When we think of the holiday season, our minds are typically filled with images of joy, giving, great food, and family bonds. But along with the merriment, this festive time of year can be extraordinarily stressful.
From mid-November through early January, there is a recurring theme in my private practice. One frequently-discussed topic is how to satisfy one’s personal needs and desires during the holidays versus managing their mother’s expectations.
I often hear stories of folks stuffing their cars to the brim with gifts at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve while venturing off to visit one set of parents in New Jersey. And several hours later, car re-packed, they drive overnight to visit the other set of folks in Ohio. Once the holidays end, they are exhausted, stressed, and depleted.
Why do we put ourselves through these torturous routines, year after year? Many people tell me it’s to please their moms. In fact, when I recently suggested to one client that she change up her holiday customs, she said, “Are you kidding? If I don’t spend Thanksgiving with my mother, there would be hell to pay! I’m just not up to that sort of confrontation.”
There comes a time in our lives when we need to make tough decisions regarding time management and life management. And this maturation process involves asking yourself, “How do I want to spend my holidays this year?” Unfortunately, most of us tend to feel guilty or selfish when speaking this type of language. We are programmed to care for others, and for many, saying yes is easier than saying no.
However, please understand that it is through this process of stating our needs, that we are able to acquire more joy, peace and meaning from our holidays…and our lives. With this in mind, the ability to create a wonderful holiday tradition for yourself and your family may require saying a polite yet thoughtful “no” to Mom.
How can we do this without causing a war within our respective clans? Follow these five suggestions to ensure a smoother holiday for this season and for the future:
- Take a hard look at your life and your schedule and see makes the most sense for you regarding the holidays. Ask yourself, “What do the holidays signify to me and how do I want to spend my time this year?”
- Once you have an answer to these questions, begin to map a plan that is comfortable for you.
- If you decide that you are not going to see your mother for a certain holiday, contact her (I always prefer a conversation over emailing or texting) for a productive discussion.
- Prepare yourself before calling. Ask yourself, “How might this discussion play out? How will Mom react to the news that I’m skipping Christmas this year?”
- Don’t be afraid. State your predicament and/or your decision. Speak in “I” statements. Try to keep your tone gentle and loving. Stay calm, listen to your mother’s point of view, and try not to be defensive. For example: “Mom, I know how much you love Thanksgiving and how important it is for you to have your family with you. I really respect that about you. However, I’m so sorry to say that I’m not going to be able to make it home this year due to my busy work schedule. I know this is disappointing to you, and I’m sorry for this. Why don’t we get out our calendars and plan another time when we can get together?”
I certainly understand that these are difficult decisions and phone calls to make. But in the end, you will feel better when you create a new holiday tradition that best suits you.Comment