty chill. MIL is very careful to buy 2x the presents (which is WAY too much) and we make hir a cake and have a little family party, just a meal and candles (usually with the in-laws, so far it’s been alternating our home vs. DH’s homestead for hir birthday). We usually do a kids party in January after school has started up again, though last year we went to San Diego with MIL instead.

      I sure hope it warms up. I have my jacket on in my office!

      • Ana Says:

        Yes we’re doing an early January friend’s party this year for the first time, but also MY entire family (parents/sister & her family) are coming to that, since the in-law side gets his “real birthday”. Yes, its very much a rivalry type thing and THAT is the source of my stress (plus my MIL buys SO MANY presents but never has them sent HERE, because she wants to see them open them and then we have to figure out how to stuff them into our suitcases for the way home). Urgh. Lots of running, and then lots of wine will get me through this trip.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The first year anything that didn’t fit into luggage stayed at grandma’s. We haven’t had that problem since.

  15. Cloud Says:

    The part of December that stresses me out is that it is a fairly busy time at work, and that plus the holiday-related things I don’t really want to do (e.g., company parties) can crowd out the things I do want to do (baking cookies with my kids). Last year I instituted a rule that I’d only do holiday-related things I want to do (bye-bye company party), but I can’t do much about the work crunch. I’m doing better this year, but that is because I am actively thinking of quitting my job, so I don’t care so much about the work things and am sort of half-assing them. This is fine for one year, but long term it would hurt my career. Also, skipping the company party isn’t the smartest career move, but I decided not to care about that, either.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was so happy when our department moved all the holiday stuff to during work hours. So we have a holiday breakfast instead of a holiday party. Work should know better than to encroach on personal time.

  16. Alyssa Says:

    Love this post! Three things in recent years:

    1. Less cards!! I sent out 6 this year, I think (it used to be 30-40! UGH! The madness had to end with that one)
    2. Severe restrictions on $$ value of gifts (agreed upon in the family)
    3. No gifts between adults anymore

  17. chacha1 Says:

    I have holiday stress when we have to do anything with family, because that always involves either us traveling, or people staying with us who maybe we would rather did not stay with us. :/

    But in the big picture I never have much to complain of. My work doesn’t have year-end crunches, I don’t do a lot of gift shopping, my holiday letter was put together in about 30 minutes (thanks to my extensively annotated calendar), I have nothing to do with kids or schools or churches.

    This year is perfect … no visitors, no travel, and no real plans beyond an open-house party on the 22nd. The only cooking I am doing for that is a chowder and a cake, b/c people are bringing other stuff, as they tend to do.

    We have not done much entertaining or decorating for a few years, I am having fun with it this year.

  18. Linda Says:

    I haven’t put a tree up in years. As much as I like the look of a Christmas tree, I hate taking it down. Several years ago I decided to buy a nice fake tree, thinking that maybe I wouldn’t get so grumpy about taking down the tree if I didn’t have to deal with needles. That didn’t make any difference at all. So I just sold that nice fake tree for really cheap to a nice, newly-divorced woman with 5 kids who was really looking forward to celebrating with a tree this year since her ex refused to put one up. (After chatting with her and hearing her story I was tempted to just give her the tree, but I’ll be donating much more than that to charity this year so that assuages a bit of my guilt. Besides, she wasn’t totally poor, just not able to budget a lot for a tree.)

    My main stress around holidays pops up because I try to figure out how to visit both my mom + stepfather and dad + stepmom within a 48 hour period. They are both within a less than two hour driving distance, but they are in opposite directions so there’s no way to visit both on the same day. The fact that I really don’t like to drive the area expressways very much and weather can make it dicey, and this becomes a complicated and touchy thing for me to figure out. To complicate things further, my partner’s family is a two hour drive away (again, not in the same area as either of my folks) and I am invited to visit with them every year, too.

    This year we took the plunge into that tricky thing all couples with local family face: the holiday trade off. We stayed here for Thanksgiving this year, so will likely go to his family for Christmas. (I also have to figure out what to do with the pets, though, so it may be that I’m staying here to take care of them. We’ll see.) At least I have no kids to worry about pleasing.

  19. hush Says:

    Great post. That The Elf on the Shelf of all things is “a great source of stress” for people is hilarious! That is hands down one of the least time-consuming of all the current zeitgeisty American Christmas traditions. Moving a small toy elf around a handful of times still takes up far less time than baking cookies from scratch or mailing out holiday cards. But the elf looks creepy and Twilight Zone-ish and only gained national fame in the last 4 years – so it’s an easy target. Eh, it works for some families. Good for them.

    People are funny. It’s like folks still haven’t gotten the memo that one of the best things about being a Grown-Ass Adult is that we get to pick and choose the things we prioritize in your lives. Christmas is optional. This isn’t 1955, thankfully. There are many, many ways to do the holidays right, including not doing them at all. Like you, I just don’t stress about it. And if I ever do start stressing about Christmas, then the solution seems fairly straightforward, as you have so eloquently explained.

    • hush Says:

      “the things we prioritize in your lives.” Ha! Our lives. Freudian slip?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think it isn’t the moving so much as the pinterest pictures of the elf getting into trouble and then cleaning up the resulting mess after.

      “one of the best things about being a Grown-Ass Adult is that we get to pick and choose the things we prioritize in our lives”
      YES. A thousand times yes. (With an additional, my hobbies are not judging your decisions.)

  20. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    The holiday time we spend with my in-laws is peaceful, relaxing, and rejuvenating. The holiday time we spend with my own parents is fucken misery.

    And BTW, is it really necessary to use “get utility out of” instead of “like”?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Why do you spend time with your parents?

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        Because I am not prepared to expel them from my life.

      • Linda Says:

        This can be really difficult if one has siblings, too. I know that when I started cutting out time with my parents my sister would give me a hassle. So sometimes it’s not just the parents, but also the siblings that have to be dealt with. That takes a lot of energy.

      • Rented life Says:

        Linda, I think that’s why my SIL moved across the country.

      • Rosa Says:

        my fear is that if I keep saying no to the people who stress me out I will end up with no family at all. I’d retain my mom if I could ever see her separately from her husband, and my one nice sibling (but she always no-shows so I’d have fond feelings about her and never see her) and my SIL and a few of my husband’s cousins.

  21. becca Says:

    This year, I am stressed about money, consumerism and presents. I started a new job on Monday, one that is actually in my field and pays something to live on. Hellish commute, but we’ll see how it goes. So I should be feeling much better and comfortable spending now, but I feel irrationally angry about accumulation of things (NB we spent part of Thanksgiving cleaning out 18-34 years worth of junk from my Mom’s basement. For the love of God, if you love books set them free, don’t pile them in the basement where they get moldy). Perhaps I should try for experience orientated gifts- but they require more thought than Amazon (why isn’t there an Amazon for services/experiences??).

    PSA- a lovely, and frugal Xmas gift is to handpick a box of enjoyed books with someone in mind, and send them off. Your tired spawn will thank you when you are too old to clean your moldy basement.

    I’m also sad in that it’ll be my first Xmas without my Dad. Last year was kind of distracted with hospital stuff, and I think I’m still processing some of that.

  22. Perpetua Says:

    The holidays do not stress me out. I live 3,000 miles away from my in laws, and 1500 miles from my extended family. Holidays have always been small and quiet in my small and quiet nuclear family. The presents are restrained, not too many people to buy for – things mostly revolve around the kids. The only thing that’s stressing me out this year is the stress over gifts to the teachers at the kids’ school – oh, and also how obsessed my eldest is with Christmas decorations (Mommy! Let’s make some Christmas decorations! Mommy let’s make MORE!). We have already burned through four different kinds of Christmas crafts.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I plan to hit up the Target gift-card aisle this weekend. At private schools and pre-schools it’s totally ok to just give gift cards! It’ll be expensive, but DH is making money now so we can handle it. I don’t know what we’d be doing if he wasn’t, probably just gift-cards for the main three teachers (2 daycare, 1 homeroom) and heart-felt cards for everyone else. Maybe cookies, I dunno.

      Have you done popcorn chains (or paper chains if the kid is too young for a needle) yet? Paper snowflakes? Cookie decoration? My mom totally let me do holiday crafts on my own or me supervising my little sister… (Also cross-stitch, making those latch-hook rug things, etc. I had a mostly boring childhood.)

  23. Mel Says:

    I haven’t read the other responses. I think setting your own limits is key. I think depending on the people you surround yourself with, it’s easier said than done. If every friend is doing the elf, and your child is coming home from school asking why you don’t have an elf, and you’re getting teased by friends why you don’t have an elf, and someone buys you the elf, at some point, you either need to put your foot down and say, “we’re not doing the elf because it stresses me out!” or half-heartedly do the elf to make your kids happy. I think that if you’re good at setting limits, it should be no problem. I think if you get to a point where you start to feel as if it would shut up people faster to say yes even though you’ll be silently cursing under your breath, it becomes problematic. And I think if you feel so pressured that you can’t set limits, then you need to explore whether you have a healthy balance between caring and not caring about what other people think. I do actually think it’s important to care (somewhat) what other people think. It’s a way that we remain cognizant of our place in the community. Of being mindful of the people around us. Of not shutting ourselves off and operating as a private island. But, like all things, there needs to be a balance.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One can always passively opt out of things.

      The thing is that if these you must do crafts things actually exist and aren’t just in the brains of people who buy into the maternal guilt complex, and the blogs and stories condemning women for god forbid doing something crafty and posting it on Facebook then women CANNOT WIN no matter what they do.

      What I actually see as the problem is not the women who craft and post, because I have NEVER seen one who says women are somehow less for not emulating, but all the posts of people feeling guilty for not crafting. Those are the ones perpetuating the false stereotype that everyone is doing this stuff and you should feel guilty if you’re not. But I can’t blame them either because they’re unhappy tools of the patriarchy.

      Blaming the women who craft, who I serious doubt make even a small majority of the women non-crafters interact with doesn’t help anything. No, they don’t need to be cognizant that some people are intimidated by their seeming perfection. The people who are intimidated need to figure out their own issues.

      If slamming someone doing nice things is the only way you can feel better about not doing those things yourself, then that should require introspection. None of this garbage about a craft culture and only strong women being able to resist. Come on. It’s not the crafts that’s the problem but the maternal guilt complex. And making it so women can’t win either way doesn’t help.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        P.s. If that elf pressure thing is a true story, maybe you should hang out with more reality-based people. I’m not saying that would never happen, but it probably only happens in those coastal enclaves where people who write on parenting for the NYTimes must live. Either that or it’s the availability heuristic at work making a small percent seem much larger.

  24. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    My kid asked for elf on the shelf. Husband just bought it. If he forgets to move it, I think I’ll resort to the letter about the back injury that a reader described above.

  25. What makes a blog post popular? Drama or the hope of redneck jokes? | Grumpy rumblings of the (formerly!) untenured Says:

    […] 2.  Musings on why weight targets bother me 3.  Homeschooling: A deliberately controversial post 4.  Do the holidays stress you out? 5.  ******* […]


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