Dec. 13, 2021

Ask Margaret - Splitting Time at the Holidays

When we have to balance time with our partner’s family and our own at the holidays, it gets difficult to make everyone feel loved and appreciated. The key to making it work? Establishing clear expectations ahead of time, and then holding your ground.

If you are traveling this holiday season to juggle seeing more than one part of your extended family in a short amount of time, you may relate to this question from Elizabeth:

How do you tackle splitting time between families over the holidays, especially with a newborn? Both sets of grandparents live in the same town, but how do we decide when it’s time to leave one place and go to the next? It's already tough keeping up eating and napping schedules when we're away from home.

We hate to feel like we are disappointing anyone at this time of year, but little kids make it pretty much impossible to our extended families as much as they'd like.

The key to making family visits as smooth as possible is to plan ahead, and then manage expectations. Sit down with your partner and decide which family members you can see at which times, making your children's meal and nap schedules a priority.

If your families are far apart, this may involve alternating holiday visits ("we'll see your family at Thanksgiving and then mine at Christmas"). You can factor in which holidays are particularly important to individual families into your travel decisions, but this is a decision for you and your spouse to make together and then present as a united front. If weather or extra-long naps mess with your schedule, of course you can change your plans. But it's easier to improvise changes to a plan already in place than to make those plans up as you go along.

Will this mean that everyone is happy with your choices? No, it won't. Will this mean that no one will make passive-aggressive comments about they just wish you didn't have to leave? Unfortunately, it will not. There will always be some push back from extended family members who may feel shortchanged about how you choose to split time at the holidays. But a good plan and firm boundaries around it, and what choices work for your immediate family, will make your holiday travel a bit calmer.

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